Cultural differences in expectations of change and tolerance for contradiction: a decade of empirical research

Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2010 Aug;14(3):296-312. doi: 10.1177/1088868310362982. Epub 2010 Apr 30.


Since the publication of Peng and Nisbett's seminal paper on dialectical thinking, a substantial amount of empirical research has replicated and expanded on the core finding that people differ in the degree to which they view the world as inherently contradictory and in constant flux. Dialectical thinkers (who are more often members of East Asian than Western cultures) show greater expectation of change in tasks related to explanation and prediction and greater tolerance of contradiction in tasks involving the reconciliation of contradictory information. The authors show how these effects are manifested in the domains of the self, emotional experience, psychological well-being, attitudes and evaluations, social categorization and perception, and judgment and decision making. They note important topics in need of further investigation and offer predictions concerning possible cultural differences in unexplored domains as a function of the presence or absence of naïve dialecticism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Decision Making
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Self Concept
  • Set, Psychology*
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Change*
  • Social Identification
  • Social Perception*
  • Yin-Yang