Culture and systems of thought: holistic versus analytic cognition

Psychol Rev. 2001 Apr;108(2):291-310. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.108.2.291.


The authors find East Asians to be holistic, attending to the entire field and assigning causality to it, making relatively little use of categories and formal logic, and relying on "dialectical" reasoning, whereas Westerners are more analytic, paying attention primarily to the object and the categories to which it belongs and using rules, including formal logic, to understand its behavior. The 2 types of cognitive processes are embedded in different naive metaphysical systems and tacit epistemologies. The authors speculate that the origin of these differences is traceable to markedly different social systems. The theory and the evidence presented call into question long-held assumptions about basic cognitive processes and even about the appropriateness of the process-content distinction.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asia, Southeastern
  • Attitude to Health
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Knowledge
  • Metaphysics