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Culture affects the psychological structure of self and results in two distinct types of self-representation (Western independent self and East Asian interdependent self). However, the neural basis of culture-self interaction remains unknown. We used fMRI to measured brain activity from Western and Chinese subjects who judged personal trait adjectives regarding self, mother or a public person. We found that the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) showed stronger activation in self- than other-judgment conditions for both Chinese and Western subjects. However, relative to other-judgments, mother-judgments activated MPFC in Chinese but not in Western subjects. Our findings suggest that Chinese individuals use MPFC to represent both the self and the mother whereas Westerners use MPFC to represent exclusively the self, providing neuroimaging evidence that culture shapes the functional anatomy of self-representation.
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Neural basis of cultural influence on self-representation
Ying Zhu,
Li Zhang,
Jin Fan,
and Shihui Han
Department of Psychology, Peking University, 5 Yiheyuan Road, Beijing 100871, P. R. China
School of Education, Capital Normal University, Beijing, China
Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, USA
Received 11 May 2006; revised 17 July 2006; accepted 29 August 2006
Available online 28 November 2006
Culture affects the psychological structure of self and results in two
distinct types of self-representation (Western independent self and East
Asian interdependent self). However, the neural basis of cultureself
interaction remains unknown. We used fMRI to measured brain activity
from Western and Chinese subjects who judged personal trait adjectives
regarding self, mother or a public person. We found that the medial
prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) showed
stronger activation in self- than other-judgment conditions for both
Chinese and Western subjects. However, relative to other-judgments,
mother-judgments activated MPFC in Chinese but not in Western
subjects. Our findings suggest that Chinese individuals use MPFC to
represent both the self and the mother whereas Westerners use MPFC to
represent exclusively the self, providing neuroimaging evidence that
culture shapes the functional anatomy of self-representation.
© 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Culture; fMRI; MPFC; Self
Representation of self is ecologically important because it
determines the relationship between ourselves and others in social
behaviors. Social psychologists (Heine, 2001; Markus and
Kitayama, 1991) have found that Westerners (North Americans
and Europeans) tend to view the self as an autonomous entity
separating from others and to behave according to their own
internal attributes and thoughts (the independent self). In contrast,
East Asians emphasize the interconnectedness of human beings
along with contingencies between the individuals behavior and the
thoughts and actions of others in the relationship (the interdepen-
dent self). However, it remains unknown how the cultural influence
on self-representation is accomplished in the human brain.
Recent neuroimaging research used a self-referential task (Rogers
et al., 1977) to localize the neural substrates of self-representation. In
this task, subjects are first asked to judge whether a trait is suitable to
describe the self or others. After this encoding phase, subjects are
required to recall as many of the words as they can. Typically, self-
descriptive traits are better remembered than traits descriptive of
others (the self-reference effect; Symons and Johnson, 1997). Using
such paradigms, neuroimaging studies found stronger medial
prefrontal cortex (MPFC) activation linked to self- relative to
other-judgments (Craik etal., 1999; Kelley et al., 2002; Lieberman et
al., 2004; Zhang et al., 2006), indicating that MPFC is engaged in
representation of self-knowledge such as ones own personality traits.
It has been shown that the self-referential effect can be influenced
by culture. Westerners show better memory of self- than intimate-
other-descriptive traits (Lord, 1980; Klein et al., 1989; but see Bower
and Gilligan, 1979) whereas Chinese remember self- and intimate-
other-descriptive traits equally well (Zhu and Zhang, 2002),
suggesting that Chinese self may include intimate persons whereas
Western self excludes any others. Consistent with this, Heatherton et
al. (2006) observed stronger MPFC activation linked to self- than
best-friend-judgment in American subjects. These results raise an
interesting question, namely, whether MPFC is unique to representa-
tions of the individuals self for Westerners but not for Chinese. One
possibility is that MPFC is engaged exclusively in self-representa-
tion for Westerners but is engaged by thinking about close relatives
as well as self for Chinese. The current work assessed this hypothesis
by recording neural activity using functional magnetic resonance
imaging (fMRI) from Chinese and Western subjects while they
performed a self-referential task. We tested whether MPFC can be
activated by self- and intimate-other-judgments (i.e., mother) for
Chinese but is activated only by self-judgment for Westerners. A
third public person was chosen to provide a baseline condition for
brain activity when making person-specific judgments. Similar to the
previous work (Kelley et al., 2002), we used a font identification task
to control general perceptual processing factors and to evaluate the
contribution of semantic processing to the judgment tasks.
Materials and methods
Thirteen Chinese college students (8 men and 5 women, mean
(± SD) age 21.5 ± 1.13 years) and thirteen Western college students
NeuroImage 34 (2007) 1310 1316
Corresponding authors. Fax: +86 10 6276 1081.
E-mail addresses: (Y. Zhu),
(S. Han).
Available online on ScienceDirect (
1053-8119/$ - see front matter © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
(8 men and 5 women, mean age 23.1 ± 2.33 years) participated in
this study as paid volunteers. The Western subjects were
Caucasians with their native language being English (6 English,
4 American, 2 Australian and 1 Canadian) and had studied in
China for less than one year when they participated in this study.
The two groups of subjects were matched on educational level (2
5 years university) and the time of living independently. All
subjects had no neurological or psychiatric history and were right-
handed. All had normal or corrected-to-normal vision. Informed
consent was obtained prior to scanning. This study was approved
by a local ethic committee.
Behavioral tasks
Subjects were first imaged while performing trait judgment tasks.
The stimuli were presented through an LCD projector onto a rear-
projection screen at the head end of the bore. The screen was viewed
with an angled mirror positioned on the head-coil. Each of the four
functional scans consisted of 9 sessions (Fig. 1). Four judgment
tasks were conducted in each scan requiring subjects to judge if an
adjective was proper to describe the self, mother, other (Bill Clinton,
the former American president, for Western subjects, or Rongji Zhu,
the former Chinese premier, for Chinese subjects) or to judge the
font of the words (uppercase or lowercase letters for Western
subjects, bold- or light-faced character for Chinese subjects). The
questions and traits were in Chinese for the Chinese and in English
for the Westerners. Subjects made judgments by pressing one of the
two buttons with the left or right thumb. The judgment tasks were
intervened by null sessions during which subjects passively viewed
two rows of asterisks (*). The order of the judgment tasks was
counterbalanced using a Latin Squire design.
Each trial in the judgment tasks consisted of a cueword
(either self, mother, other or font, black on a white background)
above a trait adjective presented for 2000 ms at the center of the
screen. The trait adjective then disappeared while the cueword
stayed on the screen for 1000 ms, during which subjects made
response. Each of the Chinese characters subtended 0.65° (cue
word) or 2.0° (trait adjective) of visual angle. Each letter of the
English words subtended 0.5° (cueword) or 1.8° (trait adjective)
of visual angle. Each symbol used in the null session subtended
0.3° (small ones) or 0.74°(large ones) of visual angle. Twelve trait
adjectives were presented in each session. Each session of the
judgment tasks lasted for 39 s including an instruction of 3 s. Each
null session lasted for 33 s.
A total of 384 unique adjectives were selected from established
personality trait adjective pools (Chinese words from Liu, 1990,
English words from Anderson, 1968). The meanings of Chinese
and English words were matched. The adjectives were classified
into 32 lists of 12 words. Each Chinese adjective consisted of two
characters. The English word lists were matched on word length
and number of syllables. Half of the words were positive adjective
and half were negative. Sixteen lists of words were pseudo-
randomly selected for the judgment tasks while the remaining 16
lists of words were used in the memory test.
Fig. 1. Schema of the design of one scan of the current study. The stimuli and procedure of mother-, other- and font-judgments were the same as those of the self-
judgment except that the word selfon the screen was replaced by mother,Bill Clintonfor Western subjects or Rongji Zhufor Chinese subjects, or font,
1311Y. Zhu et al. / NeuroImage 34 (2007) 13101316
After the scanning procedure, subjects were given a surprise
recognition memory test. The trait adjectives used in the judgment
tasks were mixed with 192 new trait adjectives and presented in a
random order. Subjects were asked to identify old or new items by
button press without a time limit. Subjects were further asked to
make an R/K judgment (Tulving, 1999) for old words by indicating
whether remembering(consciously recollect specific details of
the item that appeared in the earlier list, Rscore) or simply
knowing(not accompanied by recollective experience but has a
feeling of knowing or familiarity to the subjects) the item.
MRI data acquisition
Brain imaging was performed on a 3-T Siemens Trio MR
scanner with a standard birdcage head coil at Beijing MRI Center
for Brain Research. Pieces of foam were used to minimize head
movement. A T2*-weighted gradient-echo planar imaging (EPI)
sequence (TR = 2000 ms, TE = 30 ms and flip angle = 90°, 3 mm
thickness, skip 0.75 mm, FOV = 220 mm, 64 × 64 × 32 matrix with
3.4 × 3.4 × 3.75 mm spatial resolution) was used to acquire a set of
32 axial slices of functional images. Four functional scans were
obtained. Each scan lasted for 324 s. During each functional scan,
162 sets of mosaic images were acquired allowing complete brain
coverage. High-resolution anatomic images were obtained using a
standard 3D T1-weighted sequence with 0.9 × 0.9 mm in plane
resolution and 1.3 mm slice thickness (256 × 256 matrix,
TR = 1600 ms, TE = 3.93 ms).
fMRI data analysis
Statistical Parametric Mapping software (SPM2, Wellcome
Department of Cognitive Neurology, UK) was used for imaging
data processing and analysis. Functional images were realigned to
correct for head movement between scans and coregistered with
each subjects anatomical scan. Functional images were trans-
formed into a standard anatomical space (2 × 2 × 2 mm
vexes) based on the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI)
template. Normalized data were then spatially smoothed using a
Gaussian filter with a full-width at half-maximum (FWHM)
parameter set to 6 mm. The image data were modeled using a
box-car function. A general linear model was used to compute
parameter estimates and t-contrast images (containing weighted
parameter estimates) for each comparison at each voxel. The
contrasts between trait judgments and font judgment and between
self- or mother-judgments and other-judgment were defined in
each subject. These individual contrast images were then
submitted to a second-level random-effect analysis (threshold at
p< 0.05, corrected for multiple comparisons). The SPM coordi-
nates for standard brain from MNI template were converted to
Talairach coordinates (Talairach and Tournoux, 1998) using a
non-linear transform method (
A regions-of-interest (ROI) analysis was conducted to explore
the cultural effect on self-representation in MPFC and ACC. ROIs
were defined separately for the Chinese and Western subjects using
the coordinates of the centers of MPFC and ACC activation
clusters in the contrast between self and other judgments. The
mean fMRI signals of voxels in spheres with a radius of 3 mm
were calculated from the raw fMRI data by contrasting the sessions
of judgment tasks and the null sessions. The fMRI signals were
subjected to a repeated measure analysis of variance (ANOVA)
with factors being Judgment (self, mother, other) and Culture
(Chinese vs. Western group). The fMRI signals in the other-
judgment condition were also subtracted from the self- and mother-
judgment conditions to index the self- and mother-reference
effects. An ANOVA with factors being Reference (self vs. mother)
and Culture (Chinese vs. Western group) was then conducted on
the differential fMRI signals.
Corrected recognition scores (the proportion of hits minus false
alarms) in the recognition memory test were subjected to a 2
(Subject: Western or Chinese)× 4 (Task: self, mother, other or font)
ANOVA. Corrected recognition scores were higher for judgments
associated with deep semantic processing (self, mother or other)
than for font-judgment (F(3,72) = 58.41, p< 0.01) and were higher
for Chinese than for Western subjects (F(1,24)= 25.46, p< 0.01).
The interaction of Subject × Task was significant (F(3,72) = 9.52,
p< 0.01), suggesting different patterns of the recognition scores
between the two groups of subjects. Separate analysis showed
further that the adjectives used in the self-judgment task were
remembered better than those used in the other-judgment task
(Chinese: total score: F(1,24) = 4.69, p< 0.05; Rscore: F(1,24) =
4.87, p< 0.05; Westerner: total score: F(1,24) = 4.90, p< 0.05;
Rscore: F(1,24) = 5.71, p<0.05). The corrected recognition scores
did not differ between the self- and mother-judgment conditions for
Chinese subjects (total score: F(1,24) = 1.65, p> 0.1; Rscore:
F(1,24) = 1.10, p> 0.1) but was higher in the self- than mother-
judgment conditions for Western subjects (total score: F(1,24)=
3.68, p< 0.06; Rscore: F(1,24) = 5.80, p< 0.05; Fig. 2).
Self-, mother- and other-judgments were first contrasted with
font-judgment to identify brain areas involved in the semantic
encoding process. This revealed activations the inferior, middle
and superior frontal cortex in the left hemisphere for both the
Chinese and Western subjects (Table 1). The Western subjects also
showed activation in the middle and superior temporal cortex and
the posterior cingulate cortex.
The neural substrates underpinning the self-reference effect
were defined as increased neural activities associated with self-
than other-judgments. MPFC showed increased activity linked to
self- than other-judgment for both Chinese (x/y/z= 8/55/6, Z= 3.68,
BA 10) and Western subjects (0/51/3, Z=4.07, BA 10; Fig. 3a).
Activation was also seen in ACC (6/36/20, Z= 3.62 and 2/33/
30, Z= 3.76, BA32) and the left frontal cortex (24/57/12, Z= 4.27,
BA10) for Chinese subjects but only in ACC for Western subjects
(6/33/0, Z= 4.70, BA24). The contrast between mother- and
other-judgments showed stronger activation in MPFC (2/55/3,
Z= 3.49, BA10; Fig. 3b), ACC (0/18/18, Z= 3.50) and the left
prefrontal cortex (22/59/15, Z= 3.49) for Chinese subjects.
However, the same contrast showed activation only in ACC (4/
35/2, Z= 4.11) for Western subjects. The contrast between the self
and mother judgments showed activation in MPFC for Western
subjects (4/46/6, Z= 3.78, BA10; Fig. 3c) but not for Chinese
The ROI analysis calculated percent signal changes in MPFC
(centered at 8/55/6 (Chinese) and 0/51/3 (Western)) relative to a
low-level baseline (i.e., the null condition). Self-judgment
increased MPFC activity whereas other-judgment decreased MPFC
activity (Fig. 4). MPFC activity associated with mother-judgment
was increased for Chinese subjects but decreased for Western
subjects. A reliable interaction between culture and judgment
1312 Y. Zhu et al. / NeuroImage 34 (2007) 13101316
confirmed the different patterns of MPFC activity between the two
groups (F(2,48) = 3.58, p< 0.05). Paired t-tests confirmed that
fMRI signals were larger in the self- than mother-judgment tasks
for Western subjects (t(12)= 2.624, p< 0.01) but did not differ
between the two conditions for Chinese subjects (t(12) = 1.138,
p> 0.05).
To uncover the differential mother-reference effect between the
two cultures, the mean fMRI signals linked to other-judgment were
subtracted from those linked to the self- and mother-judgments.
The ANOVAs of the differential fMRI signals showed a reliable
interaction of Culture (Chinese vs. Western) × Reference (self vs.
mother) (F(1,24) = 6.67, p< 0.05). Post hoc comparisons confirmed
that the mother-reference effect was smaller than the self-reference
effect for the Western subjects (F(1,24)= 5.96, p< 0.05) but did not
differ from the self-reference effect for the Chinese subjects
(F(1,24) = 1.47, p> 0.05).
Similar ROI analyses were conducted on the fMRI signals in
ACC (centered at 6/36/20 (Chinese) and 6/33/0 (Western);
Fig. 4). ACC signals showed a pattern similar to that of MPFC
signals. However, neither the interaction of Culture × Judgment (F
(2,48) = 1.17, p> 0.05) nor the interaction of Culture × Reference
(F(1,24) = 0.35, p> 0.1) was significant, suggesting that the
cultural effect on the neural substrates of self-representation
was not reliable in the ACC activity. Finally, we conducted a
three-way ANOVA on the differential fMRI signals with factors
being Culture (Chinese vs. Western), Reference (self vs. mother)
and Activation Foci (MPFC vs. ACC) as independent variables.
There was a significant interaction of Culture × Reference × Acti-
vation Foci (F(1,24) = 5.90, p< 0.05), indicating that the cultural
effect on the neural substrates of self-representation was mainly
evident in MPFC activity.
Some studies found that intimate-other-reference judgments
produce recall inferior to that found with self-reference judgments in
Western subjects (Lord, 1980; Klein et al., 1989; Heatherton et al.,
2006), whereas others found that the superior memory of self-
referenced materials is diminished when compared with the material
related to an intimate other (Bower and Gilligan, 1979). Never-
theless, these studies did not tell whether self and intimate persons
share neural structures and whether cultures influence the relevant
neural mechanisms. While some neuroimaging studies failed to find
differential MPFC activity between self- and close-other judgments
(Seger et al., 2004; Schmitz et al., 2004; Ochsner et al., 2005),
Heatherton et al. (2006) recently reported stronger MPFC activity
linked to the self relative to close others (best friends) in Western
Fig. 2. Percent recognition in the memory tests for both groups of subjects. Bar graphs represent the total scores of correct recognition and the Rscores. Error bars
represent the standard errors in each condition.
Table 1
Regions of significant increased activation in comparison between semantic
(self, mother and other) and non-semantic tasks (p< 0.05 at the cluster level,
corrected for multiple comparisons)
Condition/region Voxel no. BA xyzZ value
Chinese subjects
Self minus font
Left inferior frontal gyrus 747 47 42 22 12 4.92
Medial frontal gyrus 442 9 2 54 20 4.84
Left superior frontal gyrus *** 9/10 14 60 32 4.56
Mother minus font
Left inferior frontal gyrus 409 47 50 32 6 4.00
Medial frontal gyrus 152 9 6 54 40 3.76
Left superior frontal gyrus *** 10 8 64 20 3.22
Other minus font
Left inferior frontal gyrus 404 45 56 26 8 4.21
Western subjects
Self minus font
Left middle temporal gyrus 374 22 62 36 4 5.04
Left inferior frontal gyrus 232 47 30 16 14 4.59
Superior frontal gyrus 152 6 6 24 62 4.35
Medial frontal gyrus 217 8 6 52 44 4.18
Mother minus font
Left inferior frontal gyrus 1099 47 54 28 6 5.23
Left middle temporal gyrus 320 21 56 30 2 4.95
Left superior frontal gyrus 492 6 10 34 52 4.12
Left posterior cingulated 305 30 22 68 6 4.45
Right cuneus 193 17 16 96 2 4.07
Right lingual gyrus 156 19 22 60 0 4.05
Other minus font
Left middle temporal gyrus 942 21 58 0 18 4.78
Right superior temporal
157 38 54 10 20 4.55
Right middle occipital
286 18 32 90 2 4.47
Left superior frontal gyrus 244 9 6 58 34 4.60
Right posterior cingulated 123 30 20 66 10 3.68
Voxels no. = number of voxels in a cluster. BA = Brodmann's area. ***The
left frontal gyrus and the medial frontal gyrus are in the same cluster.
1313Y. Zhu et al. / NeuroImage 34 (2007) 13101316
The current research reinforces Heatherton et als
observation and showed evidence that such neural distinction
between self and intimate persons was evident for Westerners but not
for Chinese.
While observing a self-reference effect for both Chinese and
Western subjects, we found that personal traits related to self-judg-
ments were remembered better than those associated with mother-
judgments for Western but not for Chinese subjects, replicating the
results of our prior behavioral study (Zhu and Zhang, 2002). Our
fMRI results showed stronger MPFC activation in the self- relative
to other-judgments, consistent with previous studies of Western
subjects (Kelley et al., 2002; Lieberman et al., 2004). In line with
Heatherton et al. (2006), we demonstrate that self-judgments even
induced stronger MPFC activation relative to mother-judgments in
Western subjects. The ROI analysis showed further that self-
judgments were qualitatively different from mother-judgments in
that, relative to the null condition, self-judgments increased MPFC
activity whereas mother-judgments reduced MPFC activity. The fact
that Western individuals showed selective MPFC activity for judg-
ments about themselves relative to their mothers, and that activity in
mother-judgments did not differ from that in other-judgments,
indicates that, for Westerners, MPFC is specific to the self.
We also found enhanced MPFC activity linked to self- relative to
other-judgments in Chinese subjects. The locus of MPFC activity in
these individuals was close to that found in Western subjects,
indicating that MPFC is involved in self-representation irrespective
of subjectscultural background. Nevertheless, in Chinese indivi-
duals, mother-judgments generated enhanced MPFC activity
compared with other-judgments and the null condition. Conse-
quently, the representation of Chinese mother cannot be distin-
guished from the representation of their selves, in terms of the MPFC
activity, indicating that Chinese individuals use MPFC to represent
both mother and the self. In contrast, MPFC activity corresponds to a
representation of only the individual self in Western subjects. These
fMRI results showed strong empirical evidence that MPFC mediates
cultural influence on the neural substrates of representation of self
and close others. While social psychological studies suggest that
cultures create habitual ways of processing information related to the
self and ones important others (Heine, 2001; Markus and Kitayama,
1991), our fMRI results indicate that these habitual cognitive
processes are accompanied by detectible parallel neural processes.
The relatively heavy emphasis on interpersonal connectedness in
Chinese culture has led to the development of neural unification of
While Schmitz et al. (2004), Seger et al. (2004) and Ochsner et al.
(2005) did not find difference in MPFC activity between self- and close-
other judgments, the latter two studies failed to replicate the MPFC
difference between self- and non-referential judgments. In addition, none of
these studies tested subsequent memory for the reference materials. Of most
important, none of these studies reported a contrast between close-other-
judgment and judgment related to a public figure (used in previous studies
as a critical controlled condition for the self-reference effect). The absence
of MPFC activation in the contrast between self- and close-other judgments
did not tell whether the close-other judgment is represented in MPFC.
Fig. 3. Brain activations revealed in the contrast between different trait adjective judgment tasks. (a) Self minus other; (b) mother minus other; (c) self minus
1314 Y. Zhu et al. / NeuroImage 34 (2007) 13101316
the self and intimate persons such as mother, whereas the relative
dominance of an independent self in Western cultures results in
neural separation between the self and others (even close others such
as mother).
Relative to other-judgments, self- and mother-judgments also
induced activation in ACC for both groups of subjects. ACC has
been shown to be activated when people think about their own
physical appearance (Kjaer et al., 2002) or when they recognize their
own face (Kircher et al., 2001). ACC is also activated in a number of
emotional tasks (Bush et al., 2000) and is linked to emotional self-
control (Allman et al., 2001). Given these findings, it may be
speculated that judgments of personal traits related to oneself and
mother in the current study might lead to think of their own or the
mothers physical appearance and generate relevant emotional
responses. Relative to ACC, MPFC maintains more abstract
representation of the self, with culture producing a stronger
influence on abstract self-representation than idiographic aspects
of the corporeal self.
Finally, we found that, besides activity of MPFC and ACC,
self-judgments activated the left frontal cortex compared with
other-judgments in Chinese subjects; this was not observed in
Western subjects. Similarly, mother-judgments by Chinese indivi-
duals induced activation in the left prefrontal cortex and ACC,
which were not observed in Western subjects. The additional brain
structures linked to self- and mother-judgments, in Chinese,
compared with Western individuals, provide further neuroimaging
evidence for the interdependent self formed by East Asian culture.
In summary, our fMRI results demonstrate that, in Chinese
subjects, representation of both self and mother engages MPFC,
whereas in Western subjects MPFC is reliably engaged only by
self-judgments. The results suggest that Western independent self
is mediated by unique neural substrates, whereas East Asian (e.g.,
Chinese here) interdependent self depends on overlapping of
neural substrates for the self and close others. MPFC plays a
unique role in self-representation in terms of whether being
influenced by culture. Prior studies have shown that the Western
self is different from the East Asian self at both social behavioral
and cognitive levels. The current work extends this by providing
neuroimaging evidence that the Western selfis different from the
Chinese self at a neural level and suggests that culture influences
the functional neuroanatomy of self-representation. These neuroi-
maging findings lend support to the view of interplay of biology
and culture in shaping the mind and brain.
We thank G.W. Humphreys, C.Y. Chui, F.I.M. Craik, Y. Zhuo,
L. Mao and Y. Wu for their assistance or comments. This research
was supported by NSFC (30270461, 30225026, 30630025,
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Fig. 4. fMRI results of the ROI analysis. Panels a and b illustrate the locus of the MPFC and ACC respectively (marked with blue circles); panels c and d represent
fMRI signal changes in MPFC and ACC respectively in the self-, mother- and other-judgment tasks relative to the null condition; panels e and f represent
differential fMRI signal changes (self minus other and mother minus other) in MPFC and ACC, respectively. The asterisk in panel e indicates a significance
difference between the self- and mother-reference effects in percent signal changes.
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... Thus, a memory strategy of relating information to oneself, shown to be e ective in the West, may be less e ective for Easterners. Some research with young adults supports this idea (Sparks et al., 2016;Zhu et al., 2007). In a recent study (W. ...
This chapter reviews the emerging literature on the ways in which culture can influence memory with age. It first discusses the typical effects of healthy and pathological aging (Alzheimer’s disease [AD]) on brain metrics. Next, comparisons of healthy older adults across cultures are reviewed, including studies of brain structure, function, and strategies that yield accurate or erroneous memory. Social influences, such as stereotypes and beliefs about aging, are presented in terms of their direct effects on memory outcomes. The next section considers socioemotional influences more broadly, including social networks and future time perspective that can impact focus on positive information, and how they can impact cognition and memory across cultures with age. The chapter next focuses on AD. Although the work on healthy aging underscores the potential for malleability in memory and cognition across cultures, this may not be possible when pathological changes occur. Thus, this section discusses ways in which culture could impact risk factors for AD and diagnosis, including a number of challenges and considerations for neuropsychological assessment.
... In revising their theory, Markus and Kitayama (2010) suggested the presence of an interaction between culture and the individual, resulting in two types of self-construal (or modes of existence) and two types of situation-specific self-presentation. Neuroscientific evidence has shown that the medial prefrontal cortex, related to self-concept, is activated in both self-and kinship-evaluation conditions for Chinese participants but only in the self-evaluation condition for Western participants (Zhu et al., 2007). ...
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Using original texts of Confucian and Taoist primary classics as materials, we conducted an eight-week educational intervention experiment combining classroom teaching and post-class reflection as cultural manipulation. Ninety-four sixth-grade students from three parallel mainstream classes were randomly assigned to three intervention groups, comprising two experimental groups (Confucian and Taoist values interventions) and a control group (natural science intervention). The results suggest that the Confucian intervention had a positive effect on interdependent self and holistic thinking, the Taoist intervention had a positive effect on independent self and holistic thinking, and the natural science intervention promoted analytical thinking.
... For example, behavioral evidence showed Westerners showed better memory of self-than intimateother-descriptive traits (Lord, 1980) whereas Chinese remembered self-and intimate-other-descriptive traits equally well (Qi & Zhu, 2002), suggesting that Chinese self may include intimate persons whereas Western self excludes any others. From a neurophysiological point of view, an empirical study revealed that both the individual and relational selves were processed by the medial prefrontal cortex among Chinese samples, whereas only the individual self was processed among Westerners (Zhu et al., 2007). This finding implies that culture shapes the functional anatomy of self-representation (Chiao et al., 2009). ...
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To examine the effect of digital technology on the tripartite model of self-construal from the perspective of behavior and neural correlates using the event-related potential technology, the present study carried out two experiments. Experiment 1 invited 20 digital natives and 20 digital immigrants to participate in a priming task, in which Internet- and non-Internet-related words were used as priming words and the target stimuli included the individual self (the participant’s name), relational self (his/her good friend’s name), and collective self (his/her class’s name). The participants judged the color (red, green, or blue) of the target stimulus. Experiment 2 invited 24 digital natives and 24 digital immigrants to participate in a priming task, while recording the event-related potentials (ERPs) of each participant. The results showed that individual self elicited shorter RT and larger amplitudes of P2 and P300 than those of relational self and collective self, which suggested that the comparative advantage of the individual self, but when digital natives processed individual self, Internet priming induced smaller P2 amplitude than non-Internet priming. Moreover, the comparative advantage of the relational self and collective self was not obvious, and could be influenced by digital technology, specifically, for the relational self of digital natives, the RT in Internet priming was significantly longer than that in non-Internet priming, whereas for the collective self of digital immigrants, the RT in Internet priming was significantly longer than that in non-Internet priming. These findings verify and extend the tripartite model of self-construal while support the contextual dominancy hypothesis.
... Self-construal, as a psychological characteristic closely related to thinking mode, is another important theme in cultural psychology (Triandis, 1989;Zhu et al., 2007). Markus and Kitayama (1991) developed the concept of self-construal, which suggested that individuals perceive their selves within specific cultural frames of reference, viewing the self through their culture's perception of self-other relationships, especially the degree to which the self is separate from and connected to others. ...
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As the primary value system in Chinese culture for almost 2,000 years, Confucianism has profoundly influenced the mindset of Chinese people. Cultural psychology studies have highlighted that individuals with different cultural backgrounds vary in their preferences for certain personality traits, such as self-construal, and their metacognitive characteristics, such as thinking modes. Compared with Western cultures, Chinese culture shows a preference for the interdependent self and holistic thinking. To investigate the relationship between the relational-interdependent self, holistic thinking, and traditional Chinese values (which are represented by Confucian values), we surveyed 327 Chinese adults using the Confucian Traditional Values Survey, Holistic Thinking Scale, and Relational-Interdependent Self-Construal Scale. The results show that Confucian values positively influence both holistic thinking and the relational-interdependent self, the latter of which partially mediates the positive relationship between Confucian values and holistic thinking. This study deepens the understanding of the psychological features of Chinese culture.
... Thus, investigating the relationship between culture and self-representation, researchers (Zhu et al., 2007) analyzed the brains of Chinese and Westerners as they judged trait adjectives characteristic of their own personality, of a public person, and of their mothers, such as honesty, for example. For both groups, an activation of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex was observed when the subjects thought about themselves and not when they thought about public people or each other. ...
Is selfhood socially constituted and distributed? Although the view has recently been defended by some cognitive scientists, it has long been popular within anthropology and cultural psychology. Whereas older texts by Marcel Mauss, Clifford Geertz, Hazel Rose Markus, and Shinobu Kitayama often contrast a Western conception of a discrete, bounded, and individual self with a non‐Western sociocentric conception, it has more recently become common to argue that subjectivity is a fluid intersectional construction fundamentally relational and conditioned by discursive power structures. I assess the plausibility of these claims and argue that many of these discussions of self and subjectivity remain too crude. By failing to distinguish different dimension of selfhood, many authors unwittingly advocate a form of radical social constructivism that is not only incapable of doing justice to first‐person experience but which also fails to capture the heterogeneity of real communal life.
Research focused on the study of cultural socialization is of great importance to the study of developmental psychology. The current chapter examines cultural influences on emotion socialization practices of parents, siblings, teachers, and peers across early childhood and adolescence. In particular, the chapter focuses on how children and adolescents are socialized regarding their emotional expression and regulation. Socializers may utilize different practices based on their relationship to the child (i.e., parent, sibling, teacher, peer). Both relationship type and socialization practices can influence a child's development and whether or not the child is socialized appropriately, as befitting the surrounding culture.
In the early decades of the twentieth century, Lev Semenovich Vygotsky, Alexis Nikolaevich Leontiev, and Alexander Romamovich Luria proposed the so-called Cultural-Historical Psychology. The aforementioned authors took on the challenge of building a psychological theory that would overcome naturalizing, a-historical, and idealistic approaches to human development, in order to apprehend it, considering that human minds shape and are shaped by social, cultural, and historical conditions. Led by Vygotsky, the cultural-historical theory, centered on the processes of thought, language, behavior, and learning, brought great advances to psychology, and since then, this theoretical corpus has been expanded by several researchers, mainly in the area of Education. Simultaneously, it was possible to follow the development of cognitive psychology and neuroscience and their advances in the same areas of Vygotsky’s interest. However, there is practically no academic work that connects Vygostky’s theoretical propositions on human development and contemporary evidence in these research fields. Thus, without intending to make a historical rescue, this text will present several and solid connections between cultural-historical theory and recent findings in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. More than that, we will show that much of what was proposed by Vygostky in the 1920s and 1930s is now part of the theoretical framework of several theories on the functioning of the mind and human development. The main aim of this text is to sensitize researchers in the areas of cognitive psychology and neuroscience to study Vygostky because his theory can contribute to current research.KeywordsNeuroscienceCultural-Historical PsychologyLev VygotskyPsychologyHuman development
This chapter contains a conceptual review of cognitive neuroscience (CNS) of self-reflection. Like the previous chapter, this chapter shows why critical reflection on methodological choices is necessary for a proper communication of CNS results; for the weeding out of invalid methodological choices; and, most importantly for progress in CNS, for ensuring the quality of meta-analyses, especially in their automated versions. Such meta-analyses are generally built up according to how researchers label their studies. In CNS of self-reflection, however, at least ten different labels are used to refer to two types of tasks and the same label gets used to refer to either type of task. CNS of self-reflection offers insight into the neural enabling conditions of self-reflection. This is relevant in some circumstances, but not for someone like Clemens. People are often not looking for insight into the enabling conditions of their experiences and self-understanding, but for insight in those experiences themselves, such that they may improve their understanding of who they are and what is important to them. In this chapter we see an example of a behavioral task administered prior to imaging that yields potentially relevant results in this respect.
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Abstract—Previous work using positron emission tomography (PET) has shown that memory encoding processes are associated with preferential activation of left frontal regions of the brain, whereas retrieval processes are associated predominantly with right frontal activations. One possible reason for the asymmetry is that episodic retrieval necessarily involves reference to the self, and the self-concept may be represented (at least partially) in right frontal regions. Accordingly, the present study investigated the possibility that encoding of self-related material might also activate right frontal areas. Eight right-handed volunteers judged trait adjectives under four separate PET scan conditions: (a) relevance to self, (b) relevance to a well-known public figure, (c) social desirability, and (d) number of syllables. The results showed that self-related encoding yielded left frontal activations similar to those associated with other types of semantic encoding, but also specific activations in the right frontal lobe. It is concluded that the concept of self involves both general schematic structures and further specific components involved in episodic memory retrieval.
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People in different cultures have strikingly different construals of the self, of others, and of the interdependence of the 2. These construals can influence, and in many cases determine, the very nature of individual experience, including cognition, emotion, and motivation. Many Asian cultures have distinct conceptions of individuality that insist on the fundamental relatedness of individuals to each other. The emphasis is on attending to others, fitting in, and harmonious interdependence with them. American culture neither assumes nor values such an overt connectedness among individuals. In contrast, individuals seek to maintain their independence from others by attending to the self and by discovering and expressing their unique inner attributes. As proposed herein, these construals are even more powerful than previously imagined. Theories of the self from both psychology and anthropology are integrated to define in detail the difference between a construal of the self as independent and a construal of the self as interdependent. Each of these divergent construals should have a set of specific consequences for cognition, emotion, and motivation; these consequences are proposed and relevant empirical literature is reviewed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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How does memory for an incident vary depending on whether, and how, the person relates the information to himself? Trait adjectives are better remembered if they were judged in reference to oneself rather than judged for meaning or sound. Our first experiment found a similar mnemonic advantage of referring a described episode or object to some event from one's life. Pleasant events were remembered better than unpleasant ones. A second experiment found incidental memory for trait adjectives was equally enhanced by judging each directly in reference to one's self-concept or indirectly by retrieving an episode either from one's life or from one's mother's life. Contrariwise, memory was poorer when traits were judged in reference to a less familiar person. Thus, good memory depends on relating the inputs to a well-differentiated memory structure.
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We propose that the anterior cingulate cortex is a specialization of neocortex rather than a more primitive stage of cortical evolution. Functions central to intelligent behavior, that is, emotional self-control, focused problem solving, error recognition, and adaptive response to changing conditions, are juxtaposed with the emotions in this structure. Evidence of an important role for the anterior cingulate cortex in these functions has accumulated through single-neuron recording, electrical stimulation, EEG, PET, fMRI, and lesion studies. The anterior cingulate cortex contains a class of spindle-shaped neurons that are found only in humans and the great apes, and thus are a recent evolutionary specialization probably related to these functions. The spindle cells appear to be widely connected with diverse parts of the brain and may have a role in the coordination that would be essential in developing the capacity to focus on difficult problems. Furthermore, they emerge postnatally and their survival may be enhanced or reduced by environmental conditions of enrichment or stress, thus potentially influencing adult competence or dysfunction in emotional self-control and problem-solving capacity.
Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is a part of the brain's limbic system. Classically, this region has been related to affect, on the basis of lesion studies in humans and in animals. In the late 1980s, neuroimaging research indicated that ACC was active in many studies of cognition. The findings from EEG studies of a focal area of negativity in scalp electrodes following an error response led to the idea that ACC might be the brain's error detection and correction device. In this article, these various findings are reviewed in relation to the idea that ACC is a part of a circuit involved in a form of attention that serves to regulate both cognitive and emotional processing. Neuroimaging studies showing that separate areas of ACC are involved in cognition and emotion are discussed and related to results showing that the error negativity is influenced by affect and motivation. In addition, the development of the emotional and cognitive roles of ACC are discussed, and how the success of this regulation in controlling responses might be correlated with cingulate size. Finally, some theories are considered about how the different subdivisions of ACC might interact with other cortical structures as a part of the circuits involved in the regulation of mental and emotional activity.
This research suggests that difficulties in demonstrating consistent effects of the self on recall and in specifying the processes involved in self-referent encoding stem partly from a failure to distinguish between two self-reference encoding tasks; those requiring Ss to decide if a word describes them and those requiring Ss to retrieve a personal memory involving the word. Studies have treated these tasks as equivalent methods for exploring the memorial properties of self, but the present research shows that this assumed equivalence is in error. The authors show that much of the inconsistency in the self-reference literature is eliminated when studies are segregated on the basis of these two distinct self-reference tasks. The authors conclude that both trait-descriptive and autobiographical information about the self is available in memory, and that each can be addressed independently. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Proposes that schemas, informational structures characterized as verbal or propositional, are more effective as memory aids for information about the self than for information about other people. It is also proposed that images, informational structures characterized as visual or imaginal, are more effective as memory aids for information about other people than for information about the self. Two parallel experiments were performed. In Exp I, 24 undergraduates who were asked to decide whether various trait adjectives described either themselves or other people showed superior subsequent recall for the self-referent words. In Exp II, 24 undergraduates asked to form mental images of either themselves or other people interacting with various concrete objects showed inferior subsequent recall for the self-referent words. These divergent results and several current findings suggest that schemas and images may involve different cognitive principles and constitute 2 modes of processing social information. (38 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The author argues for the uniqueness of episodic memory. Episodic memory is the form of memory that makes it possible for people to consciously recollect personally experienced events as experienced. The author notes that scientists and lay persons alike seldom appreciate uniqueness of episodic memory in evolution, probably because of its ubiquity in the human species. The thesis of the author's chapter is that episodic memory is truly unique in that it exists only in mature healthy human beings. It does not exist, at least in the same form, in other animals and in young children, and it is greatly impaired in a number of neurological disease states and in brain damage. Although the absence of episodic memory in non-human animals and in young children cannot be proven, the argument rests on the absence of evidence for the presence of episodic memory in these populations. The argument is also based on the presence of a good deal of evidence that many memory achievements of which non-human animals and young children are capable do not require autonoetic conscious recollection of the past. The author also presents a refinement and extension of the HERA (hemispheric encoding/retrieval asymmetry) model. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)