Ethics systems are a forceful, multidimensional, and complex knowledge structure (Baumeister, 1998) that can be divided into content, structural, and evaluative components (Campbell, Trapnell, Heine, Katz, Lavallee, & Lehman, 1996). A growing body of research points to extensive ethical variation in different countries has components of the perception and thinking. To illustrate, the content of the ethical system includes beliefs concerning one’s personal and cultural attributes (e. g., personality traits and physical characteristics) and intermittent and semantic relevant memories (Campbell et al. , 1996), is characterized by a greater part of social roles in the East and a greater proportion of personality traits in the West (Cousins, 1989).
The formation of the ethics systems refers to how the content components or explicit beliefs are organized and structured (Luce Irigaray and Stephen Pluhacek, 2001). A vigorous and well-documented finding in the cross-cultural literature is that East Asians use more negative attributes than do Westerners (Diener & Diener, 1995).
There is also growing evidence that basic cognitive processes, including self-perception, are affected by culturally shared folk epistemologies (Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001; Peng & Nisbett, 1999, 2000). In ethics system of eastern cultures, all phenomenon’s are seen as consisting of differing elements that are constantly changing and yet are continually interconnected. Nisbett et al. (2001) has similarly described Eastern ontologism and epistemologies in terms of holism, in which greater attention is paid to the perceptual field, the situational context, and relationships amongst objects and events in the environment.
On the contrary, Western folk epistemologies or ways of knowing, which are rooted in Aristotelian formal logic (Peng & Nisbett, 1999), stress order and constancy in the world, absolute laws and truths, and decontextualized facts and ideas? These culturally distinct epistemological structures guide people’s understanding of reality and human life. They influence the nature and configuration of the ethics, the manner in which cultural groups deal with negation and change in their thoughts, feelings, and actions, and the way in which they conceptualize the self in relation to other people, the physical environment, and the metaphysical sphere.
Ethical-specific conception of selfhood, prevailing in the East, is characterized by an emphasis on the interrelatedness of the self to others. The co-dependent self is more diffused across important ingroup members, rather than rigorously bound within the individual (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Ethics is conceptualized as a set of knowledge structures or implied beliefs that influence and guide people’s basic perceptions of and presumptions about the world.
Although dialectical thinking is typical of many East Asian cultures, which are collectivist and interdependent (e. g., Chinese, Japanese, Koreans), collectivist/ interdependent cultures (e. g. , Chileans, Spaniards, Mexicans) are not necessarily dialectical. Dialecticism is a culture-specific form of cognition that emphasizes the dimensions of challenge, change, and holism. Individual difference measures of dialecticism and interdependence, besides, are generally not related: The Dialectical Self Scale (Spencer-Rodgers, Srivastava, & Peng, 2001), which assesses dialectical thinking in the area of perception, is not considerably correlated with the interdependent subscale of the Self-Construal Scale in East Asian and Western samples (Spencer-Rodgers et al., 2001).
The ethical principle of change views realism as a dynamic process and holds that the world is in constant flux. Because reality is fluid and ever varying, all objects and events in the universe are thought to ultimately change into their opposites (e. g. , what is positive becomes negative, what is negative becomes positive). The associated principle of contradiction asserts that all phenomenon’s are composed of at least two opposing elements (yin/yang) that exist in active harmony and balance.
If all element turns into its opposite, in a never-ending cycle of reversal and renewal, then good and bad, active and passive, masculine and feminine, old and new, and so on, should exist in the same object or event concurrently. Because change and contradiction are ever present, all phenomenons in the universe are also unified. The principle of holism maintains that nothing is remote or independent and that the part cannot be understood except for in relation to the whole. The Asian perception will be distinguished by greater fluidity, flexibility, and malleability.
This intention has received strong observed support in the literature. To illustrate, when describing the self on the Twenty Statements Test (Kuhn & McPartland, 1954), East Asians use a greater amount of self-references that are linked to short-term activities, the immediate situation, and real behaviors, whereas Westerns use more enduring and stable personality traits (Cousins, 1989). The belief of holism posits that the individual is an indivisible part of a larger whole, which includes other people, other living organisms, material objects, and the metaphysical realm.
Although scholars have characteristically attributed these group-level differences to other cultural factors, particularly collectivism and interdependence, many of the findings that have been reported in the literature are extremely consistent with our theoretical prediction deriving from dialecticism. Of course, given the involvedness of anthropological systems and human behavior, multiple cultural factors expected give rise to East West differences in the ethical perspective.
A primary supposition in Western psychology is that human beings are basically uncomfortable with strangeness and that they seek consistency across all domains of survival. Scholars postulate that individuals possess a fundamental need to combine contradictory information concerning an attitude object and that they are compelled to determine their cognitive, affective, and behavioral inconsistencies (Festinger, 1957). Discrepancies in one’s thoughts, feelings, or actions are thought to confer rise to a state of tension, disequilibrium, or disagreement, which activates a need for consonance (Festinger, 1957).
Kishore Mahbubani notes that “The West cannot acknowledge that the pursuit of ‘moral’ human rights policies can have immoral consequences” (Mahbubani, Can Asians Think? 71). According to Mahbubani, this is one of ten “heresies” regarding human rights “that the West, including the United States, has either ignored, suppressed or pretended to be irrelevant or inconsequential in its discussions on these subjects” (ibid. 60). Yet, comparatively little research has examined whether these theoretical assertions are reasonable across cultures.
In sharp contrast to Western modes of thinking, Eastern folk epistemologies embrace, rather than avoid, contradiction. In Confucian and Daoist philosophical traditions, the two sides of any contradiction are seen as existing in active harmony, opposed, but equally connected and interdependent. The Eastern and Western ethical views of disagreement are fundamentally different (Peng & Nisbett, 1999). The East Asian conception is perhaps best illustrated with the yin/yang (Tai-ji) symbol. Yin and yang represent mutually dependent opposites that are balanced, balancing, and harmonious.
As outlined in the I-Ching (Book of Changes), yin represents the negative, inert, and feminine, whereas yang represents the positive, active, and masculine. Neither element can exist without the other. Both yin and yang are viewed as simultaneous harmoniously within all objects, including the self. From this viewpoint, a characteristic such as passive is less the “opposite” of active, than it is its natural set off. Because the seeds of passiveness exist within activeness (and vice versa, the seeds of activeness exist within passiveness), both traits are seen as simultaneous within all individuals, at all times.
Conversely, in the West, there are sharper differences between constructs such as passive/active, good/bad, self/other, mind/body, cause/effect, and so on. Tacit folk beliefs concerning the nature of disagreement influence the manner in which cultural groups deal with contradictory information and ideas. First, dialectical cultures are less likely to recognize contradictions when they arise, as they assume that the world is in an invariable state of flux. If what is true one moment, might not be true the next, then it follows that one must be less attentive and receptive to inconsistencies in the self, others, and the environment.
Second, dialectical cultures are less tending to attempt to reconcile apparent contradictions, as they expect that reality and truth are highly complex and uneven. To illustrate, Peng and Nisbett (1999) have shown that Eastern dialectical thinkers exhibit less disconfirmation bias. When confronted with an apparent disagreement, Chinese tend to find merit in both propositions of an opposing argument (e. g. , “I am very outgoing” and “I am very shy”).
They either accept seeming disagreement, without the need for assimilation and synthesis (e. g., “I am both very outgoing and very shy”), or they look for a balanced approach to the resolution of incongruity (e. g. , “I am somewhat outgoing and somewhat shy”). Rather than engaging in a linear search for one complete truth, dialectical thinkers favor a “middle way” or conciliation approach in the face of psychological contradiction. In contrast to east oriented societies, Western cultures (e. g. , European Americans, European Canadians, Northern Europeans, etc. ) leans to be more linear, analytical, and integrative in their cognitive orientation (Nisbett et al. , 2001; Peng & Nisbett, 1999).
Because Westerners lean to view reality and truth as obvious, precise, and constant, they are more inclined to notice discrepancies in the self, others, and the environment. Once incongruities have been recognized, Western synthesis/integrative thinkers are more likely to attempt to resolve them (Peng & Nisbett, 1999).
While presented with conflicting information regarding a diversity of topics, they distinguish between the opposing propositions (e. g. , “I am very outgoing” or “I am very shy”), they examine and assess the relative merits of the opposing arguments, and they decide which of the two propositions is correct or most plausible. The end result of this way of thinking process (thesis and antithesis, to synthesis) is the settlement of any apparent or seeming disagreement. Ethical assumptions concerning contradiction also collide the manner in which cultural groups deal with information those conflicts with their offered beliefs and attitudes.
Dialectical thinkers tend to reasonable their opinions in the face of disconfirming evidence, whereas synthesis/integrative thinkers lean to strengthen their original preference in favor of the most plausible argument. In an experimental study (Peng & Nisbett, 1999), Chinese and British participants were either offered with a statement about a social science finding (e. g. , “Children who are less dependent on their parents… are usually more mature”) or a statement about its apparent opposite (“[Children] who feel close to their families have more pleasing relationships”).
When participants were told concerning both findings, Britishers bolstered their belief in the finding that they had originally decided was most plausible, whereas Chinese modified their opinions and they compromised between the two perspectives. Dialectical thinkers followed the Doctrine of the Mean and they moderated their views in the face of disconfirming support, whereas Britishers conformed to the Law of the Excluded Middle (the notion that all statements should be either true or false) and their judgments became more polarized (Peng & Nisbett, 1999).