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Culture Crossing by Michael Landers

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Now or Later

How perceptions of time can warp across cultures

The island nation of Madagascar that lies off of Africa’s eastern shore is well known among biologists for its incredible diversity of animal and plant species. But for cultural psychologists, Madagascar is perhaps better known for its empty fuel pumps.

Øyvind Dahl is a Norwegian psychologist who observed stark differences in the way that people in rural Madagascar tend to view time, in contrast to most Western cultures.1 While conducting research there in the early 1990s, Dahl noticed that many of the fuel stations outside of the city were perpetually out of gas.2 A hose slung over the top of the pump was a telltale sign that there was no fuel to be had. Most of us probably would ...

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