Sunday, July 20, 2014


In another post, we thought about how American values shape our everyday lives.  And a couple of those values are individualism and  personal control.  These values make it difficult for us to acknowledge the significant role that others have played inour lives.  They make it difficult for us to be dependent on them and to be grateful to them.  So we conducted this exercise:

Close your eyes.  Think of someone influential in your life.  Now write down who you thought about and why you thought about that person.

When you are finished, follow these instructions:


Afterwards, think about:
Were you able to do this? Was it difficult?  Why or Why not?  How did you feel before and afterward?

 Check out this video from Upworthy on how this creates happiness: 

After the video, click here to return to the previous post that prompted this activity.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Classifying in other languages

This post is an explanation of the Sapir Whorf and how we categorize.  Here is the original lesson.

Set 1. Auto, turtle, basket, bird
Students generally select auto or basket using the culturally familiar categorizing device of machines vs. non-machines or and movement vs. non-movement. At least some non-western cultural groups, however, would see birds as most different because their culture emphasizes shape and birds are relatively angular rather than rounded in shape. Our culture tends to emphasize use or functionality. Thus correctness would be culture-dependent.

Set 2. Laundry, beer, clothing
Students generally, with great assurance, select beer as most different. Functionality places clothing and washing machines together. Yet, at least one culture views clothing as different because laundry and beer are both “foamy”. Visual appearance is most salient. US slang for beer (“suds”) also recognizes the attribute of foaminess.

Set 3. A chair, a spear, a couch 

Students again select the “wrong” answer—at least from the perspective of traditional West African cultures. US Americans tend to emphasize use, thus placing couch and chair together as types of sitting devices (i.e. “furniture”). Ashanti apparently would see the “couch” as the most different because both a chair and a spear can symbolize authority.