Study: Culture Affects Brain Function

DALLAS, Aug. 3 (UPI) — The culture in which one grows up can determine how one’s brain is structured and how it works, U.S. scientists say.

Researchers say the collectivist nature of East Asian cultures vs. individualistic Western cultures affects both brain and behavioral development, an Association for Psychological Science release said Tuesday.

Denise C. Park from the University of Texas at Dallas and Chih-Mao Huang from the University of Illinois suggest East Asians tend to process information in a global manner while Westerners tend to focus on individual objects. There are differences between East Asians and Westerners, they say, with respect to attention, categorization, and reasoning.

In one study, after viewing pictures of fish swimming, Japanese volunteers were more likely to remember contextual details of the image than were American volunteers.

Experiments tracking participants’ eye movements revealed that Westerners spend more time looking at focal objects while Chinese volunteers look more at the background.

In addition, culture may play a role in the way people process facial information. Research shows that when viewing faces, East Asians focus on the central region of faces while Westerners look more broadly, focusing on both the eyes and mouth.

“This research is an important domain for understanding the malleability of the human brain and how differences in values and social milieus sculpt the brain’s structure and function,” the study authors say.

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Categorized | Fish, Other
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