June 15, 2008

New Research Shows How Culture Influences Brain Function

As mainstream science begins taking seriously the cultural context of bodymind development and functioning, we may see 'a coming together' of more flexible and pluralistic methodologies (epistemic practices) - accompanied by more integrative discussions about the 'constructive' nature and limits of human knowledge and cognition.

From Science Daily:
People from different cultures use their brains differently to solve the same visual perceptual tasks, MIT researchers and colleagues report in the first brain imaging study of its kind. Psychological research has established that American culture, which values the individual, emphasizes the independence of objects from their contexts, while East Asian societies emphasize the collective and the contextual interdependence of objects. Behavioral studies have shown that these cultural differences can influence memory and even perception. But are they reflected in brain activity patterns?

Read More: Here
Often, scientific paradigms must create the conditions for their own transformation before they take seriously the claims of non-scientific thinking.

Here are the conclusions of the research mentioned above:
"We were surprised at the magnitude of the difference between the two cultural groups, and also at how widespread the engagement of the brain's attention system became when making judgments outside the cultural comfort zone," says one researcher.

How do these differences come about? "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."
The researchers went on to show that the effect was greater in those individuals who identified more closely with their culture. Within both groups, stronger identification with their respective cultures was associated with a stronger culture-specific pattern of brain-activation.

These findings help elucidating how individual psychobiology intra-acts and interacts with our linguistic heritages, semantic repertoires (memes), symbolic environments (culture) to generate specific types of decision-making and behavior. [cf. Spiral Dynamics Integral]

ABOVE IMAGE: Brain activity in East Asians and Americans as they make relative and absolute judgments. The arrows point to brain regions involved in attention that are engaged by more demanding tasks. Americans show more activity during relative judgments than absolute judgments, presumably because the former task is less familiar and hence more demanding for them. East Asians show the opposite pattern. (Credit: Image courtesy Trey Hedden)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey all,

as a side note: This type of research helps validate the relationship (simultaneous tetra-interacting) of the Lower-Left Quadrant (culture) and the Upper-Right Quadrant (brain and behavior) in Ken Wilber's Integral Model...

Kimberly.

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