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Chapter 5

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University of Toronto St. George
Simone Walker

PSY321 CHAPTER 5: CULTURE AND COGNITION Psychologists use the term cognition to denote all the mental processes we use to transform sensory input into knowledge Attention refers to the focusing of our limited capacities of consciousness on a particular set of stimuli, more of whose features are noted and processed in more depth than is true of non-focal stimuli Sensation refers to the feelings that result from excitation of the sensory receptors (touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing) Perception refers to our initial interpretations of the sensations CULTURE AS COGNITION  Culture is generally viewed as a set of mental representations about the world o “mental programming” Hofstede o Like computer software  Priming is a method used to determine if one stimulus affects another CULTURE, ATTENTION, SENSATION, AND PERCEPTION Perception and Physical Reality  Our perception doesn’t necessarily match the physical realities of the world o Humans have blind spot in each eye—a spot w/ no sensory receptors, where the optic nerve goes through the layer of receptor cells on its way back toward the brain o Microsaccades – micro eye movements Cultural Influences on Visual Perception  Optical Illusions are perceptions that involve an apparent discrepancy b/w how an object looks and what it actually is o Often based on inappropriate assumptions about the stimulus characteristics of the object being perceived o E.g. Mueller-Lyer illusion  Carpentered world theory suggest that people (at least most Americans) as used to seeing things that are rectangular in shape and unconsciously come to expect things to have squared corners  Front-horizontal foreshortening theory suggest that we interpret vertical lines as horizontal lines extending into the distance  Symbolizing three dimensions in two theory suggest that people in Western cultures focus more on representations on paper than do people in other cultures—and in particular, spend more time learning to interpret pictures  Wagner found that the effect of the Ponzo illusion increased w/ age, but only for urban people and people who continued their schooling  Pollak and Silvar suggest that the cultural differences could be explained by racial differences in retinal pigmentation Attention  Masuda and Nisbett PSY321 o First task  Asked American and Japanese students to look at animated scene  Both recalled the focal image  Japanese remembered more of the background images o Second task  Showed them stimuli and asked if they had seen them before in the original fish scene  Japanese were much more influences by the changes in the background  Background didn’t affect the Americans  Analytical perception o Western cultures tend to engage in context-independent and analytic perceptual processes by focusing on a salient object (or person) independently from the context in which it is embedded  Holistic perception o People in East Asian cultures tend to engage in context-dependent and holistic perceptual processes by attending to the relationship b/w the object and the context in which the object is located CULTURE AND THINKING Culture and Categorization  People categorize on the basis of similarities and attach labels (words) to groups of objects perceived to have something in common  Categorization is universal Culture and Memory  Serial position effect suggest that we remember things better if they are either the first (primary effect) or last (recency effect) item in a list of things to remember  Wagner hypothesized that the primacy effect depends on rehearsal—the silent repetition of things you are trying to remember—and that this memory strategy is related to schooling  Hindsight bias refers to the process in which individuals adjust their memory for something after they find out the true outcome o E.g. when someone is asked to guess the # of jelly beans in a jar, they may say 350, when they find out later that the actual # is 647, people will often remember their original estimate to be 450, or some # closer to the true outcome (universal)  Episodic memory refers to the recollection of specific events that took place at a particular time and place in the past o European and Euro-American adults and children often exhibit greater episodic memories in the recollection of autobiographic events than Asian and Asian- Americans o Memories of generic events (e.g. going to church every Sunday) often imply social conventions and interactions w/ others, and individuals w/ self-constructs may be more motivated to attend to and remember such events Culture and Math Abilities  Asian countries have the highest % of students reaching the advanced International Benchmark, representing fluency on items involving the most complex topics and reasoning skills  Science: highest performing countries at 4 grade Singapore (36%) and Chinese Taipei (19%) at or above Benchmark PSY321  Base systems contribute to differences in math abilities  Gender stratification hypothesis suggest that gender differences are related to cultural variations in opportunity structures for girls and women  Math abilities are universal to all humans Culture and Problem Solving  Problem solving refers to the process by which we attempt to discover ways of achieving goals that do not seem readily attainable  Liberians’ ability to reason logically to solve problems depended on context Culture and Creativity  Creativity is what enables humans and only humans to create art and symphonies, explore space and the sea, and design machines to improve life o Also enables humans to create and improve on weapons of mass destruction and other terrible ideas  Creative individuals have been shown to have a high capacity for hard work, a willingness to take risks, and a high tolerance for ambiguity and disorder  Countries high on uncertainty avoidance prefer creative individuals to work through organizational norms, rules, and procedures  Countries higher on power distance preferred creative individuals to gain support from those in authority before action is taken, or to build a broad sense of support among members for new ideas  Collectivistic countries preferred creative people to seek cross-functional support for their efforts Culture and Dialectical Thinking  Dialectical thinking is the tendency to accept what seem to be contradictions in though or beliefs, contrast to positive logical determinism o Tries to find the way in which both sides of an apparent contradiction are correct, tolerated the contradiction, and tries to find mutual middle ground  Positive logical determinism tends to see contradictions as mutually exclusive categories, as either-or, yes-no, one-or-the-other types of categories  East Asians prefer dialectical thinking  Americans prefer logical determinism thinking  Naïve dialectivism is a constellation of lay beliefs about the nature of the world (rather than a cognitive style as suggested by dialectical thinki
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