Researchers at the University of Michigan (Go blue!) thought it would be useful to find out who can see the forest for the trees, or literally, the grasslands for the tiger. Why they weren’t finding the cure for cancer, we’ll never know — but they proved, once and for all, that Asians and Americans see things differently. Then, they went ahead and got their findings published by the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday.
The researchers showed a photo of a tiger to over 50 research subjects (25 Americans of European heritage and 27 native Chinese — what, were two Americans out too late the night before?) and studied their eye movements to see what they looked at the most in a picture and for how long. They found that Americans paid more attention to the tiger in the foreground while the Chinese took in the whole photo and looked at the background more than the Americans.
It is thought that the results are culturally based. While Asians live in a culture that focuses on group harmony, American culture focuses on getting things done in an individualist society. This all relates to Chinese and Greek farmers and their irrigation woes over 2,000 years ago — but we will let you read more on that at Yahoo! news.
A similar study was conducted with Japanese and Americans who were told to look at photos of underwater scenes and discuss what they saw with a researcher. The Americans repeatedly went for the brightest or quickest object first. (Damn those car commercials!) While they talked mainly about the fish in the photo, the Japanese mentioned the stream, the color of the water and talked about objects in relation to each other before mentioning the fish. (How very Zen garden.) Compared to the Americans, the Japanese gave twice as much information on the background and the relationship between objects in the background and foreground.
It’s kind of like how Americans, most of them, can find North America on a map, but only 13 percent can find a “background” place like Iraq — although 1,500 more Americans will get up close and personal with that country very, very soon.
Photos from emong and delibelli.