How Confucianism affects decision making in Taiwan and China?

A nice paper to read. It is by the trio – Elaine M. LiuJuanjuan MengJoseph Tao-yi Wang.

They say Chinese subjects in their experiments became less accepting of Confucian values:

This paper investigates how Confucianism affects individual decision making in Taiwan and in China. We found that Chinese subjects in our experiments became less accepting of Confucian values, such that they became significantly more risk loving, less loss averse, and more impatient after being primed with Confucianism, whereas Taiwanese subjects became significantly less present-based and were inclined to be more trustworthy after being primed by Confucianism. Combining the evidence from the incentivized laboratory experiments and subjective survey measures, we found evidence that Chinese subjects and Taiwanese subjects reacted differently to Confucianism.

Why does this happen?

There are many possible explanations for the observed differences in the priming effect across the two schools. Our regression analysis excludes background differences in the two samples as the main reason for the different reactions to Confucius prime. One important possibility is the different historical experiences in regard to Confucian values in the two places.

Although Confucian values have long influenced a number of Asian countries, Confucius was excoriated as a political swindler and Confucian values were denounced during China’s Cultural Revolution (1967-1976) (Lu, 2004). Sociologists now suggest that as a result, Confucian tradition is better preserved and practiced today in Asian countries other than China, for example, in Taiwan (Ip, 2009). Nevertheless, some researchers, for example Herman Kahn and Geert Hofstede, have suggested that cultural traits can be rather sticky, and therefore difficult to change (for more discussion see Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005).

Most Taiwanese trace their ancestry to China, share the same language, and have similar culture today as in China. In addition, Confucian values have been passed down in Taiwan from parents to children and from teachers to students. Based on our observation of Taiwanese subjects, we can conclude that the Confucianism cultural traits have persisted. However, our study also suggests thatyoung generations of Chinese and of Taiwanese have diverging reactions to Confucianism. Whether this interruption and discourse of Confucian belief in China is caused by Cultural Revolution is beyond thescope of this paper, and it is a topic for future research



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