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Culture Crossing by Michael Landers

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Cultural Awakenings

How culture shapes our thoughts and behaviors

When you ask a five-year-old kid from the United States what a dog says, he or she will probably say “woof-woof” or “bowwow.” Ask a kid living in Japan, and you’re likely to get a “wan-wan.” Try it in Iran, and you’ll hear “hauv-hauv.” In Laos they say “voon-voon.” It’s “gong-gong” in Indonesia and “mung-mung” in Korea.

Besides being a fun bit of knowledge to share at a dinner party, animal sounds are a good example of how people from different cultures are programmed from an early age to interpret the same experiences in different ways. It also underscores how culturally specific perceptions can get deeply lodged in our brains. Imagine if you suddenly had to convince yourself ...

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