Cultural Differences in Expectations of a Correspondence in Magnitude between Events and their Causes
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Based on previous research on cultural differences in analytic and holistic reasoning, I hypothesized that when explaining events, North Americans would be more likely than East Asians to expect causes to resemble events with respect to magnitude (i.e., big events stem from big causes and small events stem from small causes). In addition, I hypothesized that these differences would be explained by cultural differences in the tendency to reason analytically or holistically. In a series of studies, Canadian and Chinese participants judged the likelihood that high or low magnitude events were caused by high or low magnitude causes. Events included a disease outbreak, a delay in a business negotiation, and damage caused by a tornado moving through a city. In two studies, participants from both cultural groups expected events and their causes to correspond in magnitude. More importantly, as hypothesized, Canadians expected events and their causes to correspond in magnitude to a greater degree than did Chinese. In a third study, I ruled out a potential alternative explanation that Chinese may have simply been exhibiting a response bias. In a fourth study, in support of my hypothesis that these cultural differences were due to differences in the reasoning styles of Canadians and Chinese, I found that Canadians primed to reason holistically expected less cause-effect magnitude correspondence than did those primed to reason analytically. These findings have important theoretical implications for the research literature on attributions and on cultural and social cognition, as well as practical implications in the context of judgment and decision making.