This MetaFilter post from 2007 includes the following:

In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it's OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you're pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won't even have to make the request directly; you'll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.

All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you're a Guess Culture person -- and you obviously are -- then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you're likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

If you're an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

This was a moderately successful meme (under the Dawkins definition), receiving press attention in The Atlantic, The Guardian, and (with a surprisingly uncritical tone) LessWrong, but the original does not appear to cite any sources. Much of the discussion seems to implicitly assume that the Ask/Guess dichotomy is universally applicable, and that all human cultures can be classified in terms of it. The original post does not quite make this claim, but it comes very close, and everyone seems to be taking it as given.

Is there evidence that this Ask/Guess distinction corresponds to some specific, objectively measurable, and documented personality or culture trait?

  • 3
    It's quite easy to use binary classifiers. The more interesting question is whether the classification is stable or can predict anything. The question you cite doesn't even use the word "cluster". As it stands I would vote to close the question for not making referencing a clear empiric claim.
    – Christian
    Sep 24, 2016 at 9:01
  • @Christian: As stated in the question, the clustering assumption is made implicitly by the source materials, not explicitly stated in them. Implied claims are still notable.
    – Kevin
    Sep 24, 2016 at 16:24
  • Even if implied claims in the original source are notable, it's still your role of making the claims you want to question explicit when you ask a question on this website. Clustering is generally cheap. You can cluster data in many different ways. Any neural net can put data into pile A and pile B if you give it a training set with people that are classified as A and B.
    – Christian
    Sep 24, 2016 at 21:09
  • 2
    I'm not quite clear on what you are asking here. That there are cases of each? It seems unremarkable. For the rest, it seems no more and no less than asking if there are tall people and short people. Please clarify.
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 25, 2016 at 6:38
  • 3
    @Sklivvz From my understanding, it seems that OP is in fact asking if there is any scientific evidence for the distinction between the two kinds of society. I don't see how it's "unremarkable", since if this distinction exists, it would be very important in navigating societal expectations.
    – March Ho
    Sep 25, 2016 at 16:41


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