IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 36

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The Connection Between Culture and Thought

A The population of the world today is 7 billion people, and is continuing to grow. Yet humans all around the world differ in many ways. Variations in humans can be affected by differences in geography, climate, politics, nationality, as well as many other factors. One important factor which strongly influences people around the world is culture. 

B Culture can have an affect on the languages we speak, the clothes we wear, and even the foods that we eat. However, could it be possible that the influence of culture is strong enough to affect the way we actually think? For a long time, many have believed that this very well might be the case. Take for example a young boy from the city, who might talk about cars, while a boy the same age from the countryside might instead talk about livestock. If we were to ask two young children from different countries about their opinions on a particular painting, their cultural backgrounds would likely affect the kind of response they would give. 

C New research has recently emerged which challenges this stance. But, in fact, this more current research is not unique in its approach to culture’s potential effects on our thinking. Earlier research has shed light on these kind of questions, as well. In the Soviet Union, an earlier research project was created to explore the question of whether culture can effectively change our thinking processes. The research paid particular attention to the ways that life circumstances and country of origin could influence how people think. Bessett led this experiment, which questioned people’s awareness of cognitive psychology. To test different cognitive processes individually, Bessett conducted several varieties of this experiment.

D One such experiment headed by Bessett and Masuku involved showing participants an animated video depicting a large fish swimming with smaller fish and other sea animals. Subjects then needed to talk about what they had seen in the scene. While the members participating from Japan were more likely to spend time talking about the undersea environment they had seen, perhaps the plants or the water’s color, or discussing the apparent relationship of the big and small fish. Meanwhile, American participants spent more time discussing the individual fish themselves, mainly the larger fish, or those with unique characteristics. The experiment led researchers to believe that members of Eastern cultures would tend to focus more on the larger picture within the scene, while Westerners would focus more individual fish and their traits.

E Bessett and Choi carried out another experiment in which the subjects were given some compelling proof for one side of an issue. Both Koreans and Americans participating voiced their agreement strongly. Later, participants were then presented with other evidence which argued against that particular position. It was at this point that the Koreans’ support for the previous stance began to lessen and waver somewhat. On the other hand, American participants instead supported the former argument even more strongly. The results in this experiment gave the impression of support for arguments  based on context being more important in Korean culture. It seems that opinions and decisions may be apt to change for some, allowing them to feel more open to change their minds. However, as far as Americans are concerned, when it comes to changing a previously held stance they are overall less flexible. 

F Bessett and Ara came up with another experiment intended to find out more about thought processing of both oriental and occidental worlds. Test subjects were provided with an argument, such as, “All animals with furs hibernate. A rabbit has fur. Therefore, rabbits hibernate.” Those from eastern cultures would immediately approach the argument with skepticism, questioning its logic against their own previous knowledge of the fact that some animals with fur do not hibernate. However, American participants would tend to agree with the statement regardless, assuming that a logical deduction must come from an inherently correct argument, making the conclusion correct.

G From the information found in these early experiments from the Soviet Union, we might come to the conclusion that culture does in fact influence our way of thinking, as was the original presumption. However, recent research criticizes this view, as well as Bessett’s other previous experiments. Although his experiments affected many commonly held beliefs of the past on thought processing, further discussion is necessary concerning the influence of some other aspects that may have been at play. Fischer agrees that Bessett’s experiments can teach us something usefu, but that his research is limited in the way that it relies solely on qualitative descriptions, as opposed to results from a controlled environment. Chang voices his partial with this, owing to the fact that there are some social factors that could have potential effects on the results.

H Bessett’s experiments has also been criticized for the way that it viewed culture as being a lesser part of which country someone is from. The experiments made assumptions about culture as being more or less the same amongst people from the same country. For example, all of the American participants of the experiments might be assumed to share an identical culture. However, culture as a whole seems to be complex beyond just a nationality. In these experiments from the past, there was no control in place to account for any outside factors, such as socioeconomic status, education, ethnicity, and/or regional differences which exist alongside culture. Each one of these factors may impact individual’s response quite a bit.

I Bessett’s experiment has been further criticized for the content itself, which many believe would have benefited from being more abstract, such as an IQ test or a puzzle. The more objective content, involving questions about nature and animals, might rely more on preconceived ideas about these animals which people could differ significantly around the world. Participants’ past knowledge stemming from their geographic locations could lead to further complications within the results. A more abstract, or more quantitative test, would allow for a more controlled study into the way that cognitive processing operates for a variety of people.

J Research concerning the effect which culture can have on cognitive processing is ongoing today, and despite the fact that some criticize Bessett’s early studies, there is still plenty of useful information with which they can provide us. However, future research projects should make it their goal to control carefully for outside variables which exist within such a broad topic as culture. The complexity of culture as a topic make defining it a challenge, as it can be influenced by many other variables as well, such as location or level and style of education. A variable like culture requires a clear definition for what is—and what is not—to be effectively studied. 

K One more significant factor to consider with research today is any potential ethical impacts that the research could have. Researchers should closely consider the way that research results may impact any of the groups involved in a negative way. In an increasingly globalized job market and economy, making generalizations on the behavior of the members of specific nationalities may pose harm to potential employees. The design for tests and university admissions standards may also be impacted, and some groups may have certain advantages or disadvantages. With all research concerning culture and nationality, it’s important for researchers to think about the effects, positive or negative, that their published conclusions may have on the world around them. 




This reading practice simulates one part of the IELTS Academic Reading test. You should spend about twenty minutes on it. Read the passage and answer questions 27-40.
Questions 27-29
Look at the following Statements (Questions 27-29) and A list of researchers below.

Match each statement with the correct researcher

Write the correct number A-C in boxes Questions 27-29 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.
A list of researchers
  1. Bessett & Masuku
  2. Bessett & Choi
  3. Bessett & Ara

27. People’s stances on certain issues can be affected by their geographic locations

28. The way people process visual information is affected by their culture of origin

29. People from eastern cultures tend to question conclusions that they don’t find logical

Questions 30-36
The reading passage has paragraphs labelled A-K.

Which paragraph contains the following information?

Write the correct letter A-K in boxes 30-36 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

30. Qualitative research approaches are valuable in exploring thought processing.

31. In Eastern culture, support for arguments is based on context. Thus, ideas and conclusions are changeable and flexible.

32. When studying a variable like culture, it is critical that the researcher create a clear definition for what is—and what is not—considered culture.

33. All individuals have the same reaction to a certain point of view when presented with some very convincing evidence.

34. Eastern people challenge a deduction because they knew it is not true.

35. Researchers in the Soviet Union wanted to find out how living environment and nationality will control the way people think.

36. From the early experiments in the Soviet Union, we might conclude that the original premise— that culture can impact the way we think—was correct.

Questions 37-40
Complete the sentences below.

Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in 37-40 on your answer sheet.

Fischer thinks Bessett’s experiments provide valuable information because his research only provides , not results from controlled environment.

With , such as nature and animals, people from different countries of the world might have different pre-conceived ideas about these animals.

The research on culture’s effect on still goes on today, and while some criticisms exist of Bessett’s early studies, the projects still provide valuable insight.

In an increasingly globalised job economy, made about nationalities can be harmful to prospective employees.




Answer Sheet
1
N/A
2
N/A
3
N/A
4
N/A
5
N/A
6
N/A
7
N/A
8
N/A
9
N/A
10
N/A
11
N/A
12
N/A
13
N/A
14
N/A
15
N/A
16
N/A
17
N/A
18
N/A
19
N/A
20
N/A
21
N/A
22
N/A
23
N/A
24
N/A
25
N/A
26
N/A
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40


Reading Passage Vocabulary
The Connection Between Culture and Thought


A The population of the world today is 7 billion people, and is continuing to grow. Yet humans all around the world differ in many ways. Variations in humans can be affected by differences in geography, climate, politics, nationality, as well as many other factors. One important factor which strongly influences people around the world is culture. 

B Culture can have an affect on the languages we speak, the clothes we wear, and even the foods that we eat. However, could it be possible that the influence of culture is strong enough to affect the way we actually think? For a long time, many have believed that this very well might be the case. Take for example a young boy from the city, who might talk about cars, while a boy the same age from the countryside might instead talk about livestock. If we were to ask two young children from different countries about their opinions on a particular painting, their cultural backgrounds would likely affect the kind of response they would give. 

C New research has recently emerged which challenges this stance. But, in fact, this more current research is not unique in its approach to culture’s potential effects on our thinking. Earlier research has shed light on these kind of questions, as well. In the Soviet Union, an earlier research project was created to explore the question of whether culture can effectively change our thinking processes. The research paid particular attention to the ways that life circumstances and country of origin could influence how people think. Bessett led this experiment, which questioned people’s awareness of cognitive psychology. To test different cognitive processes individually, Bessett conducted several varieties of this experiment.

D One such experiment headed by Bessett and Masuku involved showing participants an animated video depicting a large fish swimming with smaller fish and other sea animals. Subjects then needed to talk about what they had seen in the scene. While the members participating from Japan were more likely to spend time talking about the undersea environment they had seen, perhaps the plants or the water’s color, or discussing the apparent relationship of the big and small fish. Meanwhile, American participants spent more time discussing the individual fish themselves, mainly the larger fish, or those with unique characteristics. The experiment led researchers to believe that members of Eastern cultures would tend to focus more on the larger picture within the scene, while Westerners would focus more individual fish and their traits.

E Bessett and Choi carried out another experiment in which the subjects were given some compelling proof for one side of an issue. Both Koreans and Americans participating voiced their agreement strongly. Later, participants were then presented with other evidence which argued against that particular position. It was at this point that the Koreans’ support for the previous stance began to lessen and waver somewhat. On the other hand, American participants instead supported the former argument even more strongly. The results in this experiment gave the impression of support for arguments  based on context being more important in Korean culture. It seems that opinions and decisions may be apt to change for some, allowing them to feel more open to change their minds. However, as far as Americans are concerned, when it comes to changing a previously held stance they are overall less flexible. 

F Bessett and Ara came up with another experiment intended to find out more about thought processing of both oriental and occidental worlds. Test subjects were provided with an argument, such as, “All animals with furs hibernate. A rabbit has fur. Therefore, rabbits hibernate.” Those from eastern cultures would immediately approach the argument with skepticism, questioning its logic against their own previous knowledge of the fact that some animals with fur do not hibernate. However, American participants would tend to agree with the statement regardless, assuming that a logical deduction must come from an inherently correct argument, making the conclusion correct.

G From the information found in these early experiments from the Soviet Union, we might come to the conclusion that culture does in fact influence our way of thinking, as was the original presumption. However, recent research criticizes this view, as well as Bessett’s other previous experiments. Although his experiments affected many commonly held beliefs of the past on thought processing, further discussion is necessary concerning the influence of some other aspects that may have been at play. Fischer agrees that Bessett’s experiments can teach us something usefu, but that his research is limited in the way that it relies solely on qualitative descriptions, as opposed to results from a controlled environment. Chang voices his partial with this, owing to the fact that there are some social factors that could have potential effects on the results.

H Bessett’s experiments has also been criticized for the way that it viewed culture as being a lesser part of which country someone is from. The experiments made assumptions about culture as being more or less the same amongst people from the same country. For example, all of the American participants of the experiments might be assumed to share an identical culture. However, culture as a whole seems to be complex beyond just a nationality. In these experiments from the past, there was no control in place to account for any outside factors, such as socioeconomic status, education, ethnicity, and/or regional differences which exist alongside culture. Each one of these factors may impact individual’s response quite a bit.

I Bessett’s experiment has been further criticized for the content itself, which many believe would have benefited from being more abstract, such as an IQ test or a puzzle. The more objective content, involving questions about nature and animals, might rely more on preconceived ideas about these animals which people could differ significantly around the world. Participants’ past knowledge stemming from their geographic locations could lead to further complications within the results. A more abstract, or more quantitative test, would allow for a more controlled study into the way that cognitive processing operates for a variety of people.

J Research concerning the effect which culture can have on cognitive processing is ongoing today, and despite the fact that some criticize Bessett’s early studies, there is still plenty of useful information with which they can provide us. However, future research projects should make it their goal to control carefully for outside variables which exist within such a broad topic as culture. The complexity of culture as a topic make defining it a challenge, as it can be influenced by many other variables as well, such as location or level and style of education. A variable like culture requires a clear definition for what is—and what is not—to be effectively studied. 

K One more significant factor to consider with research today is any potential ethical impacts that the research could have. Researchers should closely consider the way that research results may impact any of the groups involved in a negative way. In an increasingly globalized job market and economy, making generalizations on the behavior of the members of specific nationalities may pose harm to potential employees. The design for tests and university admissions standards may also be impacted, and some groups may have certain advantages or disadvantages. With all research concerning culture and nationality, it’s important for researchers to think about the effects, positive or negative, that their published conclusions may have on the world around them. 

 
IELTS Academic Reading Tips for Success
These are general tips that will appear on all reading questions.

Tips to improve your reading speed
To get a high score on the IELTS reading section, you need to have a fast reading speed. To have a fast reading speed, you need to improve your vocabulary and practice dissecting sentences. One strategy to dissect a sentence is to look for the subject and verb of the sentence. Finding the subject and verb will help you better understand the main idea of said sentence. Keep in mind, a common feature of a IELTS reading passage is to join strings of ideas to form long compound sentences. This produces large chunks that students have a hard time absorbing. Do not get overwhelmed by its length, just look for the subject and verb, the rest of the ideas will flow.


Keep in mind, having a slow reading speed makes skimming or scanning a reading passage more difficult. The process of quickly skimming through a reading passage for specific keywords or main ideas is a requirement for you to employ successful reading strategies to improve your IELTS reading score. In other words, skimming and scanning are critical skills to ensure you complete all questions in the allotted time frame.
IELTS Reading Strategies
Once you can read and comprehend a passage with a rate of, at least, 220 words per minute, you'll be ready to start implementing our strategies. All too often, students spend too much time reading the passages and not enough time answering the questions. Here is a step by step guide for tackling the reading section.

  1. Step 1: Read questions first

    One of the most common mistakes that candidates make when approaching the reading exam is reading every single word of the passages. Although you can practice for the exam by reading for pleasure, "reading blindly" (reading without any sense of what the questions will ask) will not do you any favors in the exam. Instead, it will hurt your chances for effectively managing your time and getting the best score.

    The main reason to read the questions first is because the type of question may determine what you read in the passage or how you read it. For example, some question types will call for the "skimming" technique, while others may call for the "scanning" technique.

    It is important to answer a set of questions that are of the same question type. You'll need to determine which question type you want to tackle first. A good strategy would be to start with the easier question type and move on to more difficult question types later. The Easiest question types are the ones where you spend less time reading. For example, the Matching Heading question type is an easier one because you only need to find the heading that best describes the main idea of a paragraph. An example of a difficult question type would be Identifying Information. For this question type, you'll need to read each paragraph to find out if each statement is TRUE, FALSE, or NOT GIVEN according to the passage.

    Here is a table that lists the difficulty levels for each question type. Use this table as a reference when choosing which question type you want to tackle first.


    Difficulty level Question Type
    Easy Sentence Completion
    Short answer
    Medium Matching Features
    Multiple choice
    Matching Headings
    Summary, Table, Flow-Chart Completion
    Difficult Matching Sentence Endings
    Matching Information
    Identifying Information (TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN)
    Identifying Viewer's claims (YES/NO/NOT GIVEN)

  2. Step 2: Read for an objective

    After you've read the questions for the passage, you will be able to read for an objective. What does this mean? For example, if you come across a question that includes the year "1896", you can make a note of when this year comes up in the text, using it to answer the question later on. There are two reading techniques that will help you stay on track with reading for an objective. The first one, skimming, is best defined as reading fast in order to get the "gist", or general idea, or a passage. With this technique, you are not stopping for any unfamiliar words or looking for specific details. The second technique, scanning, is best defined as reading for specific information. With this technique, you are not reading for the overall gist, but rather, specific information. Notice how each of these techniques has a specific objective in mind. This will help you find information more quickly.

  3. Step 3: Take notes

    As you're reading for an objective, you should also be making notes on the margins of the passage, placing stars next to key information, or underlining things that you believe will help you answer the various questions. This will make it easier for you to check back when you are asked certain things in the questions. Choose whichever note-taking system is right for you - just make sure you do it!

  4. Step 4: Answer wisely

    After you've read the questions, read the passage, and have taken any appropriate notes, you you should have located the part of the text where you where you need to read carefully. Then just read carefully and think critically to determine the correct answer.

IELTS Reading Question Types
 
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