Literate vs illiterate thinking
Literate people actually think differently (not necessarily better or worse) than illiterate people. All examples from the New Yorker.
They use different words:
In naming colors,
for example, literate people said “dark blue” or “light yellow,” but
illiterates used metaphorical names like “liver,” “peach,” “decayed
teeth,” and “cotton in bloom.”
They see different types of association:
Experimenters showed peasants drawings of
a hammer, a saw, an axe, and a log and then asked them to choose the
three items that were similar. Illiterates resisted, saying that all
the items were useful. If pressed, they considered throwing out the
hammer; the situation of chopping wood seemed more cogent to them than
any conceptual category. One peasant, informed that someone had grouped
the three tools together, discarding the log, replied, “Whoever told
you that must have been crazy,” and another suggested, “Probably he’s
got a lot of firewood.” One frustrated experimenter showed a picture of
three adults and a child and declared, “Now, clearly the child doesn’t
belong in this group,” only to have a peasant answer:
but the boy must stay with the others! All three of them are working,
you see, and if they have to keep running out to fetch things, they’ll
never get the job done, but the boy can do the running for them.
The illiterates (peasants in this example) didn’t like defining or describing things, even themselves.
Asked by Luria’s staff about polar bears, a peasant grew testy: “What
the cock knows how to do, he does. What I know, I say, and nothing
beyond that!” The illiterates did not talk about themselves except in
terms of their tangible possessions. “What can I say about my own
heart?” one asked.
Quite interesting. The whole article has a lot of interesting points about reading and society.