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Intercultural Pragmatics

Editor-in-Chief: Kecskes, Istvan

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Volume 3, Issue 4


Dealing with contradiction in a communicative context: A cross-cultural study

Jean-Baptiste Van der Henst / Hugo Mercier / Hiroshi Yama / Yayoi Kawasaki / Kuniko Adachi
Published Online: 2006-12-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/IP.2006.029


In this paper, we investigate the impact of two factors on the way people address conflicting information. One relates to culture and the other to the communicative context in which contradiction occurs. We compared two theoretical approaches, one that focuses on the former factor—the culturalist approach—and one that focuses on the latter factor—the evolutionary approach. According to the culturalist approach, the way we deal with contradiction can be markedly affected by culture, so that people from cultural environments with different social practices are more or less inclined to accept contradictions. In particular, this approach predicts that Easterners are more likely to search for a compromise between two conflicting view-points than Westerners, who tend to follow a logical principle of non-contradiction. In contrast, the evolutionary approach considers that when contradiction occurs in a communicative context, universal mechanisms designed to deal with the problem of managing deceptive information go into effect and lead to the tendency of giving more weight to one's own belief than to the other's conflicting view. We tested these two approaches with Japanese and French participants. Our data supports the evolutionary approach, since both groups showed the same bias of favoring one's own position when it was challenged by another's.

About the article

Jean-Baptiste Van der Henst

Jean-Baptiste Van der Henst is a French cognitive scientist working for the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at the Institute for Cognitive Sciences in Lyon. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University and the University of Leuven. His research focuses on human reasoning and experimental pragmatics. He aims to describe the conditions that affect, and the cognitive mechanisms that serve, inferential processing.

Hugo Mercier

Hugo Mercier is writing a Ph.D. dissertation in experimental psychology related to the reasoning mechanisms involved in argumentation. His thesis is supervised by Dan Sperber, Jean-Baptiste Van der Henst, and Guy Politzer. Concurrently, he is participating in a cross-cultural psychology project that aims to compare the way Japanese and French people deal with contradiction.

Hiroshi Yama

Hiroshi Yama is a Japanese cognitive psychologist. He received his Ph.D. from Kyoto University, and is now working at Kobe College. His research interest is in human reasoning. He investigates how this issue is viewed in evolutionary psychology and cultural psychology.

Yayoi Kawasaki

Yayoi Kawasaki is a Japanese cognitive psychologist working for Kobe College as a postdoctoral fellow (2004–present) in Nishinomiya, Japan. She received her Ph.D. in Human Sciences at Kobe College. Her research focuses on human memory and reasoning. She aims to describe how memory is created, and especially how reasoning process affects generating memory.

Kuniko Adachi

Kuniko Adachi is a Japanese cognitive psychologist in the doctoral program at Kobe College (2004–present) in Nishinomiya, Japan. She earned master's degrees in Japanese literature and psychology at Konan Women's University in Kobe, Japan. Her research interest is in the cognitive biases in probability judgments. She investigates how people make judgments and decisions under conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Published Online: 2006-12-12

Published in Print: 2006-12-01

Citation Information: Intercultural Pragmatics, Volume 3, Issue 4, Pages 487–502, ISSN (Online) 1613-365X, ISSN (Print) 1612-295X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/IP.2006.029.

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