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Cultural Effects on Visual Perception

Culture and Perception
Cultural Effects on VISUAL Perception 2,968
Mainstream psychology has generally assumed that psychological processes are universal
and that the main role of psychology is to investigate these universal aspects of human beings.
Visual perception, attention, and even visual illusion have, therefore, been understood mainly in
terms of the underlying optical mechanisms and characteristics of visual information hardwired
in the human brain and shared by human beings in general.
Over the last couple of decades, however, increasing numbers of cross-cultural studies
have empirically re-examined this theoretical assumption and advocated an alternative view of
human psychology in which culture and human psychological processes are considered to
mutually influence one another. This entry reports some recent attempts to re-examine the so-
called universal systems of visual perception, and it discusses the possibility of cultural
influences on perception as evidenced by cultural variations in optical illusion, in color
perception, in visual attention, and in brain functioning that governs visual attention.
In the literature of psychology, optical illusion is often used as evidence of human
universals in perception. One of the most famous optical illusions is the Müller-Lyer illusion, in
which people perceive that a horizontal line segment ending in inward-pointing arrows is longer
than a horizontal line segment ending in outward-pointing arrows. This seemingly universal
phenomenon, however, has been tested cross-culturally, and the results indicate cultural
variations in the magnitude of illusion. For example, Murray Islanders in Melanesia and
members of the Toda tribe in India showed significantly smaller errors than their British
counterparts in judging the relative lengths of the lines. Similarly, extensive cross-cultural
Culture and Perception
studies of 17 societiesincluding a variety of African agricultural and hunter-gatherer cultures,
an Australian Aboriginal foraging culture, a tribe of Philippino horticulturalists, and
Midwesterners in the United Statesshow that the degree of illusion is much stronger among
North Americans. Furthermore, children in some cultures (e.g., hunter-gatherers from the
Kalahali Desert) were completely immune to the Müller-Lyer illusion. The findings suggest that
individuals who grew up in certain visual environments are not vulnerable to the Müller-Lyer
illusion. I suggest a two-part figure. Part 1 = Muller-Lyer illusion; Part 2 the antelope picture.
Various studies have proposed hypotheses to examine the main causes of cultural
variations in susceptibility to this illusion. The carpentered environment hypothesis, for example,
suggests that people developmentally acquire perceptions of a three-dimensional world in
accordance with their experiences with the surrounding environment. In Western industrialized
societies, individuals’ depth of field is founded on the structure of rooms, houses, and furniture
consisting of vertical and horizontal lines with corners in a variety of angles. People in these
societies associate acute angles with nearby objects (such as the corner of a rug), and obtuse
angles with somewhat more distant views (such as the intersection of two walls and a floor).
Once they acquire this specific perceptual pattern in the three-dimensional world, they apply the
same rules even when they observe the visual representation in the two-dimensional field. The
Western perspective in art is a good example. In Western perspective, objects close to the viewer
are drawn larger and are characterized by acute angles, while objects farther from the viewer are
drawn smaller and feature obtuse angles. For this reason, Westerners perceive a line ending in
inward-facing arrows to be farther away (and therefore actually longer) than it appears. However,
in cultures where structures are built using less angular shapes, people have fewer opportunities
to interpret the relationships between lines and angles in their perceptual world. The carpentered
Culture and Perception
environment hypothesis thus helps to explain why people from some cultures are less susceptible
to the Müller-Lyer illusion than Westerners.
Drawings using Western perspective have been used to study cultural variations in depth-
of-field perception. For example, one study examined how children and illiterate adult laborers
from an African Bantu tribe interpreted the image of a large hunter aiming a spear in the
direction of two animals, an elephant and an antelope. The elephant was closer to the hunter from
a non-Western two-dimensional point of view, but because it was drawn smaller than the
antelope and the hunter, it would be farther away according to Western perspective. The antelope
was farther away from the hunter in the two-dimensional view, but because of its size, it would
be considered closer to the hunter in Western perspective. Therefore, although Westerners would
be expected to perceive that the hunter was aiming at the large prey, the Bantus perceived the
same image without the depth of the field, and for this reason they reported that the hunter was
aiming at the smaller prey, which they believed to be closer to the hunter.
Of course, the causes of cultural variations in the effects of optical illusions need to be
studied further. Current findings, however, suggest that humans susceptibility to optical illusion
may depend heavily on their visual experiences in the environment and on culturally shared
interpretations of visual information.
Colors accentuate our daily life. But do all people perceive color in exactly the same
way? Color is an excellent stimulus for use in scientific investigation, because although the
spectrum is physically defined, color perception entails psychological processes. One line of
research provides evidence that supports the universality of color perception. A cross-cultural
study of 98 societies suggests that 11 colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink,
Culture and Perception
brown, gray, black, and white) are universally recognized, even in the absence of color terms
corresponding to these colors. For example, although the Dani people of Irian Jaya on the island
of New Guinea had only two color terms (dark and light), they were able to quickly distinguish
among the basic colors.
Moreover, researchers who investigate the relationships between colors and color terms
advocate an evolutionary account of the development of color terms. That is, the appearance of
color terms is predictable according to the number of color terms in a language. If the language
has only two color terms, these always turn out to be black (dark) and white (light). However, if
the language has three color terms, the third term will corresponds to the red end of the spectrum.
The fourth and fifth color terms will be green and yellow (or yellow and then green), the sixth
color will be blue, and the seventh color will be brown. The last color terms to appear will be
purple, pink, orange, and gray, not necessarily in that order.
However, new findings challenge the idea that color perception is universal among
humans. For example, the Dani performed relatively poorly in tasks requiring them to remember
the basic colors; their retention rate was much lower compared to that of the English speaker.
Another study investigated color perceptions of Berinmo speakers in East Sepik, Papua New
Guinea, whose language contains five basic color terms. The Berinmo’s language distinguishes
between nol (a kind of bluish green) and wor (a kind of yellowish green) but not between blue
and green. In this study, English and Berinmo speakers were asked to view and remember color
chips representing colors spanning either the blue-green boundary or the nol-wor boundary. The
Berinmo speakers performance of the color retention task was better with regard to colors on the
nol-wor boundary. The English speakers did better at remembering colors on the blue-green
Culture and Perception
boundary. These findings suggest that linguistic color terms do affect the ability to remember
specific colors.
Does language play a role in facilitating or inhibiting our perceptual processes? A study
of Russian and English speakers examined whether the existence of a language category
influences color perception. Russian has two independent color terms to represent blue: light
blue (goluboy) and dark blue (siniy), whereas English speakers usually distinguish these colors
by adding adjectives (light or dark) to the base term blue. English and Russian speakers were
presented with a variety of blue color chips that were slightly different from each other in hue
and saturation, and the task was to discriminate which one corresponded to the target chip. For
example, a blue chip was presented as a target stimulus; subsequently, two alternative blue chips
were presented, and the participants were asked to select which of the alternatives was identical
to the target chip. Russian speakers were quicker to discriminate between two colors when they
fell into different categories (goluboy and siniy) than when they were from the same color
category. However, these differences did not provide the same advantages for English speakers.
This experiment demonstrated that categories in a language affect participants performance in
simple perceptual color tasks. This line of research suggests that culturally shared ways of
naming colors may influence speed of color perception.
The issue of universality versus cultural variability in color perception is still
controversial. One position holds that language and cultural conventions do not affect color
perception; the other maintains that color perception is subject to arbitrary, culturally defined
color terms. It has recently been suggested that both positions are partially true. The color terms
used in a given culture do influence retention, learning, and ongoing processes of color
discrimination. But there is still about 75% overlap in how cultures draw boundaries around
Culture and Perception
color terms. For example, the boundaries of the color terms used by the Berinmo speakers
mentioned earlier are similar to those of the five color terms used by Himba speakers in Namibia,
although the ecologies and economies of the two groups diverge significantly. Thus there seem
to be universal constraints regarding categorization of colors.
Another line of research has examined whether culture can affect attentional processes.
Research on perception and cognition indicates that there are systematic cultural variations in
attention between people in East Asian societies (e.g., China, Korea, and Japan) and Western
societies (e.g., Canada and the United States). East Asians, who holistically attend to the entire
field and relationships between objects, are more context sensitive than Westerners, who
analytically focus on salient objects and can easily separate target objects from the context.
A research group used the rod and frame test to compare the levels of context sensitivity
of American and Chinese participants. This task used a device consisting of a square frame box
of a certain depth, with a rod situated at one end of the box. The participant sat at the other end
of the device with his or her chin on a chin-rest, observing the rod through the box. The
participants were asked to manipulate the position of the rod until they subjectively thought the
rod was perfectly vertical. The experimenter then manipulated the angle of the frame box, and
the participant tried again to position the rod vertically. When the angle of the frame was vertical,
the frame could serve as a reference point for the position of the rod. When the frame was tilted,
however, the judgment of participants who could not ignore the frame would be hindered. The
Chinese participants made more errors than the Americans, suggesting that the Chinese were
more sensitive to contextual information and therefore more influenced by the angle of the frame.
Culture and Perception
Americans were able to detach the task from the influence of the angled frame, which suggests
that they were relatively immune to the contextual cue.
Are there cultural differences in how attention affects memory for objects in scenes? In
an object recognition task, Americans and Japanese were presented with pictures of wild animals
in natural settings. The same participants were then shown pictures of the original animals, as
well as new animals, and asked to identify which animals they had seen previously. In this part
of the study, the combination of animals and backgrounds was manipulated: Half of the original
animals were presented with their original backgrounds, and the rest with completely new
backgrounds. Although the task was to identify the animals, the results indicated that, compared
to Americans, Japanese participants were less able to recognize previously seen animals
especially when they saw them against the novel backgrounds. These results suggest that the
Japanese encoded the background information in the images they saw in first part of the study
and had more difficulty detaching the target animal from the context.
What are the underlying mechanisms of cultural variation in patterns of attention? And to
what extent do sociocultural factors influence our patterns of attention? Recent findings in
psychophysiology and neuroscience provide evidence that culture has a very deep influence on
attention. Results of an eye-tracking study indicated that East Asians were more likely than
Westerners to allocate their attention to the surrounding information. When given the
aforementioned animal recognition task, Chinese participants made more saccadic (rapid
nonfocused) eye movements to the background scenes than Americans, even though the task was
to evaluate the target objects. These results suggest that context-oriented attention is deeply
internalized among East Asians, and for this reason, they cannot help referring to contextual
information even when they do not have to. These findings are further supported by a study that
Culture and Perception
measured brain activations during a similar object vs. background task. In this study, Magnetic
Resonance Imaging revealed that when identifying objects and their locations, American
participants activated more brain regions relating to object information processing than Chinese
participants. Another cross-cultural study measured activity in the brain area that processes
object recognition. There were no identifiable differences between Singaporean college students
and their American counterparts; however, Singaporeans 60 years of age and older showed less
activity in that brain area than did Americans in the same age group. These results suggest that
even the neural circuitry for attending visual scenes is affected by culturally influenced
information processing over the long term.
What are the causes of this systematic cultural variation? Researchers in general maintain
that people internalize a specific pattern of attention through their experiences of living in a
given cultural environment. Some researchers maintain that exposure to culturally biased visual
representations such as paintings, drawings, and even photographs facilitate the internalization of
a specific pattern of attention. For example, East Asian painting masterpieces were found to be
more context rich than their Western counterparts. Furthermore, when asked to draw scenic
images, contemporary members of East Asian cultures were more likely than Westerners to draw
context-rich images. Other studies suggest that East Asian cultures emphasize a sense of
interdependence, whereas Westerner cultures emphasize a sense of independence regarding
interpersonal relationships and reasoning styles. Such cultural values may encourage culturally
adaptive patterns of attentionfor example, making Westerners more likely to see independent
objects in the scenes and Easterners more apt to see relationships and contexts that surround the
objects. In sum, these findings support the notion that cognitive experiences in the real world
influence the processes of our visual systems.
Culture and Perception
Current research provides evidence of cultural influences on perception. These effects
have a variety of implications, not only for cognitive psychology, but also for social, cultural,
and personality psychology. The reasons are threefold. First, the cross-cultural examination of
human perception allows us to examine in what ways, and to what extent, our perception is
flexibly structured and influenced by systems associated with sociocultural experiences. Some
researchers maintain that basic visual processing exists independent of socio-culturally shared
beliefs. Their findings suggest that the physical and structural systems of visual perception are
sufficient for understanding human perception. Under the rubric of “newlook psychology,
Describe briefly however, other research indicates that our perceptions, even perceptions of so-
called neutral stimuli, are fully influenced by our knowledge structures, which in turn are based
on our experiences. However, the underlying processes have not been fully investigated, and
further research is necessary.
Second, social and cultural psychologists who have identified cultural variation in social
cognitionsuch as causal attribution, self-perception, judgment, inference, and categorization
have long awaited more objective measurements than previously existing quasiexperimental and
quasisurvey data collection, which was based mainly on participants self-reports. Current
technological advances allow cross-cultural researchers to scrutinize underlying processes of
these variations in human behaviors.
Finally, the theoretical frameworks of perception research do not sufficiently take into
account the functions of emotions, motivation, and psychological states. Since the emergence of
newlook psychology, however, substantial numbers of studies have suggested that such factors
Culture and Perception
play an important role in perceptual processes. Again, the findings of cultural influence on
perception mutually accelerate further investigation into the complexity of human perception.
Takahiko Masuda
University of Alberta
See also: Art and neuroscience, Aesthetics, Attention and Emotion, Color Perception, Eye
Movements During Cognition and Conversation, Eye Movements and Action in Everyday Life,
Illusory (Non-Veridical) Perception, Social Perception, Visual Illusions, Visual Scene Perception
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Nisbett, R. E., & Masuda, T. (2003). Culture and point of view. Proceedings of the National
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Culture and Perception
... Whereas, members of Asian societies (collectivist) process most of the visual information in a more holistic manner, attending to the relationship between an object (foreground) and the background context [31,[34][35][36][37]. For example, members of individualist culture are more likely to fixate sooner and longer on a foreground object in the visual field, whilst collectivists fixate more on background information [34,38,39]. Viewers from collectivist societies are more effective than their individualist counterparts in detecting changes to background information, whereas, individualist viewers are more inclined to notice changes to the object [39,40]. ...
... For example, members of individualist culture are more likely to fixate sooner and longer on a foreground object in the visual field, whilst collectivists fixate more on background information [34,38,39]. Viewers from collectivist societies are more effective than their individualist counterparts in detecting changes to background information, whereas, individualist viewers are more inclined to notice changes to the object [39,40]. Viewers from collectivist societies are better at recalling a previous object when presented against the original background than when presented with a novel background. ...
... Viewers from collectivist societies are better at recalling a previous object when presented against the original background than when presented with a novel background. In contrast, viewers from individualist societies are likely to be less affected by contextual (background) manipulation [38][39][40]. The selection of background information has been reported as important to predict collectivists' responses. ...
Purpose: Converging visual behavioural and attentional allocation studies within neuroscience have shown culture influences the processing of visual information obtained from the visual field. While attending (reviewing) a visual scene, individuals from a collectivist culture attend more to the context (background) compared to those from an individualist culture who view more the focal object. This highlights the effect of cultural conditioning in terms of holistic and analytical processing of visual information. This study aimed to demonstrate these principles in the context of an assistive product, a wheelchair, highlighting the key visual elements of the form; and, how a congruent background (hospital room) or incongruent (athletics track) influenced cultural bias during visual processing and assigned meaning. Material and methods: A combination of research methods (Semantic Differential Scale and eye-tracking) was used to triangulate the results. A total of 126 adult student participants, (Pakistani/collectivist, n = 57) and the (UK/individualist, n = 69), viewed a visual presentation of a wheelchair with semantically congruent and then an incongruent background and responded via an online questionnaire. A sub-sample completed the survey whilst monitored via eye-tracking. Results: Pakistani respondents used shorter and less frequent fixations on the foreground compared to the responses of their counterparts (UK respondents). The wheel of the wheelchair was highlighted as the prominent form by both groups. Conclusion: Results demonstrate a culture-influenced pattern of visual processing even when the product was displayed against a semantically incongruent background. The findings from this study also validate and extend the outcomes of similar studies revealing a more specific, yet consistent, cultural effect on individuals' visual perception. Finally, the efficacy of triangulated research methods in their relationship to exploring the AT product's semantics was discussed.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATIONThe knowledge of AT products' semantics will be significant to investigate, for their improved social acceptance, particularly when considered from a diverse cultural standpoint.A model of best practice, focussing on semantics manipulation, will provide AT product designers, practitioners, and those involved in their marketing, Internationally, with a suitable process/tool to positively reframe the perception of these devices.Finally, this research will help product and industrial designers to consider cultural cognitive styles in the design of products for the better adoption of products within the global marketplace.
... Even if we can distinguish several statistical approaches to understand moderating role of advertising design and its elements, which is believed to activate the brain's reward circuit (Braun, Amirshahi, Denzler, & Redies, 2013;Mortimer & Grierson, 2010), product appearance (Wagner, et al., 2019), or how our perception is shaped through socio-cultural context (Masuda, 2009), the impact of culturally based and dependent design preferences of an internet user has not been yet statistically modeled. (Barber & Badre, 1998;Cyr & Trevor-Smith, 2004;Cyr, 2008) "Perceptions of Web site design leading to trust vary by culture and may be anchored in characteristics of the Web site other than information design (ID), navigation design (ND), and visual design (VD)." ...
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Executive summary This dissertation is studying the cultural implication of e-consumers behavior relating to sustainable (eco-friendly) products purchase behavior within the e-commerce environment exploiting such theorems as the Consumer Culture Theory, the Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, the Meyer’s Culture Map, the Cue Consistency Theory, the Controlled Behavior Theory and the Smart Nudging Theory as well as well-established visual perception associations in regards to colors, typefacing, lines, space, merchandising and advertising practice off- and online, in the context of differences between chosen countries (France, Poland and the United States). The main motivation of this study is the observation that businesses and individuals struggle to capitalize on their eco-awareness and action it to their benefit. The main question that arises from such an observation is – why consumers struggle to consume in an environmentally friendly manner and how to effectively motivate businesses to expand their efforts in this direction? One of the most evident answers might be hidden within the most primal responses of our brains related to the vision, perception mechanisms and environmental priming. Exploration of this field may allow businesses to understand how they could break through the greenwashing clutter and trigger environmentally friendly purchase behavior through applying the most vital approach to the eco visual positioning of their product offerings online. Conductive to managerial implications of closing the intent-to-behavior gap through deepening the business, scientific learnings of consumer visual perception and behavior in continuously expanding online solutions environment, several state-of-the-art tools were employed in this intercultural thesis research of green e-marketing best practices, such as Shopify based online store simulation, Facebook advertising, shop and community management, advanced Google Analytics or Hotjar heatmaps, complemented with a research survey and independence tests of hypothesis. Eventually, we have to agree that the cross-cultural or better expressed - cross-market – differences, even in seemingly homogenous, western countries strongly exist and persist, despite the globalization, thus we shall put our utmost, business wise attention to creating and diffusing not only a culturally suitable eco visual content but also already at the stage of designing our products and packaging, we should be having the target market cultures in mind, especially if our touchpoint resides within the internetscape along with its opportunities and limitations.
... At this most basic level of processing the focus is directed towards the formal configurations or effects, which are on the "surface" of the work of art and are relatively independent from the representational content (Persson, 2003). While sensory processing of art is mostly hard-wired in the nervous system it is not independent from higher cognitive (top-down) influence and probably also not of the cultural context, considering the effects culture might exert on perception (Masuda, 2010). For example, as observed by Segall, Campbell and Herskovitz (1966), comparatively to urban populations the ones of forest or rural areas tend to be more precise in their sensing of crooked and slanted lines. ...
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This study aimed to find evidence of the presence, in ancient Greek art, of cues (triggers) for sensory processes involved in the appreciation of visual arts, within the framework of the psychology of art. The presence of such cues in ancient Greek art can suggest the existence of knowledge about them, together with their use, already by ancient Greek artists. For the study, a sample of image reproductions of ancient Greek art (from the archaic to the Hellenistic period - ca. 7th - 1st century BC) was submitted to a thematic-content analysis. This analysis revealed the presence of all most relevant known cues that trigger specific sensory processes involved in visual arts appreciation. Results suggest an intuitive knowledge of these processes by ancient Greek artists (probably based both on personal experience and social sharing), which aligns with the seminal role of ancient Greek art both in the extended use of those cues in western art and in the modulation of a “western way” of appreciating art.
... These findings are, however, consistent with a growing cognitive neuroscience literature recognizing that visuospatial abilities are not immune to cultural effects. For example, susceptibility to basic visual illusions, color perception, and visual attention vary between cultures (Masuda, 2009) but it remains unclear to what extent these difference reflect item, method, and/or construct bias of the tasks (Van de Vijver and Tanzer, 2004) vs. underlying neurobiological mechanisms. While our Anglosphere group outperformed the International group on all visuoperceptual tasks, there is evidence that individuals from other cultures do perform better on some experimental tasks tapping different aspects of visuospatial abilities (e.g., mental rotation in Chinese speakers, Li and O'Boyle, 2011;Li et al., 2014). ...
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Cognitive decline is common in Parkinson’s disease (PD), and precise cognitive assessment is important for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. To date, there are no studies in PD investigating cultural bias on neuropsychological tests. Clinical practice in multicultural societies such as, Toronto Canada where nearly half of the population is comprised of first generation immigrants, presents important challenges as most neuropsychological tools were developed in Anglosphere cultures (e.g., USA, UK) and normed in more homogeneous groups. We examine total scores and rates of deficits on tests of visuoperceptual/visuospatial, attention, memory, and executive functions in Canadians with PD born in Anglosphere countries (n = 248) vs. in Canadians with PD born in other regions (International group; n = 167). The International group shows lower scores and greater rates of deficits on all visuoperceptual and some executive function tasks, but not on attention or memory measures. These biases are not explained by demographic and clinical variables as groups were comparable. Age at immigration, years in Canada, and English proficiency also do not account for the observed biases. In contrast, group differences are strongly mediated by the Historical Index of Human Development of the participants’ country of birth, which reflects economic, health, and educational potential of a country at the time of birth. In sum, our findings demonstrate lasting biases on neuropsychological tests despite significant exposure to, and participation in, Canadian culture. These biases are most striking on visuoperceptual measures and non-verbal executive tasks which many clinicians still considered to be “culture-fair” despite the growing evidence from the field of cross-cultural neuropsychology to the contrary. Our findings also illustrate that socio-development context captures important aspects of culture that relate to cognition, and have important implications for clinical practice.
... When the context changed, Japanese failed to identify the animals seen before. These results along with those from other studies (Masuda, 2009;Nisbett & Miyamoto, 2005) showed that people from Asian cultures perceive images as a whole, while people from western cultures focus their attention in particular stimuli, while disregarding the context. Thus, the unwritten cultural norms demand different degrees of precision to selectively discriminate between certain properties of the environmental stimuli (cf. ...
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The study determined the sensitivity of adults to detect subtle differences in male and female body parts (face, arms, chest, waist, hips, thighs and calves). A total of 202 adults (84 men and 118 women) with a mean age of 34.9 years adjusted the size of each part of a comparison silhouette until it matched that of a sample silhouette. The sensitivity to detect subtle differences was greater for the male than for the female silhouette (mean Weber Fractions, WF=.032, .036, respectively). The greatest sensitivity for both silhouettes was in the waist and hips (WF=.019 in both cases) and the smallest in the arms and face (WF=.048, .049, respectively). Men, young participants and those with high education (WF between .017 and .043) detected subtle differences to a greater degree than their counterparts (WF between .019 and .053). According to the environmental approach of social psychology, the latter suggests that members of those subgroups have been subjected to more social pressures to sharpen their discrimination of small differences in the body shape of their conspecifics. This study adds evidence to previous knowledge about how cultural variables shape visual perception.
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The aim of this review is considering the role of situation in regulation of behavior. Conceptions of personal-situational interaction are described. It is shown that attempts to classify situations are fraught with serious predicament, since the perception of specific context is very variable. Subjective and personal understanding of the situation is determined by the unique history of interactions with the environment. The experience gained throughout life determines the hypotheses about the world what the subject will form, his predictions in specific circumstances about the possible outcomes of the situation. The correct perception of the world is not in the objective reflection of it, but in the successful adaptation to it, accurate predictions which were made.
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The authors sought to replicate and extend the work of E. Rosch Heider (1972) on the Dani with a comparable group from Papua, New Guinea, who speak Berinmo, which has 5 basic color terms. Naming and memory for highly saturated focal, non-focal, and low-saturation stimuli from around the color space were investigated. Recognition of desaturated colors was affected by color vocabulary. When response bias was controlled, there was no recognition advantage for focal stimuli. Paired-associate learning also failed to show an advantage for focal stimuli. Categorical Perception effects for both English and Berinmo were found, but only at the boundaries of existing linguistic categories. It is concluded that possession of linguistic categories facilitates recognition and influences perceptual judgments.
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East Asians and Westerners perceive the world and think about it in very different ways. Westerners are inclined to attend to some focal object, analyzing its attributes and categorizing it in an effort to find out what rules govern its behavior. Rules used include formal logic. Causal attributions tend to focus exclusively on the object and are therefore often mistaken. East Asians are more likely to attend to a broad perceptual and conceptual field, noticing relationships and changes and grouping objects based on family resemblance rather than category membership. Causal attributions emphasize the context. Social factors are likely to be important in directing attention. East Asians live in complex social networks with prescribed role relations. Attention to context is important to effective functioning. More independent Westerners live in less constraining social worlds and have the luxury of attending to the object and their goals with respect to it. The physical "affordances" of the environment may also influence perception. The built environments of the East are more complex and contain more objects than do those of the West. In addition, artistic products of the East emphasize the field and deemphasize individual objects, including people. Western art renders less of the field and emphasizes individual objects and people.
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In the past decade, cultural differences in perceptual judgment and memory have been observed: Westerners attend more to focal objects, whereas East Asians attend more to contextual information. However, the underlying mechanisms for the apparent differences in cognitive processing styles have not been known. In the present study, we examined the possibility that the cultural differences arise from culturally different viewing patterns when confronted with a naturalistic scene. We measured the eye movements of American and Chinese participants while they viewed photographs with a focal object on a complex background. In fact, the Americans fixated more on focal objects than did the Chinese, and the Americans tended to look at the focal object more quickly. In addition, the Chinese made more saccades to the background than did the Americans. Thus, it appears that differences in judgment and memory may have their origins in differences in what is actually attended as people view a scene. • attention • culture • memory • eye-tracking • visual cognition
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Proponents of a self-identified 'relativist' view of cross-language color naming have confounded two questions: (1) Is color naming largely subject to local linguistic convention? and (2) Are cross-language color naming differences reflected in comparable differences in color cognition by their speakers? The 'relativist' position holds that the correct answer to both questions is Yes, based on data from the Berinmo language of Papua New Guinea. It is shown here that the Berinmo facts instead support a more complex view -- that cross-language color naming follows non-trivial universal tendencies, while cross-language color-naming differences do indeed correlate with differences in color cognition. The rhetoric of 'relativity' versus 'universalism' impedes understanding of cross-language color naming and cognition.
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English and Russian color terms divide the color spectrum differently. Unlike English, Russian makes an obligatory distinction between lighter blues (“goluboy”) and darker blues (“siniy”). We investigated whether this linguistic difference leads to differences in color discrimination. We tested English and Russian speakers in a speeded color discrimination task using blue stimuli that spanned the siniy/goluboy border. We found that Russian speakers were faster to discriminate two colors when they fell into different linguistic categories in Russian (one siniy and the other goluboy) than when they were from the same linguistic category (both siniy or both goluboy). Moreover, this category advantage was eliminated by a verbal, but not a spatial, dual task. These effects were stronger for difficult discriminations (i.e., when the colors were perceptually close) than for easy discriminations (i.e., when the colors were further apart). English speakers tested on the identical stimuli did not show a category advantage in any of the conditions. These results demonstrate that (i) categories in language affect performance on simple perceptual color tasks and (ii) the effect of language is online (and can be disrupted by verbal interference). • categorization • cross-linguistic • Whorf
Styles cognitifs et recherches ‘interculturelles. — L'utilisation, dans les recherches interculturelles, des données, concepts et méthodes relevant du “style cognitif” (mode de fonctionnement caractérisant un individu dans ses activités perceptives et intellectuelles) présente un grand nombre d'avantages méthodologiques. Comme le démontrent les nombreuses études qui ont été consacrées à un style cognitif privilégié qui correspond à la dimension “global-articulé”, les styles cognitifs sont fondamentaux dans L'étude du développement; ils peuvent être mesurés par des techniques objectives; les tests utilisables peuvent être appliqués avec validité et ils ont un sens pour des populations qui sont de niveau mental tout à fait différent; ils ont été conçus en relation avec des manières particulières d'élever les enfants, de telle sorte qu'ils peuvent servir à identifier les résultats de ces méthodes dans L'étude comparative des schèmes de socialisation. Les mêmes relations entre les premières expériences familiales et les différences inter-individuelles au long du continuum “global-articulé” qui avaient été originellement observées dans des milieux occidentaux, L'ont été également dans des milieux non occidentaux. De plus, on a trouvé dans le style cognitif modal de certains groupes non occidentaux, les différences qu'on avait pu prédire sur la base des différences observées dans la manière d'élever les enfants. La fréquence des différences dues au sexe en matière de style “articulé” ou “global” dans un grand nombre de cultures, amène à penser que L'étude du rôle que joue le sexe dans le développement cognitif pourrait être une voie féconde pour la recherche interculturelle.
Jerry Fodor has consistently cited the persistence of illusions–-especially the Müller-Lyer illusion–-as a principal form of evidence for the informational encapsulation of modular input systems. Fodor proposed that these modules’ stereotypical deliverances about how the world appears could serve as a theory-neutral observational foundation for (scientific) knowledge. For a variety of reasons Fodor rejected Paul Churchland's putative counter-examples to these mental modules’ cognitive impenetrability. Fodor's discussions suggest that demonstrating modules’ cognitive penetrability would hinge on showing that because subjects either (a) acquire some explicit theory or (b) gain wider perceptual experience, they would, in the synchronic case, very quickly cease to experience the illusion or, at any rate, experience a mitigated version of it. Diachronic penetration, by contrast, would involve processes that deliver one of these outcomes over a decidedly longer period. Marshall Segall, Donald Campbell, and Melville Herskovits’ (196628. Segall , M , Campbell , D and Herskovits , MJ . 1966. The influence of culture on visual perception, New York: Bobbs-Merrill. View all references) research across seventeen cultures shows that culturally influenced differences in visual experience during the first two decades of life substantially affect how people experience the Müller-Lyer stimuli. In some of the societies most people were virtually immune to the illusion. Such findings call Fodor's showcase evidence for the cognitive impenetrability of the visual input system into question and, thereby, threaten to block the path to the theory-neutral, observational consensus that he scouts.
Research into the cognitive neuroscience of aging has revealed exciting and unexpected changes to the brain over the lifespan. However, studies have mostly been conducted on Western populations, raising doubts about the universality of age-related changes. Cross-cultural investigation of aging provides a window into the stability of changes with age due to neurobiology, as well as into the flexibility of aging due to life experiences that impact cognition. Behavioral findings suggest that different cultures process distinct aspects of information and employ diverse information-processing strategies. The study of aging allows us to identify those age-related neural changes that persist across cultures as well as the changes that are driven by culture-specific life experiences.