January 13, 2011

The Chinese perspective on the PISA scores

Megan K. Stack of the LA Times reports:

... But even as some parents in the West wrung their hands, fretting over an education gap, Chinese commentators reacted to the results with a bout of soul-searching and even an undertone of embarrassment rarely seen in a country that generally delights in its victories on the international stage."I carry a strong feeling of bitterness," Chen Weihua, an editor at the state-run China Daily, wrote in a first-person editorial. "The making of superb test-takers comes at a high cost, often killing much of, if not all, the joy of childhood."

In a sense, this is the underbelly of a rising China: the fear that schools are churning out generations of unimaginative worker bees who do well on tests. The government has laid out an ambitious set of plans for education reform by 2020, but so far it's not clear how complete or wide-ranging the changes will be — or whether they will ease the immense pressure on teens in families hungry for a place in the upper or middle class.

"We have seen the advantages and the disadvantages of our education system, and our students' abilities are still weak," said Xiong Bingqi, an education expert at Shanghai's Jiao Tong University. "They do very well in those subjects the teacher assigns them. They have huge vocabularies and they do math well. However, the level of their creativity and imagination is low.

"In the long run, for us to become a strong country, we need talent and great creativity," Xiong said. "And right now, our educational system cannot accomplish this."

... But Zhang also pointed out the implied embarrassments of the examination results: The Shanghai students who triumphed in the tests enjoy the very best China's uneven schools can offer. Their experience has little in common with those of their peers in rural schools, or the makeshift migrant schools of the big cities, not to mention the armies of teenagers who abandon secondary school in favor of the factory floor.

And even in the rarefied world of the Shanghai high schools, teachers and administrators are concerned about the single-minded obsession with examinations.

At Zhabei No. 8, a public school on the northern edge of Shanghai's downtown, administrators spoke cautiously of the students' success in the international tests. Nearly 200 students took the exams last spring; afterward, they told their teachers that the questions had been simple.

"We are fully aware of the situation: Their creativity is lacking. They suffer very poor health, they are not strong and they get injured easily," vice principal Chen Ting said. "We're calling on all relevant parties to reduce the burden on our students."

I dunno. I've read a lot about creativity over the decades, but it's hard to measure reliably contemporaneously. For example, in Human Accomplishment, Charles Murray only looked at artists and scientists up through 1950 because more recent judgments were too unreliable. So I never know what to think when East Asians go on and on like this about their lack of creativity.

The Japanese poormouthed themselves over their supposed lack of creativity exactly like this several decades ago. Were they right? I still don't know.

109 comments:

Polistra said...

An awful lot of innovation, both business and science, comes from Chinese emigrants in Western countries. Very little innovation comes from Japanese emigrants in Western countries. I'd say Chinese have the talent; if they're not seeing much creativity internally, the problem has to be the system and culture. There's less evidence of Japanese innate creativity.

Simon in London said...

Japanese cartoons seem to suffer no lack of creativity; Japanese anime and Hong Kong Chinese action cinema are both globally successful.

It may be that a smidgin of Westernisation helps bring out the best in both groups. But too much Westernisation these days could lead to ill-educated University students spouting Critical Theory, so they need to be careful.

Garland said...

It's a good question. A couple of preliminary easy answers:

East Asia produced some tremendous cinema in the last century. How do the other regions of the world compare? I'm not sure but off the top of my head my feeling is East Asian cinema holds its own quite well.

On a lesser but still significant level, the Japanese went in big for videogames in the last few decades and they've demonstrated a lot of genuine creativity there.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of cinema, let's not forget the creativity of Jewish Americans in Hollywood. Perhaps East Asians and Jews will have the global cinema market cornered one of these days?

Steve Sailer said...

I'm trying to remember the last time I reviewed a Japanese movie. It's been awhile -- I guess Spirited Away about eight or nine years ago. I didn't like it as much as everybody else did. But I don't think I can name a Japanese movie star these days, the way lots of Americans could cite Toshiro Mifune by name around 1970 or so. That's kind of odd.

In general, the American movie industry so overshadows everybody else that it's not funny anymore. For example, I'm looking forward to last year's "Infierno" from Mexico, but there doesn't seem to be anybody else in LA in any hurry to see it.

Steve Sailer said...

For example, I'd say the single most creative movie I've reviewed is "The Science of Sleep" by Michel Gondry. This Frenchman's next movie, opening at theatres near you on Friday, is "The Green Hornet."

Anonymous said...

Let's compare countries and creative achievements in the last 50 years.

How do the Japanese compare to Germans?

I think the Japanese win hands down.

What about Italians?

I still think the Japanese win because of breadth. Japan can count worldwide achievements in everything from architectural design to business methods.

No one can compete with Americans.

Anonymous said...

I've read some commenters here say that the difference between Asian and Western intellectual accomplishment is due to differently shaped bell curves (i.e. less Asian geniuses). I don't think this is correct and a look at the major mathematics competitions can show you why.


I do think there is something to the cultural differences and I was reminded of this once again by the WSJ article about parenting. You can force your kids to be robots and they will get good grades and test scores. But is this where creativity comes from? I don't know, maybe in some cases. J.S. Mill had a pretty intense upbringing but he also had a nervous breakdown.


I just want to give some examples of great European thinkers who would not necessarily have fit the mold in China.

Roger Penrose:

"How did your father influence your thinking?
The important thing about my father was that there wasn’t any boundary between his work and what he did for fun. That rubbed off on me. He would make puzzles and toys for his children and grandchildren. He used to have a little shed out back where he cut things from wood with his little pedal saw. I remember he once made a slide rule with about 12 different slides, with various characters that we could combine in complicated ways. Later in his life he spent a lot of time making wooden models that reproduced themselves—what people now refer to as artificial life. These were simple devices that, when linked together, would cause other bits to link together in the same way. He sat in his woodshed and cut these things out of wood in great, huge numbers."


"Is it true that you were bad at math as a kid?
I was unbelievably slow. I lived in Canada for a while, for about six years, during the war. When I was 8, sitting in class, we had to do this mental arithmetic very fast, or what seemed to me very fast. I always got lost. And the teacher, who didn’t like me very much, moved me down a class. There was one rather insightful teacher who decided, after I’d done so badly on these tests, that he would have timeless tests. You could just take as long as you’d like. We all had the same test. I was allowed to take the entire next period to continue, which was a play period. Everyone was always out and enjoying themselves, and I was struggling away to do these tests. And even then sometimes it would stretch into the period beyond that. So I was at least twice as slow as anybody else. Eventually I would do very well. You see, if I could do it that way, I would get very high marks."

albert magnus said...

Though it has not much to do with your post I liked this post by James Fallows about Japan vs. China manner of doing things and different manifestations of creativity.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2007/11/-quot-the-quot-way-vs-quot-a-quot-way-japan-v-china-dept/7835/

Anonymous said...

From the wikipedia...

The term cultural/entertainment superpower describes a country in which has immense influence or even direct control over much of the world's entertainment or has an immense large cultural influence on much of the world. Although this is debated on who meets such criteria, many agree that the United Kingdom[10], United States, and Japan[11] [12] are generally acknowledged as the entertainment and cultural superpowers, given their abilities to distribute their entertainment and cultural innovations worldwide.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_in_international_relations

Anonymous said...

The highest prize in architecture is the Pritzker.

Japanese can claim 4 out of the 32 awards.

Anonymous said...

Suppose creativity is in part a function of genetics. In 10-20 years, that will also be mutable. But not in the West. So this won't be a problem for China for much longer.

Anonymous said...

Oy Vey. Chinks and Japs are devoid of any creativity. Okay. {Sarcasm = on}

Seriously, wth Sailer? Have you gone to the "other" side (not just politically, but rationally), or are you desperate for page views? No one remotely rational or intelligent would make such broad, and unjustified claims. The last creative film you saw from as Asian artist was "Spirited Away"? Lol. Okay then, case closed and proven.(?????) Just for instance, NO ONE who cares about the art of film believes that the best films are coming from America and you should know that. It's not political correctness; but jesus Mel Gibson christ, catch up on the zeitgeist of the movie industry. Uh oh, Jews might enter into the discussion, so then again, maybe we should avoid the topic altogether. Btw, email me with some mathematical theories, ideas, whatever...

JSM said...

The "old, discredited stereotype" of Oriental inscrutibility makes me worried that this statement by a head Chinese ed official is really just a ploy to get the West to relax its guard, while the Chinese continue to ever increase its Ivy-educated legions of potential spies.

But on the bright side, it's a great club to bash Yan Shen with, over at Mangan's, heh.

Bjorn said...

East Asians no doubt outscore nearly every region in the world when it comes to creativity. The reason they feel they're uncreative is because they always compare themselves to Westerners.

Anonymous said...

ummmm look at this histrical record- oriental art vs western art.

Hoksasi was the only reasonably creative oriental, and he was influence/copied from western prints smuggled into japan.

Orientals can only ape western success.

apanese cartoons seem to suffer no lack of creativity;
this is what passes for 'art' among dumbed down westerners. comic books? Are you serious?

Anonymous said...

The highest prize in architecture is the Pritzker.

Japanese can claim 4 out of the 32 awards.

There is very little true creativity reoognized by the current art establishment - most innovation these days comes from realists or so called traditionalists - you won't find it chatted up by the NYT art critics (many of them have huge investments (literally, as in bought paintings) in abstract crap). Same goes for architecture- rejecting the current legion of jewish starachitects is close to an act anti-semitism.

Anonymous said...

Another example of self-pity. Chinese self-pity will forever suppress their creativity and high income. When you think yourself not worthy, you will not believe you can create some thing better and not deserve better. Western superiority is partially result of high self-esteem and comtemp for others. You gonna believe yourself better in order to get higher pay and motivation for creativity. China needs another Chairman Mao who believe Chinese superiorty and give them winning attitude

P Coderch said...

The irony of a totalitarian state complaining about their people's lack of creativity. Isn't this exactly what totalitarian states try to accomplish: thought control? This reminds me on when Sakarov was called in by the Politburo and the bureaucrats complained that particle physics wasn't Marxist enough for their taste, and Sakarov replied that the workings of Nature don't give a damn about Humans and their petty ideologies, and that communist or capitalist bombs are oxymorons.

East Asians are not creative as Europeans because they have higher levels of anxiety, and the basis of creativity is lack of inhibition of thought. People who are anxious are not only more inhibited in action but also in thoughts. Blacks are more creative than whites, who are more creative than Asians. Unfortunately fir blacks, they lack the mental processing speed and working memory necessary for using their creativity to tackle complex things, so their creativity is restrained to low-complexity, low-logic-loaded areas like fashion, slang and these things.

Coming up with a gran unified theory ortackling an unusual problem that no one has seen before has not much to do with ntelligence, but with a wild imagination that allows you to see things in a way no one has seen before. High intelligence allows you to hold a lot of logical variables in your brain at once that allows you to solve a very difficult and unusual math problem, but it does not necessarily allow you to create the new math that this unusual problem is based on. Creating new maths is where creativity comes in, just like creating a new form of art that no one has thought before. Very high intelligence allows you to solve problems created by systems of thought that are already here, but it does not make you have new ideas

jody said...

east asians demonstrate a good amount of creativity. i've argued this before. it's only a matter of relative creativity. no, they don't exhibit the wild, out of control innovative ability of europeans. who does? that's hardly evidence east asians create little novel material in any field. they do, in plenty of fields.

the chinese in particular though have some kind of deficit along those lines. there's no doubt about that. certainly this culture where every person is shoved into a tiny little box, where the only thing they are allowed to do in life is study a math book, is partly culpable. remove that straight jacket and i expect we would see chinese kids spreading into other fields.

as a group they're kind of falling into the same path even in the US and canada. they barely appear in any field outside of academic ones. that has to be somewhat due to the math book straight jacket.

bjdoubloon said...

Where is the Chinese high school football or basketball team? From my experience teaching/studying in Asia, high school sports are not popular. Sure swimming and gymnastics and ping pong, but those are individual sports supported by the state. American businesses always like too see if their new team players played on teams. Maybe creativity is a team sport too. Requires civil society, which China lacks.

dearieme said...

Mm. But the early Dutch and Portugese navigators, who disagreed on so much, certainly agreed which was the most impressive people they'd come across on their voyages to the Orient: the Japanese.

Anonymous said...

If this is the biggest complaint China has about its schools, we're in trouble. "Our kids are too smart and do too well but they're not imaginative enough." Oy, we should have such problems, especially with the roughly 50% of schoolkids who are NAMs in the US.

South Korea's movie industry churns out typical fare no better or worse than the cineplex stuff in the US. Search DVD Korean on ebay and see hundreds of titles that never get shown here but which give our stuff a run for its money. Bollywood makes as many movies as the US, just as Japan was doing in the 1950's. Plus they had Ozu and Kurosawa to match our Welles, Kubrick.

I do think our cultural habit of reading (novels) for pleasure is an advantage over East Asian countries, where it's less ingrained. Unfortunately we're short on great novelists so we have subway cars full of 20-somethings reading Twilight and Harry Potter.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of very talented Chinese scientists, writers, and artists out there, so I don't think they can be accused of being uncreative. Where the Chinese seem to have a problem is in translating their creativity into technological innovation. Another problem the Chinese face is their ridiculously difficult written language: studies have shown that it puts a damper on innovative scientific thought.

Felix said...

"I carry a strong feeling of bitterness," Chen Weihua, an editor at the state-run China Daily, wrote in a first-person editorial. "The making of superb test-takers comes at a high cost, often killing much of, if not all, the joy of childhood."

And that's precisely why importing "high IQ groups" to America is bad for us. It used to be that if you were smart, you could play sports, go hang out with friends, and have a fulfilling childhood in general yet still get to a good school in the end.

Now if you want to go to an elite university your childhood must be transformed into soul-crushing drudgery to compete with the hordes of single-minded Asian and Indian automatons out there. Perhaps some of the IQ fetishists here can explain to me how the hell is that an improvement? I'd say one of the greatest rewards of creating a highly wealthy, rich nation like the United States used to be is that childhood can be fun and care-free and yet still lead to a productive future. Once you create such a benefit, it's insane to tear it down by importing a bunch of obsessed study robots from E. Asia and India.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to remember the last time I reviewed a Japanese movie. It's been awhile...

I think it's the nihilism.

And Spengler's old Rosenzweigian theory has a lot to say here - when the pagan nation has its pride nuked right out of its heart, it doesn't have much spirit left to fall back on.

As Mark Steyn has pointed out, the absolute population of Japan started declining a year or two ago, and they've been in a prolonged recession now for about two decades, simply because they don't have enough young people in the pipeline to provide any economic [or, in this case, cultural] growth with which to move forward.

For instance, look at the towering geniuses which Japan was producing in mathematics prior to Hiroshima and Nagasaki:

Kiyoshi Oka, 1901 – 1978
Kiyoshi Ito, 1915 – 2008
Kenkichi Iwasawa, 1917 – 1998
Yutaka Taniyama, 1927 – 1958
Goro Shimura, 1930 - present

Just off the top of my head, I can't think of a single Japanese mathematician born in the post-war era who can hold a candle to any of those men [all of whom were born as Japan was moving towards the zenith of Shinto cultural chauvinism & military expansionism].

PS: In the cinema, Akira Kurosawa, 1910 – 1998, dates from the same general cultural timeframe.

Come to think of it, this ennui is true even in our own cinematic impression of the Japanese - will Japan ever again seem as "sexy" as it was in 1967, when James Bond was bedding Aki & Kissy Suzuki in You Only Live Twice?

I know that Tom Cruise tried to capitalize on some of the same imagery in 2003's The Last Samurai, and while it is cinematographically a quite beatiful film, it is ultimately the story of the decline and death of Japanese traditionalism.

JSM said...

"No one remotely rational or intelligent would make such broad, and unjustified claims. The last creative film you saw from as Asian artist was "Spirited Away"? Lol."

No one remotely rational or intelligent thinks "lol" is an argument.

Baloo said...

It almost sounds like an attempt to discourage other countries from emulating them. "It's awful down here in the briar patch" sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

It's really sad that people have to come up with some kind of market-based justification for normal childhood. These kids have had their birthright stolen. They can never replace what's been taken from them. Who fucking cares if letting little kids play leads to "greater creativity?" It's just the right thing to do! You don't need any more justification! And making little kids study for hours is just as wrong as sending them down pit or making them crawl around on their hands and knees cleaning out the bobbins in a cotton mill. If you don't see this there is something wrong with you.

GW said...

I've been teaching part time at the college level for years now. It's a side gig to my day job, which is Director of Design at an architecture and interiors firm.

Many if not most of my students are international, and many if not most of them originate in the far east (China and Japan foremost).

As the teacher for the first in sequence of the upper level design studio courses in an accredited design program, my job is to teach these folks how to unlock their creativity in a systematic, productive way. I should note here that, though there is certainly variance in levels of creative ability, I do very strongly believe that creativity can be taught, and have had a great deal of success and a powerful method for doing so.

The biggest hurdle to teaching creative methods is the vast freight of cognitive and emotional inhibition that each student brings into the classroom, and the my students who have been raised in the more traditional Chinese way, emphasizing rote memorization and relentless conformity, have some of the most rigid and deeply rooted inhibitions of all. To get them to where they can utilize their creative abilities, I often have to spend tremendous effort breaking down their inhibitions. Needless to say, that's impossible to do thoroughly in one semester studio class. Most of them will struggle with that for the rest of their lives.

However, an effective shift in approach for dealing with students with that cultural background is to play all the hooks left in their minds by so many years of relentless conformity and authoritarian parenting/teaching. As an authority figure (me, the professor), I make it very clear that I demand of them that adhere to my nonconformist methodology and that I will actively penalize them if I catch them "playing it safe." This approach doesn't work that well with western students, but with eastern students it often effects magical transformations after a few weeks of utter confusion (and reinforcement...they have to know that I really mean it). Some of my most creative design students have been Chinese/Japanese foreign students, but it took some effort to get them there.

The downside to that is: once I'm out of the picture (no longer demanding such unorthodox thinking from them from a position of authority), many of them soon revert to their old, inhibited thought patterns. I only hope that, having shown themselves they could do it when I demanded it of them, they can find a way in the future to get back to that place on their own.

GW said...
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Anonymous said...

If the Chinese and the Japanese are claiming that they lack creativity, I would suggest that they are doing so to put westerners off guard.

Anonymous said...

As a young man in his 20s, I will say the Japanese have been pretty creative in popular culture, notably anime and videogames that exerted such a hold on me when I was a kid right into my teens. I think the problem with Japan (outside of the fact that they're getting beat in the videogame dept by westerners now) is that the media they export the most, cartoons and games, really don't come under notice from cultural arbiters like movie reviewers or art critics, unless its a Murakami exhibit.

P Coderch said...

"The American movie industry is so dominant..."

This doesen't mean that it produces the best films; it means that most people in the World are morons who like big explosions and car chases. America produces the worst films in terms of writing, dialog and performances. The only area where American films excel are in CGI, and that's it.

nooffensebut said...

Why should we believe in creativity? What is creative expression, other than influences collage creation? Most of what passes for creativity is simply a series of fads that ride the wave of changing technology and technique. Technology advances in movie or music production, for instance, and the cultural creatives simply apply our cultural memes, archetypes, and formulas. Defining creativity is full of prejudices. Now that the Internet has made music and movies free, people can more easily give up their loyalties and appreciate a broader spectrum of genres without sacrifice. Consequently, appreciation of creativity can now be the mere detection of intelligence in composition. So, it is getting harder for me to believe that creativity is significantly more than IQ expression through media made possible by technological advancements. We have this prejudice that, though Asians have high IQ and are capable with technology, they do not send the cultural signals that we are used to receiving from SWPL artists. So, we are not supposed to consider them creative. Sure, Asians have more strict values that might limit their range of media, but that is choice, not aptitude.

Anonymous said...

"The making of superb test-takers comes at a high cost, often killing much of, if not all, the joy of childhood."

Over the years I've found more joy in work than in idleness. I'm sure my experience isn't unique. By the way, I'm not Asian.

"In a sense, this is the underbelly of a rising China: the fear that schools are churning out generations of unimaginative worker bees who do well on tests."

What's the alternative? Unimaginative slackers? Are they actually implying here that idleness would promote creativity?

"However, the level of their creativity and imagination is low."

This problem has existed in China for as long as records have been kept. Discouraging Northeast Asians from using the one advantage they have over everyone else (work ethic) will not make creativity magically appear among them. In related news, discouraging Mexican fighters from boxing in low weight categories will not lead to a sudden flowering of heavyweight boxing talent in Mexico. It will just reduce the number of championships won by Mexicans overall.

Anonymous said...

It is worth pointing out that the Chinese schools practice tracking--the one thing that would do the most to improve the performance of American schools. In Chinese cities the schools are divided into 5 levels. You qualify for the upper-level schools by doing well on competitive exams. The top two levels are considered to be about the same. (So many students get into the top level schools by bribery that the level second from the top is considered a more reliable indication of ability.) The bottom level schools have the same discipline and behavioral problems that our worst schools do. As in the case of Japan, private schools are a place of refuge for the children of rich families who can't hack the competitive exams to get into the top schools.

I am no expert on the Chinese educational system, but this is what my wife who comes from a middle-class Chinese family has told me.

RKU said...

The biggest hurdle to teaching creative methods is the vast freight of cognitive and emotional inhibition that each student brings into the classroom, and the my students who have been raised in the more traditional Chinese way, emphasizing rote memorization and relentless conformity, have some of the most rigid and deeply rooted inhibitions of all.

That would be my guess as well. It may or may not be true that Chinese or other East Asians are somewhat less "creative" than Europeans, but I think the far greater factor is that they tend to be very much more socially conformist, and people who are highly conformist are much less likely to manifest whatever creativity they possess. As to how much of EA conformism is innate and who much is cultural, it's difficult to say, though I think it's probably a mixture of both.

Matt said...

Creativity is interesting to me because the term seems to have at least four meanings really, which I can think of, probably more, which are,

1. Wanting to express yourself
2. Liking the arts, and producing the arts
3. Having a lot of imagination and fantasy
4. Coming up with actual new ideas

These aren't that much in alignment (but there may still be a general factor that ties them together, albeit much more loosely than g ties together intelligence subtests).

There are lots of people who really earnestly love to express themselves and love the arts, but the sentiments and ideas they produce are totally generic and aren't novel. On the other hand, lots of people exist who are quite *repressed* regarding personal expression, and are quite philistinic, but tend to have original and uncoventional thoughts within the domains their minds are concentrated on.

The bits of creativity that seem *most* important for an economy are probably to have new ideas and to be passionate about pushing them, but within an area that actually revolves around providing a genuinely new or better good or service (rather than just another "niche"), not necessarily the arts or the realm of self expression.

When we're asking about creativity, which is pretty lazily defined, and not getting answer, it might be a better use of time to focus a bit more on this.

Aaron said...

I think it is quite fair to say that since Asians have been exposed to Western science in a serious, systematic way, they have failed to make any serious innovations or contributions. They have made many small ones, but no large ones, it seems.

One might plausible say that science originated in the West for a particular set of reasons not having to do only with ability, but what is remarkable is that in the past 150 years Asians have had as much science as Westerners, yet have done much less with it.

Economy of method requires us to posit the fewest reasons to explain this, and the reason that makes most sense is that Asians lack a certain mental ability not readily measured by I.Q

Some people like to explain Asian under-performance as a function of personality, but economy of method does not allow introducing an extraneous reason when the facts can be explained more easily by simply saying Asians lack a crucial mental ability.

Consider. Our present knowledge of IQ and what it means is far from exhaustive - we know it measures some kind of mental ability, and we know that it correlates with mental success in some way, but our notions of precisely what and how are still quite hazy. People seem to think that IQ is the last word on intelligence, but our present state of knowledge is incomplete.

If IQ fails to explain under-performance, which it does in the case of Asians, then it makes more sense to admit that our current understanding of IQ is far from complete than to religiously rely on IQ as the last word on intelligence and begin looking for explanations in personality or culture.

Further, studies have failed to find that Asians have less of the personality traits associated with creativity, or thought to be associated with it. Studies have found Asians to have these traits as much as Westerners.

We simply do not know - in our current state of knowledge, it makes most logical sense to suggest that Asians lack some sub-set of mental ability that accounts for creativity.

It seems, further, that real thought-revolutions - the suggestion of new paradigms - requires a level of intellectual ability greater than the working out the details or even the application of these theories in the form of technology. Asians have shown themselves unable to generate these thought revolutions, and this argues for a lack of some poorly understood mental ability.

If IQ tests do not reliably explain certain things we observe in the world, like Asian under-performance in many fields, and we know that our knowledge of what IQ tests measure is far from complete, let us stop religiously relying on the IQ tests and admit that there are aspects to intellectual ability that we do not yet understand.

Reality over theory, always.

Edward said...

Let's compare countries and creative achievements in the last 50 years.

How do the Japanese compare to Germans?

I think the Japanese win hands down.

What about Italians?

I still think the Japanese win because of breadth. Japan can count worldwide achievements in everything from architectural design to business methods.

No one can compete with Americans.


There are more Americans than the others and have been for quite a while.

I think the "East Asians lack creativity" meme is now a bit battered.

However... if you think about the cartoons and the movies and their creativity, what's the first thing you think of? Multiple perspectives. Unexpected angles. That kind of thing. The creativity is very visual.

Is creativity just visual? No. How good are East Asians at numerical-verbal creativity? If they're not so hot at that, is that language or their genes?

Ray Sawhill said...

I love, as in l-u-v, Japanese lit, Japanese visual art both high and low, traditional Japanese architecture, Japanese food, Japanese porn, and Japanese movies. Topflight stuff, at least the best of it and the stuff that I've explored. I have a hard time imagining anyone finding Japanese culture uncreative. Hey Steve: try some of Takashi Miike's movies. He's one of the most crazily-talented people making movies these days, IMHO. Two to start with: "Audition" (like Ozu crossed with "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre") and "Ichi the Killer," ecstatic bloody purely-for-kicks nihilism that makes "Reservoir Dogs" look like "Sesame Street."

Eric said...

An awful lot of innovation, both business and science, comes from Chinese emigrants in Western countries.Very little innovation comes from Japanese emigrants in Western countries.

This might have something to do with the fact there are more than ten Chinese people for every Japanese person, and Japanese people tend to stay in Japan (except for studying overseas). Japanese people in Japan don't seem to have any problem being creative.

I remember people in the '80s saying they would never be able to make better products than US companies because they were all soulless worker bees. The same imagery, even.

I'm not convinced you can actually damage a person's creativity in school. You can probably suppress it for a few years.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Chinese culture here is probably as much about not being conducive to identifying naturally creative people as it is about not fostering creativity.

On average their population is short but with a large population they have a good number of very tall people like Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian. But obviously very tall people are easy to identity and foster. You can just look at them and see that they're very tall. Similarly even if on average they're not that creative, with a large population they're likely to have a good number of creative people. But creativity is identified by expression and behavior. Culture that impresses uniform expression and behavior inhibits the variation in creative behavior from being expressed that allows identification and is a prerequisite for nourishing creativity.

josh said...

Good news for guys who seek to seduce Asian women:the men are well-trained but beaten down nerdy grinds.Both sexes prob seek to rebel against their upbringing,but for the female its easier...BTW a true story:At a well known big box store,as I innocently strolled out,cradling my purchase,I saw a lovely little Asian girl crying at the door. I asked,"Are you OK?" She nodded yes. I asked if her mommy was near;she nodded. A Chinese woman suddenly strode into the scene,like a character out of that movie with all the hot Chinese chicks(?). She began loudly berating the little girl.Really yelling at her. Outside I saw them again,and I had to intervene:"You need to calm down,miss" says I. She harshly & loudly replied:"Have you EVER seen such a child! I have never seen such a child!".As the kid sat there,humbled and sobbing. I gave up;whats the use. This is the way they are. Thta mom is prob close to the norm;she just let the mask slip and didnt give a hoot that I was watching!

Paul Mendez said...

I'll echo GW.

"Conformity" is to Asian culture as "Individuality" is to Western culture.

Whether this is nurture (i.e. Confucianism) or nature (natural selection in crowded, low-resource environments for people who don't piss you off so much you kill them) is the question.

In WW2 the Japanese stuck with tactics long after they had stopped working. A banzai charge actually wasn't such a bad idea against poorly trained Chinese with few automatic weapons. But when they ran up against US Marines with orders of magnitude more firepower, the Japanese did not adapt.

Western soldiers, on the other hand, continuously adapted, improvised and overcame.

Anonymous said...

The Japanese are pretty creative - Nintendo, Toyota, Matsushita, Sony, and all those video game developers demonstrate a good deal of it....

I think the Chinese are more creative than they think. They seem to do well in fields that require creativity (entrapranuership, technology, science, gaming) in the U.S., but suffer at home. I think the mean level of creativity is lower, but it's not abysmal by any means. The Chinese invented a lot of useful stuff (gun powder, magnetic compass, paper) in the past, so they've got something going on.

My guess is that having an environment where kids are drilled and ordered around intensively from a young age, is not conducive to nurturing a creative national culture. If the Chinese eased up a little bit, I think it'd pay a good creativity dividend, but the test scores would probably dip a little bit too.

The ideal situation is to combine Chinese industriousness with Western creativity, which the Chinese-American population does well at. Of the top 100 venture capitalists named by Forbes magazine, 8 are Chinese-American. 12 are Indian. On their own, I don't think either group have the creativity to and openness to experience that well, but when they get here.... they shine in the Western environment that nurtures and encourages bright, educated people.

Anonymous said...

"We are fully aware of the situation: Their creativity is lacking. They suffer very poor health, they are not strong and they get injured easily," vice principal Chen Ting said. "We're calling on all relevant parties to reduce the burden on our students."



Hard work is good, but this is ridiculous.

But Zhang also pointed out the implied embarrassments of the examination results: The Shanghai students who triumphed in the tests enjoy the very best China's uneven schools can offer. Their experience has little in common with those of their peers in rural schools, or the makeshift migrant schools of the big cities, not to mention the armies of teenagers who abandon secondary school in favor of the factory floor.



It's still impressive. If we just assume that it's upper middle class kids are being tested, that implies really strong academic abilities among them.

Anonymous said...

There is something very weird in Chinese failing to colonize Taiwan for centuries if not millennia. Similar to Africans' failure to colonize Madagascar (Taiwan is twice closer to continent though). Clearly not for the lack of IQ but something else. Curiosity? To be creative one needs to be curious.

Truth said...

"And that's precisely why importing "high IQ groups" to America is bad for us...Once you create such a benefit, it's insane to tear it down by importing a bunch of obsessed study robots from E. Asia and India."

Are you the same Felix who is always blathering on about wanting to move to china, and his esteem for Asian chicks?

Whiskey said...

The James Burke "Connections" series from the late 1970's, available on Youtube, makes the same questions. Over and over again, the West, not the East (and China specifically) constantly improved: the compass, printing, paper money, gunpowder, and the like.

The typical story in Connections is, some guy did something interesting that went nowhere, for decades. A great deal of time later, someone else took that something, and another something, and put them together in new ways to make something terribly useful.

EVEN IF IT TOTALLY DESTROYED A FORMER SECTION OF WESTERN SOCIETY.

That to me is key: the Western willingness to totally destroy sectors of society ("creative destruction") in order to get advantage in almost anything. Watt used cannon boring tools to create cylinders with exact diameters, matching exactly the cylinder heads, to create a tight seal. Daimler used perfume atomizers as a carburetor, and Volta's electric pistol as a spark plug for a modern internal combustion engine.

East Asians seem as creative as Westerners, but their society is more rigid and unwilling to say, put socially important sectors out to pasture by adopting new, pieces-together technology that gives advantage. Asian societies seem to value harmony over advantage.

Whiskey said...

Look at Japanese cinema flowering of creativity. It took place when old power structures were overthrown, and guys like Kurosawa could blend, creatively, John Ford and Howard Hawks westerns with Samurai and Japanese traditions. Kurosawa no more created cinema and things out of whole cloth than Shakespeare did, but he put them together in new ways the way Shakespeare took old stories and put them together (Caesar's assassination plus English notions of liberty plus Elizabethan anti-Catholic feeling = Julius Caesar).

You can see the same with say, Honda leveraging new ways to make outstanding motors work in everything from lawn mowers to cars, or Sony pushing electronics already existing into ground breaking new consumer products: the Walkman, CD player, Betamax (the latter of course failing). Even Mini-Disc continued that tradition.

As Japan has aged and become more ossified, Sony has been unable to match Apple (which just took existing MP3 players like the Iriver and made them better).

Creativity is not Athena coming out Zeus's forehead, it is about putting things together in new ways to create something better. That advantage lies with the West. China is merely copying stuff, not innovating. Their high speed rail stuff is mere copies of Japanese bullet trains, only cheaper. They are not say, taking aerospace concepts, new materials and making something new.

Anonymous said...

the american population is uniquely selected for variety and change seeking immigrants and, as a result, will always be uniquely creative. It's rarely discussed how China looks to the US as a model, borrowing free market and right of center ideals in particular in an effort to close the wealth and power gap. A Singaporist attempt to engineer creativity might be an avenue for them.

Juan said...

It could be false-modesty-as-virtue so common in Asian culture. Remember the movie GOOD EARTH where Paul Muni calls his son 'worthless' or something like that?

Anonymous said...

How about this?

Chinese school in Shanghai is perfectly satisfied with trajectory of China, school, and students.

Westerner reporter with an aura, presence, mind-set, what have you, about CREATIVITY asks about the freedoms the kids have.

Schoolmaster have seen this from Westerners, oh about 1000x, senses the shot and gives routinized response about conformity, rigidity, etc. Just to get the annoying reporter off his case and out of his mind.

Anonymous said...

Nooffensebut: "We have this prejudice that, though Asians have high IQ and are capable with technology, they do not send the cultural signals that we are used to receiving from SWPL artists. So, we are not supposed to consider them creative."

Further, I would say that whenever we do get a Westernised Asian Artist (with a capital A) they tend to be the SWPL stereotype on stilts - think Yoko Ono.
Gilbert Pinfold.

Kylie said...

"I don't think I can name a Japanese movie star these days, the way lots of Americans could cite Toshiro Mifune by name around 1970 or so. That's kind of odd."

Ken Watanabe. Google his name and you get 588,000 hits.

"In general, the American movie industry so overshadows everybody else that it's not funny anymore."

Yes, which is how movies like The Last Samurai and Memoirs of a Geisha get made. They're made for Western audiences who don't care if the directors are Westerners and Japanese characters are portrayed by Chinese, Malaysians, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'll start worrying when they write software

Steve Sailer said...

Right, Watanabe is kind of a star in America, even though he can barely speak English. Are there any Japanese leading lady stars in America> They made Memoirs of a Geisha with a whole bunch of Chinese leading ladies.

Anonymous said...

La Griff du Lion explained it:
http://lagriffedulion.f2s.com/sft2.htm

Angel Eyes said...

"I don't think I can name a Japanese movie star these days, the way lots of Americans could cite Toshiro Mifune by name around 1970 or so. That's kind of odd."

Pikachu.

Jill said...

"Westerner reporter with an aura, presence, mind-set, what have you, about CREATIVITY asks about the freedoms the kids have."

I must say, China produced a number of higly creative, expressive, and even great directors since the 80s. And China today makes some of the most honest and hard-biting movies about social reality that puts PC Hollywood to shame--and despite state censorship. Check BLIND MOUNTAIN and BEIJING BICYCLE.

And big dumb Chinese movies are no better or worse than big dumb American movies. Still, generally more adult than Hollywood stuff.
(And if creativity means AVATAR and IRON MAN, please, I've had enough).
When it comes to contemporary art for bobo connoisseurs, Chinese seem to be as clever as their Western counterparts. All the children of Warhol's Mao than the real Mao.

Kylie said...

"Are there any Japanese leading lady stars in America?"

I can't think of any off-hand. Certainly none who are as well known to Western audiences as, say, Machiko Kyo was, who still rates 22,000 Google hits even though she made her last film in 1984 or Setsuko Hara, who rates 28,000 Google hits, even though she made her last film in 1966. Even in their heyday, though, their appeal in the West was to the art-house film crowd.

I think most of the Asian actresses who are well-known to Western audiences today (e.g., Li, Yeoh, Zhang) are Chinese and/or Malaysian.

Anonymous said...

"How do the Japanese compare to Germans?"

Let's see. The Germans invented (or were the first to construct) the car, computer, television, bicycle, printing, jet engine, mp3 file, typewriter, x-ray, contact lenses, V2 rocket, saturn V rocket, sneakers, and asipirin among other things. What other group has a more impressive list?

(I left off the computer)

Deborah said...

"How do the Japanese compare to Germans?"

"Let's see. The Germans invented (or were the first to construct) the car, computer, television, bicycle, printing, jet engine, mp3 file, typewriter, x-ray, contact lenses, V2 rocket, saturn V rocket, sneakers, and asipirin among other things. What other group has a more impressive list?
(I left off the computer)"

But Japanese gave us sushi.

More seriously, Japanese achievements, though more limited, are more remarkable in some ways because they happened in isolation--though there were contacts with the mainland and Westerners.
Germany, OTOH, was situated geographically to draw the best ideas and inspirations from Italy(Rome, Renaissance, modern), France, Poland(which at times was more advanced than Germany), etc. Germany also got something from Jews.

Incidentally, I wonder who the greatest peoples of all time were.

Number one would have to be Greeks or Jews, but I would go with Jews because Greek genius petered out long ago(though their ideas probably had the greatest longterm impact on the progress of humanity).
So, it's..

1. Jews
2. Greeks
3. Anglos(Brits and Anglo-Americans)
4. Italians(for Rome and Renaissance)
5. French
6. Chinese
7. Germanic peoples (great people but relatively late comer to greatness and then lost it pretty quick. I suppose one could argue French, Spanish, Anglos are also of 'Germanic' origin)
8. Hispanics (for golden age of Spain and discovery/conquest of the New World.)
9. Indian Hindus

#10 could be

Arabs for Islam

Blacks for pop music that conquered the world

Japanese for unique culture and for showing the world that a non-white nation could rise and challenge the west

Sumerians, Babylonians, or Ancient Egyptians for the beginning of civilization.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any evidence that lower verbal IQ is more important to economic growth than overall IQ.

Max said...

"Are there any Japanese leading lady stars in America?"

Shirley Yamaguchi was once something of a household name in the US. A noveliztion of her life CHINA LOVER by Ian Buruma is a pure delight, a must-read. Buruma, though something of a liberal, has never been on the side of political correctness and this book vibrates with drama, tragedy, humor, wit, satire. A modern Candide story. Wonderful.

Chaney said...

Beat Takeshi a huge Japanese star among the American arthouse crowd. I love VIOLENT COP, FIREWORKS, and BOILING POINT(one of the most demented movies of its kind).
His American movie BROTHER was a failure but the sight of a runty middle aged Japanese guy beat up a black guy twice his size was like the funniest thing I've ever seen.

Jay said...

"Anonymous said...

ummmm look at this histrical record- oriental art vs western art. "

Great, you picked art. Art is like the most subjective thing you can pick on in terms of making a comparison.

What are you, an Art History Major? Do you get a hard-on by seeing people splashing paint mindlessly on a canvass?

Anonymous said...

La Griff du Lion explained it:
http://lagriffedulion.f2s.com/sft2.htm

The data btw is real bs. The Japanese were once in the late 80s/early 90s much richer than the US. The Koreans and Taiwanese are still developing. The data for lower GDP per capita in East Asia is just not there.

Anonymous said...

Are there any Japanese leading lady stars in America

It's a real shame - Japanese women are some of the most beautiful [and graceful] on the face of the earth.

[As regards their beauty, my pet theory is that the Japanese have a fair amount of Scots-Danish blood in them.]

Morton said...

"Are there any Japanese leading lady stars in America"

"It's a real shame - Japanese women are some of the most beautiful [and graceful] on the face of the earth."

Only in the movies. I've seen many Japanese around the NY area, and most are nothing special.

Chief Seattle said...

The biggest deficit of the Chinese is in integrity, not creativity. The whole culture is based on lying and getting away with it. Companies lying to your customers about quality. Governments lying to their people and suppressing speech. Rampant intellectual property theft and then denial of the same.

People talk about the lack of Japanese quality in the 50s and improvement in the 60s and 70s. But I bet it physically pained the Japanese to see their stuff fall apart and they stayed up late at night to make it better. But the Chinese don't give 2c about their quality. If they can chrome plate a lesser metal they will. If they can use a cheaper plastic they will. And there's no incentive to make it better because the HD and WMT buyers just want to shave a few pennies so they can get their bonuses. It's corruption all around. The Japanese take pride in their craftmanship and have for centuries as anyone who's ever seen a samurai sword can attest to. The Chinese merchants take great pride in cheating their customers out of a few pennies.

Anonymous said...

Great, you picked art. Art is like the most subjective thing you can pick on in terms of making a comparison.

What are you, an Art History Major? Do you get a hard-on by seeing people splashing paint mindlessly on a canvass?


No Jay, a realist painter. ..and we are talking about... well creativity here, aren't we? can you find a less subjective example than painting?
With painting, it is pretty easy for someone with normal spatial intelligence to see the difference between, say, Van Eyck, Rapheal and Sargent, all of whom were brilliant master in their own way. Only an expert could tell the difference between oriental artists ranging over the same time period. Little changes, and as mentioned Hokasai was largely influenced by western prints smuggled into Japan.

Lastly, someone brought up the rather banal examples of video games. Did the Japs event the concept? no. That's the real innovation, not adding more levels to supermario brothers.

as i mentioned earlier, if you cut orientals were cut off from the west, they would stagnate in a matter of decades.

and again so called 'creative' writers like the oriental amy chan or whatever her name is, are just following immigrant family genres started by the Jews (and they are probably 'handled' and coached by Jewish literary agents, much like that Indian girl caught plagerizing)

Anonymous said...

Japanese cartoons seem to suffer no lack of creativity
sigh... disney *(the guy) was a creative and innovative cartoonist, orientals are not.

but again all the examples used here - cartoons, video games, third rate starchitecture, are all pretty banal and shallow, like orientals themselves.

Anonymous said...

"The making of superb test-takers comes at a high cost, often killing much of, if not all, the joy of childhood."

I wish my parents had been more the killjoy types. Yours truly was the second of five and my older brother got whatever drive my mother was willing to expend. My father just wanted us to grow up, go away, and earn money, not necessarily in that order.
I decided on my own in grade school that I would go to college, be an archeologist, a writer, a teacher, astronomer (my favorite movie being The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951 original) whatever. Many a high-school underachiever owes much gratitude to community colleges. The most joyful times of kidhood, barring Christmas morning, were when I did good work and, especially, when others recognized it. Which didn't happen too often except in reading. Successful work is really more fun than being idle. Children do need free time, but not really that much free time. My god, look at sheer joy of being alive in kids performing some sort of dance that takes concentration, practice, synchronization...and work work work. Joy in mental accomplishment is not a million miles away.

JSM said...

"If they can use a cheaper plastic they will."

Of if the leaded paint is cheaper, they'll use it ON BABY TOYS, which babies put in their mouths, even though the hazards to infants of lead ingestion have been known for decades.

Anonymous said...

"No Jay, a realist painter."

Wow. Didn't they go extinct with the invention of the Daquerrotype?

Svigor said...

An awful lot of innovation, both business and science, comes from Chinese emigrants in Western countries. Very little innovation comes from Japanese emigrants in Western countries. I'd say Chinese have the talent; if they're not seeing much creativity internally, the problem has to be the system and culture. There's less evidence of Japanese innate creativity.

It's also possible that the societies east Asians create for themselves will always stifle creativity relative to European societies.

Simon, when I say east Asians aren't as creative as Europeans, that's what I mean. Not that they're soul-less automatons not capable of producing art.

And incidentally, art isn't really what I'm even talking about. It doesn't take a maverick or an out of the box thinker to go to art school, join an animation company, and color in cells for the rest of your working life.

Svigor said...

Speaking of cinema, let's not forget the creativity of Jewish Americans in Hollywood. Perhaps East Asians and Jews will have the global cinema market cornered one of these days?

Yeah, Israel will be the new Hollywood any day now.

Svigor said...

Another example of self-pity. Chinese self-pity will forever suppress their creativity and high income. When you think yourself not worthy, you will not believe you can create some thing better and not deserve better. Western superiority is partially result of high self-esteem and comtemp for others. You gonna believe yourself better in order to get higher pay and motivation for creativity. China needs another Chairman Mao who believe Chinese superiorty and give them winning attitude

I bet self-esteem and such fall right where they "should" on Rushton's scale.

Svigor said...

East Asians are not creative as Europeans because they have higher levels of anxiety, and the basis of creativity is lack of inhibition of thought. People who are anxious are not only more inhibited in action but also in thoughts. Blacks are more creative than whites, who are more creative than Asians. Unfortunately fir blacks, they lack the mental processing speed and working memory necessary for using their creativity to tackle complex things, so their creativity is restrained to low-complexity, low-logic-loaded areas like fashion, slang and these things.

(Very) roughly my thinking as well.

Svigor said...

That to me is key: the Western willingness to totally destroy sectors of society ("creative destruction") in order to get advantage in almost anything.

This is what I mean about the maverick thing. Pay any attention to east Asian societies and you see how HYYUUUGE (say it like Donald Trump says it) HARMONY is to east Asians. It's all over their movies, too.

Westerners just don't give nearly as much of a $#!^. Look at Europe over history, a patchwork of people you'd more easily incinerate than unite into a vast state like China. Westerners are much more willing to overturn the applecart. Or more accurately, much less likely to wonder whether they're going to upset the applecart, or care if they realize they are.

This is WAY more what I'm getting at, than some silly conversation about pretty pictures. Yeah, I've seen plenty of kewl pictures/comics/movies from east Asians already (I also note how much more similar all Manga is to other Manga than any given western comic is to other western comics). Not kidding; it's not as if I can't look at G**gle image for hours appreciating all the neat sci-fi images from Japanese artists.

Svigor said...

What the yellow supremacists don't seem to get is that some of us are trying to explain things. Like why China, with a middle class almost the size of the entire population of the U.S., doesn't innovate much.

And supremacist really is the word here. We acknowledge yellows have a higher mean IQ, but want to know why China sucks, relatively speaking (don't claim poverty - Chinese middle class is almost as big as American population, remember? And smarter?), and we're the bad guys?

Sheesh. Only thing I'm wondering is, why do so many whites jump on this yellow supremacist bandwagon? Or do I have that wrong? Are all the yellow supremacists here themselves yellow?

Anonymous said...

"What the yellow supremacists don't seem to get is that some of us are trying to explain things. "

I haven't seen any yellow supremacists here. Just a few trying to address some of the really low level fact gathering and flawed logic of some of the posters.

And the few Asian posters here are smart enough to know that there are attempts at explanations here.

"Like why China, with a middle class almost the size of the entire population of the U.S., doesn't innovate much."

I'm not sure that China isn't moving up the innovation chain really fast.
But if you want answers to the question as you've framed it:

Lots of possibilities.
1. Less money for research.
2. Innovation is not valued culture wide.
3. Creativity is fetishized in the West, in particular English speaking countries.
4. US is multi-racial, multi-ethnic.
5. Karma.
6. Religion.
7. Confucian, Taoist conservatism.
8. Creation=destruction.

I can think about a hundred more reasons. Literally. Mostly I think its a combination of 1-8.

Anonymous said...

Blacks are more creative than whites whoaa... WTF? Show me a black mozart, a black raphael, a black shakespeare..
and as for the anxiety crap theory.. umm look at jews... lots of neurotic anxiety there.

Anonymous said...

If blacks really are creative, I think we'd expect high IQ blacks to be leading the way in innovation. Is that really the case?

Blacks seem to display a good level of verbal creativity (rap, slang, word play), but there's also quite a bit of conformity in a lot of black neighborhoods. Everybody listening to rap, everybody dressing in an urban brand (FUBU, South Pole, Boss), everybody buying Jordans, everybody watching/playing basketball. Maybe that's owing to the desire to not appear to have given up their culture?

Whites, especially northern Euros, seem to be the craziest in a lot of ways. Blacks and other races are always making fun of them for being so "weird." Maybe the perceived quirkiness of whites is just an indicator of more creativity.

Anonymous said...

East Asian creativity is increased when they live in the West. Of the top 100 venture capitalists in America, 8 are Chinese and 12 are Indian.

McBain said...

"If blacks really are creative, I think we'd expect high IQ blacks to be leading the way in innovation. Is that really the case?"

There's a difference between expressive creativity and analytic creativity. Blacks have lots of creative energy and some have talent to express it. Hendrix was one bad mofo.

Capt Aiello said...

"East Asian creativity is increased when they live in the West. Of the top 100 venture capitalists in America, 8 are Chinese and 12 are Indian."

Yes and no. If Asian society is completely repressive like Mao's China or North Korea, surely Asians in the West will do more.
But the opposite may be true with Asians in relativley free Asian nations, at least in the area of arts, culture, entertainment.
Generally, Asians prefer to belong and fit in than be the center of attention. For this reason, many Asians in the West may lack enough confidence to express themselves boldly, with chutzpah. (And even when they do, they play it safe by imitating Jewish comedians or black rappers.)
But in Asia, Asians may feel less inhibited because they are among other Asians. Ironically, though Asian societies may be less free, Asians in it might feel freer. It's like a shy kid is more expressive at home even if his parents are somewhat strict than among strangers in a free environment. In fact, a lot of people are most-well-behaved in a completely free environment because they are afraid of 'making fools out of themselves', which is less of a worry among close friends or family members. There has been a number of great original film talents in Japan, HK, and China but the typical Asian-American filmmaker has been the gutless Wayne Wang whose works reek of 'model minority' blandness.

Anonymous said...

"Ironically, though Asian societies may be less free, Asians in it might feel freer. It's like a shy kid is more expressive at home even if his parents are somewhat strict than among strangers in a free environment."

No need to question stereotypes on ISteve.

You clearly don't speak any Asian language and have never been to Asia.

Svigor said...

Lots of possibilities.
1. Less money for research.
2. Innovation is not valued culture wide.
3. Creativity is fetishized in the West, in particular English speaking countries.
4. US is multi-racial, multi-ethnic.
5. Karma.
6. Religion.
7. Confucian, Taoist conservatism.
8. Creation=destruction.



My reply:

1. Why?
2. Why?
3. Why?
4. Why?
5. Huh?
6. Why?
7. Why?
8. And?

Over how many centuries must a "cultural" or "religious" or "philosophical" trend persist before we call it persistent? If it's persistent, is it really such a big deal, for the purposes of this discussion, if it's nature or nurture?

I don't see "it's cultural" as being any more rigorous than "it's part nature, part nurture," or "it's the nurture their nature spawns."

Svigor said...

I just have to say, the "gee, what could it be" element to this conversation is pretty funny from my end.

Gee, I wonder. Europeans colonized half the world, while the Chinese didn't even colonize Taiwan. The bloody Dutch did!

And people are scratching their heads, lol. IQ != curiousity. IQ != aggressiveness. IQ != agreeableness.

Anonymous said...

It boggles my mind that people can barely entertain the notion that Eastern Asians are uncreative for so much as a second. Some of you remain oddly oblivious to the vast, prodigious traditions of literature, art and speculative thought they've amassed over the ages.

Anonymous said...

I think expressive creativity might be a good description of black talent. Blacks seem to excel at on the fly improvisation, like rap battling or manuevering a ball through lots of defenders or word play.

I find that when I'm relaxed and confident in what I'm doing, the expressive creativity flows more smoothly.

Lenny Kravitz represents an interesting, and successful, fusion between Jewish and black. He's got a lot of talents from both ethnic groups.

Wikipedia: "Leonard Albert "Lenny" Kravitz (born May 26, 1964) is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and arranger, whose "retro" style incorporates elements of rock, soul, funk, reggae, hard rock, psychedelic, folk and ballads."

Anonymous said...

1. Why?
2. Why?
3. Why?
4. Why?
5. Huh?
6. Why?
7. Why?
8. And?

They were happy with things as they were? Could be sport.

none of the above said...

Svigor:

I think you're seeing what you want to see in some very ambiguous data. For example, Japan was a very inward-looking society when it was forced open, but by the 1930s, Japan was more than ready to do the conquest and empire building thing. In a world without a powerful US, it sure looks to me like they'd have made themselves a world power doing that. They had little trouble taking colonies away from the great European powers.

More to the point, Japanese art and literary/movie culture sure looks creative as hell, their companies have managed to innovate at pretty impressive levels, their scientists are producing serious research. Given that, I don't see any reason to believe there's some inherent inability of Japanese to be creative or innovative.

none of the above said...

A random thought:

Societies that are basically trying to catch up to the first world tend to look (and be) rather less innovative, because when there's already a blueprint for success, innovation is less valuable than following the leader with clever optimizations that you can do because you're building up your industry rather than trying to keep existing industry running.

As you hit the limits of that, you have to switch to innovation, or seize up.

My impression is that S Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore are no longer at the point where they can follow an existing blueprint to get much wealthier, because they're already wealthy industrialized countries. China and India are in a very different state.

The question is, what happens now. Japan doesn't look like an enormously less innovative society than most European ones, though I think the US blows everyone else away. (I wonder how much of that is the genes of people who were risk-tolerant enough to immigrate here, homestead some remote place, etc., and how much is culture.) But we'll have to see, over the next few decades.

I also wonder how demographics affect this. My intuition is that relatively little innovation comes from guys in their 60s, so the shifting of the age distribution toward older people may bring a loss of innovation, as there are just *fewer* smart-assed young guys who are convinced they're smarter than all these old fossils teaching them CS or molecular biology or whatver.

Tex said...

Cultural differences between asian societies and western societies explain their lack of creativity. Alan Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa describe this in their book "Order by Accident: The Origins and Consequences of Conformity in Contemporary Japan"

While the consequences of low social order are well understood, the consequences of high social order are not. Yet perhaps nowhere in the world is social order so well developed as in Japan, which is highly organized, economically successful, and enjoys a safe society. However, Japan pays a price--the loss of personal freedom, and the inability to exploit its citizens' talents.In Order by Accident, Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa discuss the consequences of high social order in Japan.

http://www.amazon.com/Order-Accident-Consequences-Conformity-Contemporary/dp/0813339219%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAIRKJRCRZW3TANMSA%26tag%3Dpsychologytod-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3D0813339219

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that China isn't moving up the innovation chain really fast.
But if you want answers to the question as you've framed it:

Lots of possibilities.
....
4. US is multi-racial, multi-ethnic.

oh yeah, like that dazzling innovative ottoman empire (what, some poems about boffing boys?) vs 'racist' 'boring' homogenuse Florence, Athens, Edinborough, London, ...

and poor spain they were enriched with muslim divesity, then when they expelled the muslims and jews they became 'boring' producing painters like velasquez, zurburan, ribera, and writers like cervantes..
Yeah, homogenus societies aren't as creative as richard florida's utopian multiculti nations..

Sigh even on isteve people say this crap??

Svigor said...

I think you're seeing what you want to see in some very ambiguous data.

Oh yeah, that 95% of modern civilization thing is ambiguous. China sitting on her hands forever is ambiguous.

1.3 billion "cognitively elite" Chinamen...

Maybe people just aren't grasping how many "cognitively elite" east Asians there are? WTF have they been doing for the last 500 years?

Sure, I'm guessing. So is everyone else. At least my guesses don't sound like "legacy of slavery/colonialism/segregation/phantom racism!"

I don't see any reason to believe there's some inherent inability of Japanese to be creative or innovative.

Straw man alert...

They were happy with things as they were? Could be sport.

Absolutely. In fact, that sounds a lot like my explanation...

It boggles my mind that

Straw man alert...

Societies that are basically trying to catch up to the first world tend to look (and be) rather less innovative, because when there's already a blueprint for success, innovation is less valuable than following the leader with clever optimizations that you can do because you're building up your industry rather than trying to keep existing industry running.

Absolutely true. That's part of why I call this a guess. But you'd think with 1.5 billion "cognitive elites"...

Especially in niches. E.g., the Chinese should/could kick our asses in genetic science and eugenics because we're so bloody stupid on the subject, so saddled with taboos. Instead they're picking our pockets.

But really, not only am I not talking about pretty pictures, I'm not even talking about research. I'm talking about behavioral genetics. Did I make up those studies showing east Asian infants are more agreeable than white and black infants? Is that culture, too?

Cultural differences between asian societies and western societies explain their lack of creativity.

Can you explain, in a nutshell, why we can't flip that arrow of causation around?

Maybe I'd have more fun trying to suss out why there's such resistance to acknowledging the non-IQ behavioral differences between east Asians and other races, and weaving them into the explanations of the performance differences?

1. Yellow supremacy; taking east Asians down a peg or two undermines "cognitive elitism" (the idea that the west needs yellow immigration + the must-go-unstated premise that east Asia needs racial homogeneity).

2. Yellow peril; underestimating east Asian potential (something I'm not doing, btw) feeds into western complacency.

3. White guilt; somebody's got to be better than us, so we can deflect charges of white supremacy.

Anyone want to add to the list?

Svigor said...

4. IQ-fetishism; IQ is important, and (relatively) easily quantifiable, so it's the only game in town. All competitors must be destroyed.

Svigor said...

I'm reminded of some of my conversations about Jews. The things I think east Asians do best (e.g., not do stupid, liberal $#!^ like invite the world into your borders) won't be welcome praise.

adsfasdfasf said...

"Cultural differences between asian societies and western societies explain their lack of creativity. Alan Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa describe this in their book 'Order by Accident: The Origins and Consequences of Conformity in Contemporary Japan.'"

Even so, Japan was culturally as creative and original--if not more so--from 1945 to 1990 than any nation other except for the US.
Can anyone say Germany, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Poland, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, etc. were more creative or original than Japan during this period? Or even UK, which stood out in the 60s and 70s only because of the British Invasion? And Japanese cinema kicked British butt.

sabril said...

"7. Germanic peoples (great people but relatively late comer to greatness and then lost it pretty quick. I suppose one could argue French, Spanish, Anglos are also of 'Germanic' origin)"

It would be interesting to do a genetic assessment to see how much important stuff was done by people with genes from the various Germanic tribes. I would guess that Ashkenazim have a decent amount of Germanic blood. Actually "Ashkenazi" simply means "German" from what I hear.

Also the Angles and the Saxons were originally Germanic tribes.

Anonymous said...

Even so, Japan was culturally as creative and original--if not more so--from 1945 to 1990 than any nation other except for the US.
Can anyone say Germany, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Poland, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, etc. were more creative or original than Japan during this period? Or even UK, which stood out in the 60s and 70s only because of the British Invasion? And Japanese cinema kicked British butt.


Japan has been, historically, at least the size of any two of those nations put together, if not more. As for Japanese cinema, you'd have to acknowledge that cinema is a relative weakness of the UK, relative to virtually anyone in Europe(!), as the good directors and writers basically pretty much go to the US. Nevertheless, I do not think Japanese people are uncreative or not open to novelty (they have constant idotic fads, for instance). But I'm not sure about general factor creativity, and there may be important areas in which EAs are less creative. I'm not too sure they are happy with constant creative destruction of social institutions as an ordinary fact of life, relative to the West, but then, I'm not too sure anyone is too keen on that (including Western people).

Anonymous said...

I've been living in China for 6 years and been teaching Chinese students as well as consulting foreign companies in IT.

The Chinese are great at passing tests, but when it comes to implementation, documentation and problems solving they lack a lot.

These kids have a high IQ and I had students in my classes with IQ's of 130 and up where their Chinese teacher said they were bad students. The reason for this was that they questioned the teachers knowledge.

I've been teaching at one of the foremost IT universities in China and their IT staff as well as professors knew nothing about every day solutions to common IT problems.
Rolling out a simple piece of education software to 75 workstations took 3 employees 3 weeks and 2 days!

I did a similar rollout for a foreign company, only difference was that I did 270 computers in one go and it took 17 minutes. The university had the exact same technology available, they just didn't know how to use it though they were all MCSE Certified.

In China a student can become MCSE certified in three weeks!!!
This student, when starting, knows nothing about IT as such, but they still manage to study all answers and replies.

I also had students who did the SAT with maximum scores but they couldn't communicate nor survive the studies overseas.

I have had students getting a 7.5 in the IELTS but you would not be able to understand what they were talking about and they would not know what you said to them.

China is a study for the test and the grade is important. If a teacher in China gives too low grades, he/she will be told to change the grades or get fired.

If you give the students with very high English grades a normal English test from Scandinavia they would all fail (I tried this once and none of the students reached 70%).

Most foreign managers are not afraid of these kids, because they know that all they can do is; surf all day on the internet, work for their own personal gain and quit if they don't get promoted within the first year.

Young kids also expect to get a high paid job coming right out of school with an MBA or EMBA. They just don't understand that without work experience this "piece of paper" has no value.