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Rice or wheat? How grains define cultural identity

Published on May 9, 2014 5:55 AM

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Ever wondered why cultures can be so different, with Westerners more focused on the individual than people in the East?

Psychologists said on Thursday that the divide may come down to which crops are historically farmed in different regions.

This "rice theory," described in the journal Science, holds that people who traditionally grow paddy rice become more collective and holistic over time because of the intense labour involved and the need for cooperation among neighbours.

In contrast, those who live in regions that grow wheat think more independently and analytically, in large part because the crop requires half the labour and not nearly the same need for cooperation as rice, researchers argued.

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