Independent thinkers judge distances differently than holistic types

Jun 25, 2008

Every day we're faced with decisions that involve spatial judgments. Which line should we choose at the supermarket? Which route should we take to work? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that thinking styles affect spatial judgment.

Authors Aradhna Krishna (University of Michigan), Rongrong Zhou (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), and Shi Zhang (UCLA), designed a series of experiments that tested participants to assess their thinking styles. The participants, who lived in China, Hong Kong, and the United States, fell into two categories: independent thinkers (self-focused) and interdependent (relationship-focused).

The researchers found significant differences between Western and Eastern participants. "The independent self-construal is more dominant in Western cultures, where people believe in the inherent separateness of distinct persons and view the self as a autonomous, independent person," write the authors. "The interdependent self-construal is more dominant in Eastern cultures, where people believe in the connectedness of human beings to each other and view the self as part of a larger social group."

They tested participants' ability to judge spatial distances. One experiment asked participants to imagine they were going to a football stadium to buy tickets. They were given a map showing two lines, one straight and one looped, and to estimate the number of dots in each line. The study found that independent thinkers are more likely to misjudge distance when they need to take multiple features into account (like how winding a road is). Interdependent thinkers are less likely to make distance errors but more prone to other kinds of spatial errors (such as when intersecting lines on a map make one side of the line appear longer than the other).

"Our data indicate that individuals with an independent (vs. interdependent) self-construal are more likely to pay attention to only the focal aspects of stimuli and to ignore the context and background information in forming spatial judgments, resulting in biases. In contrast, interdependents are capable of going beyond the most salient dimension (e.g., direct distance) and incorporating other information (e.g. line configuration) in their judgments, leading to greater accuracy in these tasks."

Next time you pull out a map, remember that your thinking style may affect your perception.


Source: University of Chicago Press Journals

Explore further: Schwarzenegger pushes Congress to save after-school funding

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

CERN collider to become the world's fastest stopwatch?

Nov 12, 2012

Heavy ion collisions at CERN should be able to produce the shortest light pulses ever created. This was demonstrated by computer simulations at the Vienna University of Technology. The pulses are so short ...

Recommended for you

Destroyed Mosul artefacts to be rebuilt in 3D

9 hours ago

It didn't take long for the scientific community to react. Two weeks after the sacking of the 300 year-old Mosul Museum by a group of ISIS extremists went viral on Youtube, researchers from the ITN-DCH, IAPP ...

Boys plagiarise more than girls at school

10 hours ago

Research by the University of the Balearic Islands has analysed the phenomenon of academic plagiarism among secondary school students. The study, published in the journal Comunicar, confirms that this practi ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.