Individualistic Americans vs. Collectivist Japanese
July 23, 2012 2:54 PM Subscribe
Wisdom, Age, and Society in America and Japan
"ONE stereotype of wisdom is a wizened Zen-master smiling benevolently at the antics of his pupils, while referring to them as little grasshoppers or some such affectation, safe in the knowledge that one day they, too, will have been set on the path that leads to wizened masterhood. But is it true that age brings wisdom? A study two years ago in North America, by Igor Grossmann of the University of Waterloo, in Canada, suggested that it is. In as much as it is possible to quantify wisdom, Dr Grossmann found that elderly Americans had more of it than youngsters. He has, however, now extended his investigation to Asia—the land of the wizened Zen-master—and, in particular, to Japan. There, he found, in contrast to the West, that the grasshoppers are their masters' equals almost from the beginning.... Japanese have higher scores than Americans for the sort of interpersonal wisdom you might think would be useful in an individualistic society. Americans, by contrast—at least in the maturity of old age—have more intergroup wisdom than the purportedly collectivist Japanese. Perhaps, then, you need individual skills when society is collective, and social ones when it is individualistic."