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Culture and Cognition Lab
Issues of ethnicity and culture are some of the
most controversial topics in the field of social science in the 21st
century. Previously, psychologists have investigated the presumably
universal aspects of psychological mechanisms and have paid little
attention to the socio-cultural contexts in which these mechanisms
take place. Our central objective is to understand the dialectical
interaction between socio-cultural frameworks and psychological
mechanisms. Our research questions and assumptions derive from cultural psychology--an emerging interdiciplinary area of
anthropology, psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience--which
assumes that humans are socio-cultural beings by nature and that the
mind cannot be understood without a through consideration of
culture. Thus far, our research program has posed the following
questions: Are basic psychological processes differentiated by
culture? To what extent are basic psychological processes shaped by
historical-cultural context? What kinds of cultural practices and
socialization processes shape the indivitual mind?
To this end, we have focused on two cultural
groups--the people of East Asia and the
people of North America--and have been
studying the systematic influence of East Asian and Euro-American
worldviews on psychological mechanisms. Previous research on
perception and cogntion has suggested that East Asians tend to view
the world holistically.That is, in their belief that phenomena are
interrelated and with their inclination to accept contradictory
ideas, East Asians attend to the entire visual field and to the relations
among objects in the field. In contrast, Euro-Americans tend to view
the world analytically. That is, they focus on objects and their
attributes, use the attributes to assign objects to a category, and
reason about the categories logically with an insistence that only
one interpretation can be correct (Nisbett & Masuda, 2003;
Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001).
Building on and
testing this hypothesis, we have investigated both basic and complex
cognitive processes, which we have categorized under the name of
"Culture and Perception," "Culture and Judgment," "Culture and Relationships," "Culture and Emotion," and "Culture and
Aesthetics." Please visit our "Research" and "Publications" Page for detail.
Our research program has employed various methods.
We have applied experimental methods commonly used by social and
cognitive psychologists including recognition accuracy, reaction
time, and memory. We especially put importance on acquiring hard behavioral data using an eye-tracker and psychophysiological measurements. In addition, we are conducting EEG and Genetic studies to better understand the depth of cultures' influence on brain function. Finally,
in collaboration with developmental psychologists, we are investigating the role of socialization in
the development of culturally specific psychological processes in children.
Cross-cultural research provides us with a means of understanding not only members of different cultural groups, but also the universal foundations and cultural malleability of psychological phenomena. As a cross-cultural laboratory, we are interested in engaging in a plan of research that helps better elucidate the extent of cultures’ influence on psychological processes. In particular, we plan to focus our research towards answering the following questions: Which parts of the psychological process, if any, can be seen as universal among cultures? What underlying neurological or psychological mechanisms are required to produce culturally specific patterns? When, how, and why do these patterns emerge developmentally? Once established, how malleable are these patterns to future developmental or situational forces? Ultimately, we hope to use our research to better understand the nature of us as individuals seated in dynamic socio-cultural contexts. This resulting knowledge is essential as we engage in increasingly frequent intercultural interactions in a globalizing society.
(Culture & Cognition Lab Web Committee, September 13, 2013)