**By Patricia McBroom, Public Affairs **
[BERKELEY]("http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/98legacy/06_09_1998.html") - Americans wear black for mourning. Chinese wear white. Westerners think of dragons as monsters. Chinese honor them as symbols of God.
Chinese civilization has often shown such polarities with the West, as though each stands at extreme ends of a global string. Now a University of California, Berkeley, psychologist has discovered deeper polarities between Chinese and American cultures - polarities that go to the heart of how we reason and discover truth. His findings go far toward explaining why American cultures seem so contentious and Chinese cultures so passive, when compared to each other. More importantly, the research opens the way for the peoples of the East and the West to learn from each other in fundamental ways.
The Chinese could learn much from Western methods for determining scientific truth, said Kaiping Peng, a former Beijing scholar, who is now a UC Berkeley assistant professor of psychology. And Americans could profit enormously from the Chinese tolerance for accepting contradictions in social and personal life, he said. “Americans have a terrible need to find out who is right in an argument,” said Peng. “The problem is that at the interpersonal level, you really don’t need to find the truth, or maybe there isn’t any.”
Chinese people, said Peng, are far more content to think that both sides have flaws and virtues, because they have a holistic awareness that life is full of contradictions. They do far less blaming of the individual than do Americans, he added.“Life is not easy in China,” he said. “Yet people there seem to be happier, less anxious and less depressed than in this country.” Peng believes that this edge on happiness is a benefit of the kind of dialectical thinking he has identified as folk wisdom among the Chinese.