Featured Topic: Zhongyong thinking

Sarah Krivan 


Zhongyong thinking, also known as the doctrine of the mean, is a Confucian concept composed of zhong, which means equilibrium, and yong, which means harmoniousness (Fan, 2021). The goal of this thinking style is to maintain harmony and reduce conflict in interactions with other people. The practice is equally applicable to interpersonal relationships in daily life and in the workplace.

To date, most SBP Journal authors focusing on this topic have examined Zhongyong thinking in organizational settings, and have reported that this thinking style influences variables such as creativity, voice behavior, and leader–member exchange. Outside the workplace context, another set of researchers recruited a college student population to examine how Zhongyong thinking interacts with crystallized intelligence and wisdom.

In a cross-sectional research study Fan (2021) found that Zhongyong thinking has an indirect effect on employee creativity via the mediator of knowledge sharing. Similarly, Gao et al. (2022) reported that both leader–member exchange and Zhongyong thinking are positively related to employee creativity, and Zhongyong thinking partially mediates the relationship between leader–member exchange and employee creativity. Supplementing these findings, Han and Wei (2022) conducted a meta-analysis, indicating on the basis of the results of 18 relevant studies that there is a medium-strength, positive, and significant relationship between Zhongyong thinking and creativity.

Workplace relationships come in many forms, including those between coworkers, between supervisors and subordinates, and between customers and staff. The link between Zhongyong thinking and leader–member exchange has proven to be of interest to multiple groups of SBP Journal researchers, with Gao et al. (2022) examining this relationship in the context of its ultimate impact on employee creativity, and Ma et al. (2022) investigating Zhongyong thinking as a mediator of the connection between leader–member exchange and employee voice. Both studies found that Zhongyong thinking is a valuable workplace resource promoting employees’ extrarole behavior.

Extending research outside an organizational setting, Wei and Wang (2020) examined the effect of Zhongyong thinking in the relationship between college students’ crystallized intelligence and wisdom. These authors stated that “Zhongyong thinking can help intelligent people to think not only of themselves but also of others”; thus, their goal was to establish whether a Zhongyong thinking approach would play a moderating role. Their results show that high Zhongyong thinking can help to promote the transformation of crystallized intelligence into wise behavior.

As Zhongyong thinking is a relatively new topic in our publication history, we’re tracking its research trajectory to see what trends develop in the coming years. Interested in finding out more about this up-and-coming topic? Our journal archive contains further articles on this and related subjects released over our five decades of publication. Sign up for a personal subscription to SBP to gain access to over 4,050 papers spanning the fields of social, behavioral, and developmental psychology.


Knowledge sharing mediates the relationship between Zhongyong thinking and employee creativity – Zhonghe Fan, 49(1), Article e9686.

Zhongyong thinking mediates the relationship between leader–member exchange and employee creativity – Zhengbo Gao, Yanbo Guo, and Haikang Wei, 50(5), Article e11514.

A meta-analysis of the relationship between Zhongyong thinking and creativity: Evidence from China – Yue Han and Qingwang Wei, 50(12), Article e11905.

Leader–member exchange and employee voice: Zhongyong thinking as a mediator – Shengqing Ma, Shanwen Xuan, and Mingjie Rui, 50(8), Article e11601.

Effect of Zhongyong thinking in the relationship of crystallized intelligence and wisdom – Xindong Wei and Fengyan Wang, 48(7), Article e9092.