Monthly Archives: July 2020

The Psychology of Multiculturalism

I grew up in America, and now I live in Japan. America is a heterogeneous society with a diversity of races and cultures, while the Japanese have cultivated a homogenous society with just one race, culture, and language. For a long time, I wondered why America has made one decision and Japan the other. Why has America turned multicultural, while Japan remains an ethnostate? Over time, I recognized patterns. There are a lot of differences between America and Japan which seem related.

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A Culture of Generalization

Imagine that you’re part of a primitive society and someone in your tribe sees lightning for the first time. They witness a line of light cutting through the night sky, and several seconds later they hear a loud crash. They tell the rest of the tribe what they saw: “From the Heavens appeared a long line of jagged illumination perpendicular to the Earth, and several moments later was a startling sound.” But then let’s say that the tribe observes lightning and thunder many more times. Before long, everyone in the tribe would know the pattern: “When the jagged lines of light appear, afterwards comes a loud crash.” This marks a transition from talking about particular bolts of lightning and particular rumbles of thunder to making overall generalizations about the categories lightning and thunder.

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