Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Culture Influences Brain Function

MIT researchers report in the first brain imaging study of its kind that American culture, uses their brains differently than Asian culture to solve the same visual perceptual tasks.

Americans, which values the individual, emphasize the independence of objects from their contexts. In contrast, they found that East Asian societies, who values the collective, emphasizes the contextual interdependence of objects.

Americans, when making relative judgments that are typically harder for them, they activated brain regions involved in attention-demanding mental tasks. They showed much less activation of these regions when making the more culturally familiar absolute judgments. East Asians showed the opposite tendency, engaging the brain's attention system more for absolute judgments than for relative judgments.

Everyone uses the same attention machinery for more difficult cognitive tasks, but they are trained to use it in different ways, and it's the culture that does the training," Gabrieli says. "It's fascinating that the way in which the brain responds to these simple drawings reflects, in a predictable way, how the individual thinks about independent or interdependent social relationships."


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