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Prog Brain Res. 2009;178:95-111. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(09)17807-X.

Culture sculpts the perceptual brain.

Author information

  • 1Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA. jogoh2@illinois.edu


Cultural differences in the way Westerners and East Asians perceive and attend to visual objects and contexts have now been shown across many behavioral studies. Westerners display more attention to objects and their features, in line with an analytic processing style, whereas East Asians attend more to contextual relationship, reflecting holistic processing. In this article, we review these behavioral differences and relate them to neuroimaging studies that show the impact of cultural differences even on ventral visual processing of objects and contexts. We additionally consider the evidence showing how extended experience within a culture via aging affects ventral visual function. We conclude that the brain findings are in agreement with the analytic/holistic dichotomy of Western and East Asian visual processing styles. Westerners engage greater object-processing activity while East Asians engage more context-processing activity in the ventral visual areas of the brain. Although such cultural imaging studies are still few, they provide important early evidence supporting the importance of cultural experiences in sculpting visual processing at the neural level.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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