The adage that it’s better to be a big frog in a small pond than a small frog in a big pond can seem universal. In Spanish, it's better to be “the head of a mouse than the tail of a lion.” In Italian, it’s “the head of an eel than the tail of a sturgeon.” Translated into Silicon-Valley–speak, it might go “it’s better to lead a start-up than to work as a drone at Google.

But not everyone follows this folk wisdom when it comes to their own decisions. In a recent paper published with my colleagues Stephen Garcia, at the University of Michigan, and Shirli Kopelman, at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, we asked European American and East-Asian American students: metaphorically, would you rather be a small frog in a big pond or a big frog in a small pond? 75 percent of the Asian Americans chose the big pond, compared to 59 percent of their non-Asian counterparts.

We also asked adults in the U.S. and mainland China if they would rather attend a National Top 10 college where they’d be below average or a National Top 100 one where they’d be above-average. Fifty-eight percent of the Chinese opted for the Top 10 college, compared to just 29 percent of the Americans.

What about the choice of workplace? There it is again: More Chinese preferred to join a Global Top 10 company even if they’d flounder below average.

Read the full article at Scientific American.