Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cultural Neuroscience : How Culture impacts Brain

It is obvious that our cultural background affects our taste, perceptions, values, beliefs and behaviors. All of these reflections are linked to our brain activities, they shape how our brain works every day. I decided to search this more and learned that there is a scientific term on this matter which is “Cultural neuroscience”. Cultural neuroscience is looking at the relations existing between cultural dimensions and the brain’s activity. Many research shows that people from different cultures use their brains differently to solve the same visual perceptual tasks.

There is evidence that the collectivist nature of East Asian cultures versus individualistic Western cultures affects both brain and behavior. About this, one interesting research finding reported in the Azar concerned the perception among Japanese and United States subjects.

“This research may someday shed light on why some cultures appear more skilled at certain real-life cognitive problems than others, but right now researchers are looking at very simple tasks. For example, behavioral work by University of Michigan psychologist Shinobu Kitayama, PhD, and his colleagues showed that people from Japan are far better at judging the length of a line relative to the size of a box in which it’s drawn, while Americans are far better at judging the absolute length of the same line. They attribute this difference to findings from other studies showing that Americans pay more attention to details and Asians pay more attention to context.

Last year, Stanford University postdoc Trey Hedden, PhD, and his colleagues used fMRI to re-examine these findings. Like Kitayama, they used the framed-line task: Participants see a square with a line drawn partway down the middle. They then see a larger box and either have to draw a line the same absolute length as the first line or a line the same relative length compared with the bigger size of the new box.

 Again, Americans did better on the absolute test and Japanese did better on the relative test, but this time the researchers could see what was happening in their brains. It turns out that both Americans and Japanese use the same brain areas for both tests, but when they’re doing the test that is more difficult for them, they also engage an area of the brain associated with increased attention.

“This finding shows that the brain compensates for tasks that we’re not typically exposed to through our culture by turning on an attention circuit to help us,” says Kitayama. In contrast, tasks that are commonplace become automatic and don’t require extra concentration.”

It is fascinating to see these results. Cultural neuroscience is not a new area. But I believe this area is quite rich for further research.
If you would like to reach more research on this topic, I recommend you to visit this blog related with Neuroanthropology, the link is here :

Your brain is your greatest resource—use it by design to help you achieve health, happiness, and success! (Arlene R. Taylor PhD)

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