Is Your Brain East or West?

It's common knowledge that people from different culture act differently, but according to Takahiko Masuda of the University of Alberta, they think differently as well. For example, here's how Westerners and Asians interpret the two pictures above:

“North Americans try to identify the single important thing that is key to making a decision,” explains Dr. Takahiko Masuda, the study’s author, over the phone from his office at the University of Alberta. “In East Asia they really care about the context.”

He studied the eye movement of Americans and Japanese when analyzing a picture of a group of cartoon people. When asked to interpret the emotion of the person in the center, the Japanese looked at the person for about one second before moving on to the people in the background. They needed to know how the group was feeling before understanding the emotion of the individual.

The Americans (and Canadians in subsequent studies) focused 95% of their attention on the person in the center. Only 5% of their attention was focused on the background, and this, Dr. Masuda points out, didn’t influence their interpretation of the central figure’s emotion. For North Americans the foreground is all-important.

Link - via Holy Kaw!


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This could have something to do with America generally being an individualist culture where the focus is on the individual, and Japan generally being a collectivist culture where the focus is more often on the group.

Perhaps people from individualist cultures are predisposed to identify more with the person in the middle and so pay less attention to the group, and people from collectivist cultures are pre-disposed to identify with the group, causing them to spend more time focusing on the people in the background even when asked to focus only on the person in the middle.

Apologies for the run-on sentences :P
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To be honest, I completely saw the boy in the center. I didn't even realize how sad the others were (in the right photo).

I'm Asian. Raised in NY and CA.
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I am white, of English, Scots and Irish descent.

I have a particular form of dyslexia (it's an umbrella term) that means my eyes never rest on a single point, this bit of research means that I have Asian eyes, not dyslexia!

I particularly noticed the upset looking 'black' guy in the background.

With my super-duper tinted dyslexia glasses I noticed the foreground.

Interesting, but a fatally flawed bit of research. They probably need to try putting on tinted glasses like I did, before they make any grand conclusions
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@Ted

Looks like you and I were thinking along the same lines. I looked at the folks in the background, too (TN born and raised, mind) and came to similar conclusions.
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Haha, Superfly. In the first, he looks happy, and in the second, satisfied. Can someone reasonably explain to me what the emotion of the people in the background has to do with #2? If it's the theory of mind we're talking about, wherein a person thinks about what another person might be thinking or feeling, then you should also consider that #2 may not have seen the faces of the people behind him, or that he has no idea they're even there. Given that, a whole range of emotions is possible and the conclusion you draw, if not simple and general, must be drawn from personal experience.
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