According to new research, the cultural divide between the West and the East can be explained by the type of farming methods used between the regions.
As rice requires more human labour, researchers say it’s no wonder that people in the East are more interdependent.
In an article for the Daily Mail, Ellie Zolfagharifard discusses the cultural differences between the Western and Asian world.
It has been claimed that Westerners are usually characterized as individual, analytical thinkers, while people form Eastern cultures are regarded to be interdependent and holistic.
This divide has been attributed to many factors over the years, including education and infectious diseases. However, new research suggests the reason for this cultural divide lies in the kind of crops that are cultivated in the two regions.
Zolfagharifard states that paddy rice, that is grown in Asia, needs a lot of water to grow, which means people have to work together to ensure the water supply is sufficient. Moreover, she says, rice needs about twice the labour hours compared to wheat. Wheat, on the other hand, can do with rain only and can grow more easily, even with little human interference.
To see whether their hypothesis was true, scientists looked at the degree of individualism and collectivism in 1,000 people in China who lived in regions where either rice or wheat was grown.
Thomas Talhelm, the lead researcher of the project, explained why this research could be carried out in one single Asian country: he stated that even though China is often regarded as a homogenous country, it actually is not.
The test yielded some interesting results: people in the north, that grow wheat, were found to be less interdependent than the people in the south, who grow rice.
According to Talhelm, the study seems to indicate that even though they may be hundred years old, farming traditions are still influencing people walking this earth today.
Do you think the researchers are onto something here?