Study reveals how grains define cultural identity
Ever wondered why cultures can be so different, with Westerners more focused on the individual than people in the East?
Psychologists said Thursday that the divide may come down to which crops are historically farmed in different regions.
This "rice theory," described in the journal Science, holds that people who traditionally grow paddy rice become more collective and holistic over time because of the intense labor involved and the need for cooperation among neighbors.
In contrast, those who live in regions that grow wheat think more independently and analytically, in large part because the crop requires half the labor and not nearly the same need for cooperation as rice, researchers argued.
"We propose that the rice theory can partly explain East-West differences," said the study led by Thomas Talhelm, a University of Virginia doctoral student in cultural psychology.
"You do not need to farm rice yourself to inherit rice culture," he added.
Researchers found that people in rice-growing regions tended to choose more abstract pairings, while people from wheat cultures tended to pick more analytical pairs.
People from rice-growing regions tended to draw themselves smaller than wheat-region people when constructing diagrams of social networks, suggesting wheat people saw themselves as more important than others.
Those from rice provinces were also more likely to reward their friends and less likely to punish them, showing how the ties within the group prevailed in social and business interactions.