Chapter 9 – Cognition and Perception
- Why is research on cognition and perception important?
Research on cognition and perception is esteemed so much because it purports to be
informing us about the most elementary and essential psychological processes.
Researchers in this field question how the human mind works—how the brain is able to
process the streams of information that people encounter as they go about our their lives.
Western vs. Eastern artists
Horizon at a lower point in French paintings than Japanese
French subject larger than a subject in Chinese portraits
Given the fundamental questions that occupy researchers of cognition and perception, it is
quite remarkable that it is in this domain that some of the clearest evidence for cross-
cultural variability appears.
Analytic and Holistic Thinking
Which of these three are least like the other two? “a dog, a carrot or a rabbit” People
typically give one of two kinds of answers. One common answer is the carrot since the
other two are animals. This is called taxonomic categorization strategy (COMMON IN
WESTERN), stimuli are grouped according to similarity of attributes. Another answer
would be the dog, since rabbits eat carrots. This is thematic (COMMON EAST ASIAN
MENTALITY) where things are grouped together because of spatial or temporal
Analytic thinking is characterized by a focus on objects and their attributes.
Holistic thinking – characterized by an orientation to the context as a whole (associative
way of thinking).
Origins of these two types of thinking are argued to have arise from the different types of
social experiences have within individualistic and collectivistic societies.
People with independent self-concepts come to understand others by focusing on their
inner attributes and attending less to relationships.
People with interdependent s elf-concepts, in contrast, tend to conceive of people in
terms of their relationships with others.
Analytic thinking evidence: Platonic perspective that the world is a collection of discrete
and unchanging objects that can be categorized by reference to a set of universal
properties. Holistic thinking was evident in ancient Chinese traditions of Taoism,
Confucianism and Buddhism. These guys provided the groundwork. There is evidence that holistic thinking characterizes people from much of the globe.
Interestingly, the same places where holistic thinking are found are also the places where
there has traditionally been little psychological research. We may well have overestimated
the pervasiveness of analytic thinking.
Nisbett focused on North Americans and East Asians but in reality other non Western
cultures share the same findings.
Attention – given a time where one’s cognitive activity is directed.
Early results from Roscharch ink blot tests revealed that these two groups of Americans
apparently s aw things quite differently. The European-Americans were more likely to
describe what they saw based on a single aspect of t he card—say, a little blotch on the
bottom that looked like a Ferrari. In contrast, the Chinese-Americans were more likely to
give “whole-card” responses, describing what they saw based on the entire image.
The results indicated that the Chinese estimates of the l ikelihood t hat t he c orrect picture
w ould appear w ere more a ccurate t han t he estimates of the Americans. Apparently,
Americans focused more on the individual objects than they did on the relations between
However, holistic thinkers would perform badly on rod and frame tasks that require
separating a scene into its component parts.
Field dependence vs. field independence – whether you can separate object from
background or not. Outgoing people tend to be field dependent. Farmers are field
dependant. Catholics and atheists more field dependant than Calvanism (whatever that is)..
- As people age their neural functions continue to be shaped by normative cultural
- People rely on different brain regions for processing visual information in scenes
Field Dependence: view objects as bound to their backgrounds (HOLISTIC THINKERS)
Field Independence: separate objects from their background fields (ANALYTIC THINKER)
STUDY OF FISH BACKGROUND:
The Japanese described the fish in relation to the background so when the background
changed, they weren’t able to describe the fish even if they were the same thing. Meaning to
say that they see the fish and background as bound to each other. Whereas the Americans
were always able to describe the fish even if the background changed or not.
OKAY GUYS BASICALLY ASIANS SUCK AT LOOKING AT THINGS SEPARATE FROM
BACKGROUND Saccades a re t he extremely quick eye movements that shift people’s gaze f rom one
fixation point to another. Ofc compared to Americans, Chinese were more systematically
scanning entire scene.
Living in a busier physical environment seems to foster the ability to attend to
a lot of information at once.
So do we actually see things differently or process things differently? No we don’t. It
depends on the culture we grew up in. We all see the same thing and process the same
thing, it’s how we identify these things that is different.
Understanding Other People’s Behaviours
Trying to understand people’s behaviours. By the way their inner characteristics is an
example of analytic thinking.
Dispositional attributions – underlying dispositions; i.e our inner attributes (Westerners
tend to explain behaviour through this.
Situational attributions – explaining behaviour through contextual variables (east Asians)
Fundamental attribution Error – tendency to ignore situational variables/ deeply
ingrained within us
Jones and Harris study - people still assumed that the person who was instructed to write a
pro-Castro essay had positive attitudes towards Castro and people who were instructed to
write a negative castro essay had negative attitudes toward castro. They attributes the
behavior of writing the essay to reflecting the essay writer’s underlying personality even
though it’s clear that the writer had no choice in what they wrote.
- Example of fundamental attribution error: they ignored the situational variables and
focused on the dispositional information
Clifford Geerz (anthropologist) suggests that fundamental attribution error is not universal
by saying that some cultures such as Balinese do not conceive of people’s behaviours in
terms of underlying dispositions but instead see them as emerging out of roles that people
One experiment tat shows the different tendencies to focus on trait is when participants
were asked to memorize a series of facial photographs that were matched with description
of behaviours. European Americans indicated underlying trait by linking photos with
words describing behaviour.
In one study, children (8, 11, and 15 years of age) and u niversity students were recruited
from I ndia a nd t he U nited S tates ( Miller, 1 984). The p articipants w ere a sked t o
describe a s ituation when someone h ad b ehaved i n either a p rosocial manner or a
deviant manner. They were then asked to explain why the person behaved this way Experiments show the 8 year-old give similar answers between cultures in terms of
fundamental attribution error. As Americans get older they focus more on disposition and
as Indians get older they focus more on situational rather than disposition.
Rule based reasoning – apply set of rules and laws to make sense of a situation
Associative reasoning – looking for evidence of events clustering together, such as a
similarity among events or of temporal among events.
FLOWER STUDY comparing rule based reasoning to associative reasoning:
European Americans based the target flowers off of a rule based reasoning. East Asians
based the target flowers off of an associative reasoning. Asian Americans fell in between
the two groups.
**East Asians take holistic approac