Sabrina Golonka:

While there is agreement that the visible part of the person refers to the body, there is considerable variation in how different cultures think about the invisible (psychological) part. In the West, and, specifically, in the English-speaking West, the psychological aspect of personhood is closely related to the concept of “the mind” and the modern view of cognition. But, how universal is this conception? How do speakers of other languages think about the psychological aspect of personhood?

In Korean, the concept “maum” replaces the concept “mind”. “Maum” has no English counterpart, but is sometimes translated as “heart”. Apparently, “maum” is the “seat of emotions, motivation, and “goodness” in a human being” (Wierzbicka, 2005; p. 271). Intellect and cognitive functions are captured by the Korean “meli” (head). But, “maum” is clearly the counterpart to “mind” in terms of the psychological part of the person. For example, there are tons of Korean books about “maum” and body in the same way that there are English texts on “mind” and body.

The Japanese have yet another concept for the invisible part of the person – “kokoro”.”Kokoro” is a “seat of emotion, and also, a source of culturally valued attention to, and empathy with, other people” (Wierzbicka, 2005; p. 272). To illustrate the contrast between “kokoro” and “mind”, Wierzbicka gives the following example: A Japanese television programme proclaims, “The 21st century should be the age of kokoro. Let’s make a point of meeting with other people” (Hasada, 2000: 110). If an English speaker declared the 21st century to be “the age of the mind” then “meeting with other people” probably would not be a priority – thinking and knowing would be. In contrast to the Korean “maum”, “kokoro” is not associated with will and motivation (“hara” meaning belly serves this purpose in Japanese). But, “hara” is not associated with the psychological component of the body, the way “kokoro” is. In other words, “maum” is all about motivation and “kokoro” is all about feelings and “mind” is all about thinking.

Interestingly, Russia, which kind of sits between East and West uses “dusa” as the counterpart to the psychological part of the person. “Dusa” is often translated as “soul”, but also sometimes as “heart” or “mind.” “Dusa” is associated with feelings, morality, and spirituality. The “dusa” is responsible for the ability to connect with other people. This meaning seems to lie somewhat more with the Eastern conception than with the highly cognitive concept of “mind.” In a larger sense, the fact that there seems to be a universal belief that people consist of visible and invisible aspects explains much of the appeal of cognitive psychology over behaviourism.