Culture, Mind, and the Brain: Current Evidence and Future Directions

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  • PS62CH16-Kitayama ARI 10 November 2010 7:52

    Culture, Mind, and the Brain:Current Evidence andFuture DirectionsShinobu Kitayama1 and Ayse K. Uskul21Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109;email: kitayama@umich.edu2Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ United Kingdom;email: auskul@essex.ac.uk

    Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2011. 62:41949

    The Annual Review of Psychology is online atpsych.annualreviews.org

    This articles doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-120709-145357

    Copyright c 2011 by Annual Reviews.All rights reserved

    0066-4308/11/0110-0419$20.00

    Key Words

    neuro-culture interaction, cultural values and practices,independence/interdependence, individualism/collectivism,neuro-plasticity, gene-culture interaction

    Abstract

    Current research on culture focuses on independence and interdepen-dence and documents numerous East-West psychological differences,with an increasing emphasis placed on cognitive mediating mechanisms.Lost in this literature is a time-honored idea of culture as a collectiveprocess composed of cross-generationally transmitted values and associ-ated behavioral patterns (i.e., practices). A new model of neuro-cultureinteraction proposed here addresses this conceptual gap by hypothe-sizing that the brain serves as a crucial site that accumulates effectsof cultural experience, insofar as neural connectivity is likely modifiedthrough sustained engagement in cultural practices. Thus, culture isembrained, and moreover, this process requires no cognitive media-tion. The model is supported in a review of empirical evidence regarding(a) collective-level factors involved in both production and adoption ofcultural values and practices and (b) neural changes that result from en-gagement in cultural practices. Future directions of research on culture,mind, and the brain are discussed.

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    Independence versusinterdependence:social orientations thatemphasize eachindividualsdistinctness,uniqueness, andseparation from others(e.g., self-promotion,self-expression, andself-sustenance) versuseach individualsembeddedness andconnectedness withothers (e.g., socialharmony andcoordination,relational attachment,and social duties),respectively

    Contents

    INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 420INTERACTION BETWEEN

    CULTURE AND THE BRAIN . . . 422A Model of Neuro-Culture

    Interaction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 422Two Important Questions . . . . . . . . . . 425

    COLLECTIVE-LEVEL REALITYOF CULTURE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 425Production and Adoption Processes

    in Cultural Change . . . . . . . . . . . . . 425Production of Independent and

    Interdependent Values andPractices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 426

    Adoption Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 429Gene Culture Interaction? . . . . . . 431CULTURAL SHAPING

    OF THE BRAIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 432Available Evidence on Culture

    and Brain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 433Individual Differences in Neural

    Versus Behavioral Responses . . . . 438CONCLUSIONS AND

    FUTURE DIRECTIONS . . . . . . . . . 440

    INTRODUCTION

    The history of the study of culture in psy-chology can be traced back at least to thevery early days of empirical psychology (seeCole 1996, Jahoda 1993). As a modern dis-cipline, however, cultural psychology was re-discovered and reborn around the year 1990.Jerome Bruner (1990) emphasized canonicalcultural scripts as a source of meanings thatare deeply ingrained in every human action.Further, Richard Shweder (1991) brought to-gether several strands of thought related to theinterface of culture and the mind and mem-orably observed that culture and the psychemake each other up. Around the same time,the field also witnessed some highly influen-tial reviews of empirical evidence for culturalinfluences on human psychology (Markus &Kitayama 1991, Triandis 1989). These reviews

    demonstrated substantial cross-cultural varia-tion in psychological processes, thereby show-casing the possibility that many psychologicalprocesses might be linked systematically, andmuch more closely than had ever before beenimagined, to certain aspects of socio-culturalcontexts (Campbell 1975).

    As seen in several Annual Review of Psychologyarticles on culture and psychology publishedsince the year 1990 (see, e.g., Gelfand et al.2007a, Heine & Buchtel 2009 for the mostrecent reviews), considerable progress has beenmade in the past two decades. Much of this workinitially focused on systematic comparisonsbetween Western cultures (as exemplified byNorth American cultures) and Eastern cultures(as exemplified by East Asian cultures) (e.g.,Kitayama et al. 2006a, Markus & Kitayama1991, Nisbett et al. 2001). Unlike its predeces-sors that used surveys as the primary instrument(e.g., Hofstede 1980), this new work reliedmuch more heavily on experimental methodsand suggested that some fundamental aspects ofbasic psychological processes such as cognition,emotion, and motivation can be systematicallyinfluenced by culture. Although this work wasguided by the general hypothesis that socialorientation of independence versus interde-pendence or individualism versus collectivismis a key dimension underlying the culturalvariation (Markus & Kitayama 1991, Triandis1989), researchers have also examined alter-native dimensions including honor (Nisbett& Cohen 1996), tightness (Gelfand et al.2007b), religiosity (Cohen & Rozin 2001), andhierarchy, (Shavitt et al. 2010) among others.

    More recently, the field has become increas-ingly more diverse in empirical content andmore mature in theoretical orientation. Thischange is evident in a greater focus on mech-anisms of cultural influence (Lehman et al.2004, Schaller & Crandall 2004). A number ofresearchers have focused on cognitive mech-anisms that mediate cultural influences withingenious use of priming techniques. A situ-ated cognition approach of Oyserman and col-leagues (e.g., Oyserman & Lee 2008) conceptu-alizes culture as a bundle of cues that effectively

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    activate independent or interdependent socialorientations; whereas a dynamic constructivistapproach of Hong and colleagues (e.g., Honget al. 2000) hypothesizes that cultural knowl-edge becomes highly accessible and, as such,most likely to be brought to bear on social judg-ment and behavior when people have higherneeds for cognitive closure. Although different,these approaches share the assumption that cul-ture influences social judgment and behavior byactivating relevant cognitive representations,such as independence and interdependence.

    Important as these new developmentsclearly are, however, cognition might not be theonly place where underlying mechanisms canbe fruitfully sought. Some other researchershave remained true to an earlier insight of cul-ture as fundamentally collective (e.g., Cohen1998, Kitayama et al. 1997, Markus & Kitayama2004). As noted by some founding parents ofthe research on culture (Kroeber & Kluckhohn1952, Shweder & Bourne 1984), culture may bedefined best at macro, ecological, and societallevels in terms of values (general goal states) andpractices (behavioral routines often designedto achieve the values) that are collectively dis-tributed and, to some important extent, shared.These ideas and practices vary as a function ofecology, economy, and other social structuralfactors. These researchers have sought to gobeyond the East-West paradigm by looking ateffects of some macrolevel variables includingregions (Varnum et al. 2010), subsistence sys-tems (Uskul et al. 2008), social class (Snibbe& Markus 2005), residential mobility (Oishi2010), and settlement (Kitayama et al. 2006b).Major theoretical efforts have been devotedto the understanding of production and dis-semination of cultural ideas and practices (e.g.,Kitayama et al. 2010, Richerson & Boyd 2005,Schaller & Crandall 2004, Sperber 1996). Muchof this work can be united by its commitmentto the hypothesis that it is behaviors and sharedsocial representations in a collective, social con-text, not cognitive representations in the headper se, that ultimately matter most in under-standing culture.

    Individualism versuscollectivism: culturalsyndromes thatemphasizeindependence versusinterdependence,respectively

    Cultural tasks:culturally prescribedmeans to achievecultural mandates suchas independence (e.g.,expressing unique self )and interdependence(e.g., being sensitive toothers feelings)

    It might strike one as paradoxical to statethat the commitment to the collective levelreality of culture has recently begun high-lighting the brain as a crucial site of culturalinfluence. After all, the brain is a biologicalentity that would seem much deeper thancognition and, in that sense, diametrically op-posite to the collective culture as research fo