Beneath the Surface of the 'Ripple Effect': Understanding the Underlying Nature of Cultural Differences in Perceptions of Event Consequences
53 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2007
Date Written: September 2007
The "ripple effect" refers to a robust cultural difference in how individuals make social judgments regarding the consequence of events, with East Asian individuals perceiving a greater distal impact of events than Western individuals (Maddux & Yuki, 2006). The present research offers the first investigation into the underlying psychological nature of this phenomenon, following stringent methodological requirements for establishing cultural mediation of a cognitive phenomenon. Study 1 demonstrated that the notion of distal causation is more widely circulated in the mass media in the East than in the West, whereas Study 2 provided evidence that the ripple effect reflects a culturally determined inferential bias and does not result from veridical perceptions. Studies 3-4 demonstrated the causal role of culture: Compared to bi-cultural individuals primed with American or Western cultural icons, bi-cultural individuals primed with Chinese or East Asian icons demonstrated an enhanced focus on downstream consequences. Finally, Studies 5 and 6 provided direct evidence that analytic versus holistic worldviews are an explanatory mechanism of cultural differences in such social judgments. Implications for our understanding of social perception and social judgment across cultures are discussed.
Keywords: Culture, cognition, social perception, attribution, responsibility
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