Culture environment they live within in an analytic way.

Culture plays an important role in shaping the people who inhibit this planet whether it comes to behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, norms, perceptions, etc. In addition to all of that, culture not only influences what we pay attention to but also is the information we process influenced by culture. Many studies and researches conducted have successfully proved how Asian and Western cultures  differ in the judgment and interpretation of relative and absolute sizing of objects .It has also proved how those cultures also differ in  the recollection of figures versus background of pictures and videos (Chioa et al., 2010). According to those studies people raised in Asian cultures recall background context and relative size more accurately than Western cultures do. On the other hand, it was proved that people raised in Western culture are able to more precisely perceive the absolute size of objects and are more able to remember the focal objects of images accurately.Various domains have succeeded to document those cognitive differences across cultures (Fiske, Kitayama, Markus, & Nisbett, 1998; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Nisbett, 2003; Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001). It was there emphasized that people of Western culture mainly engage not only in context-independent cognitive processes but also they tend to perceive and view the environment they live within in an analytic way. In contrast, people of East Asian culture engage in context-dependent cognitive processes and they tend to perceive and view their environments in a holistic way. This growing  interest in how cultural differences  impacts the way we process the visual world led  researchers to conduct more experiments. An illustrative study was conducted between Japanese and Americans that aimed to prove these assumptions. The study was built on a short video that depicted an underwater scene with fish, small animals, plants, and rocks, and then participants were asked to simply state or describe what they have seen in the video (Masuda & Nisbett, 2001). As expected, Americans reported features of focal fish (size, speed, color), whereas Japanese tended to describe the context and relationships between those focal objects and context (background objects and their locations with respect to the relation present between one another). To explain that all under different dimensions, we can try to simply analyze both the terms holistic and analytic thinkers and try to understand the differences they possess across cultures. Holistic thinkers are concerned with whole of something rather than individual parts which involves understanding a system by sensing its large-scale patterns and reacting to them. A holistic person looks at the big picture and therefore is less attentive to the details. In comparison, analytic thinkers have tendency to focus on specific details of the image presented to them which involves understanding a system by thinking about its parts and how they work together to produce larger scale effects. Several behavioral studies have highlighted those differences among both Western and Asian Cultures. These studies were able to show how people who come from a cultural background which values both independence and individualism (Schwartz, 1990; Markus and Kitayama, 1991; Hong et al., 2001; Chiao et al., 2008), tend to process visual stimuli more analytically and with greater attention to objects and their features (Nisbett et al., 2001; Nisbett, 2003; Nisbett and Miyamoto, 2005). In contrast, people whose culture emphasizes interdependence and collectivism (East Asians) tend to process these visual stimuli more holistically and with greater attention to contextual (frame-based) information.Cultural differences were also demonstrated in attention studies that were mainly built on tasks stripped of sociocultural context (Ji, Peng, & Nisbett, 2000; Kitayama, Duffy, Kawamura, & Larsen, 2003). This was proved in an experiment conducted by Kitayama et al. (2003). He showed participants a square frame where a line was drawn inside. To access attention differences between participants, each was shown other square frames of different sizes and was asked to draw line as identical as possible in ratio and length to the first line. Kitayama et al. then compared their drawings based on accuracy in absolute versus relative tasks. In his conclusion, it was found that Americans were more accurate in the absolute task compared to Japanese who were more accurate in the relative task which demonstrates that Japanese pay more attention to the context or frame than Americans do. Additionally, it could be explained that Asian’s show greater concern with the social world they live in which may prompt a strong reason behind their greater attention placed on context (Nisbett, 2003).Those differences in perception and attention found across cultures suggest the presence of various factors which can contribute in forming them. We can start by focusing on the notion of the effect of changing one’s environment – whether or not it can play a role on both perception and attention. Let us try to break it down into two separate assumptions. If we assume that objects are more distinctive and therefore stand out from the background more in the American environment compared to  the Japanese environment, then if a person lives in the American environment his/her attention would be more directed towards focal objects (figures) rather than towards backgrounds. On the other hand, if we assume that objects are more ambiguous and therefore harder to distinguish from the background in the Japanese environment, then if a person lives in  Japanese environment, his/her attention will be directed towards the background rather than towards specific, focal objects (figure).  Some evidence has been found that supported this speculation. For example, a previous research has demonstrated the fact that people have the tendency to miss changes or in a way become blinded to some changes that is occurring in their environment (Simons & Levin, 1997), especially changes in the periphery or context (Rensink, O’Regan, & Clark, 1997). If we employed this change-blindness paradigm, (Masuda & Nisbett, in press) showed participants (both Americans and Japanese) several pairs of animated clips of scenery (e.g., a farm) which differed in small details. Some of these changes were based on focal objects (figures), and the other changes were based on the field, or context (background).  As expected, Americans showed higher tendency to detect more changes in the focal objects (figures), whereas Japanese were able to detect more changes in the field or relationships between objects (backgrounds). These results serve as a strong proof and therefore significantly support previous findings on cultural differences when it comes to attention patterns (Masuda & Nisbett, 2001).All those cultural differences were also noted in behavioral and eye-tracking studies conducted. As stated earlier, Westerners are more analytic and attend more to face features; East Asians are more holistic and attend more to contextual information.  Through observation of the selectivity of faces between Westerners and East Asians, it was noted that Westerners were showed higher activity in the left fusiform face area (FFA). This explains that Westerners reflect more analytic processing style. Additionally, bilateral activity to faces in the FFA when it comes to Westerners was observed in contrast to East Asians who showed more right lateralization.


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