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Culture, religion and cognition: Buddhism and holistic versus analytic thought

Samson, Alain (2007) Culture, religion and cognition: Buddhism and holistic versus analytic thought. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Some cross-cultural psychologists have shown differences in cognition between Eastern and Western cultures, described as holistic versus analytic (H-A) systems of thought. It is widely assumed that Buddhism has contributed to holistic cognition. This thesis explores holistic thought among Western Buddhists by integrating methods and theories mainly from cross-cultural and social psychology, but also the cognitive anthropology of religion. H-A reasoning among Buddhists, Anglicans and Secular-Humanists in the UK is investigated in a main experiment, providing good backing for hypothesised H-A group differences. Moreover, it supports a hypothesis about the effect of meditation on the categorisation of visual stimuli and strength of holistic beliefs. However, only explicit H-A measures are subject to religious context effects, as evident in their association with religiosity, the religious self-concept and religious integration. Inducing a Buddhist context through religious priming does not result in a holism shift. A follow-up study (2) uses pictorial primes and shows an interaction effect between priming condition and strength of Buddhist self-concepts on holistic beliefs. Study 3 clarifies religious versus secular differences that were found for the grouping measure used in Study 1 in a correlational design with measures of independence- interdependence, religious identification as well as attraction to Buddhist and Secular- Humanist ideas. It indicates that both self-selection and learning effects may account for secular vs religious H-A differences. The last experiment (Study 4) further develops so-called 'tolerance of contradictions' (TC) as an aspect of H-A cognition and introduces the cognitive anthropological concept of counterintuitive (Cl) beliefs. As expected, results show that religious groups have a higher tolerance of Cl. Furthermore, compared to normal or bizarre concepts. Cl content reduces TC only among secular individuals, and to some degree Anglicans, but has no such effect on Buddhists. Implications for cross-cultural psychology, the psychology of religion as well as the interdisciplinary field of 'cognition and culture' are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Psychology, Social, Religion, General
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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