Certain cultures lean more towards individualism, while others are more collectivist. This difference can be traced back to the traditional agricultural practices of these societies. Rice farming, for instance, requires a high degree of cooperation among community members, fostering a collectivist mindset. In contrast, wheat farming can be done independently, encouraging individualism.

A study of modern Chinese provinces supports this theory. Provinces that historically grew rice are more collectivist, even though all provinces now have similar economies. The same pattern is seen globally: countries with a history of wheat farming, like the United States and the United Kingdom, are more individualistic than rice-growing countries like Japan and China.

This agricultural theory also correlates with psychological trends. People from rice-growing regions are more holistic thinkers, while those from wheat-growing areas lean towards analytical thinking. This difference in thinking styles is even seen in art: Western paintings focus on individual subjects, while East Asian art emphasises harmony and context.

Interestingly, the agricultural theory doesn’t just apply to farmers. Even people in non-agricultural professions in these regions show the same patterns of individualism or collectivism. This suggests that these cultural trends are deeply ingrained, passed down through generations regardless of current occupation or lifestyle.

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