The Development of Cognitive Styles Among American and Chinese Children
CitationCheng, Liao. 2020. The Development of Cognitive Styles Among American and Chinese Children. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe past three decades of research in cultural psychology have generated a catalog of differences between Western and East Asian adults especially with respect to their cognitive style, and notably in terms of attending to the focal object versus the context, rejecting versus accepting contradiction, expecting stability versus change, and so on. These cognitive differences have been linked to the intellectual traditions of the respective cultures and may be transmitted across generations through parenting and educational practices. However, a surprisingly small body of literature has compared Western and East Asian children, and none has systematically examined the cognitive differences found among adults from a developmental perspective.
This dissertation addresses this gap by systematically investigating 3- to 9-year-old American and Chinese children’s cognitive styles in four domains: expectations of change; reactions to contradiction; attention to relationships, especially in problem-solving contexts; and conceptualization of mental faculties and functions. Three overarching research questions were examined: (1) Are there universal patterns of development across cultures? (2) Are there cultural variations in development? (3) Does the effect of culture vary with age?
The overall findings across the four domains show notable similarities between American and Chinese children. Although several modest, localized cultural differences as well as interactions between culture and age were found, they were overshadowed by cultural similarities. Overall, the findings provide support for universal patterns of development alongside modest cultural variation. They highlight the risks of overgeneralizing cultural contrasts while overlooking cross-cultural similarities, within-culture variation, as well as dynamic cultural change.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365834
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