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The Impact of Culture on Perception and Face Processing During Development

  • Start date: 01 January 2009
  • End date: 31 December 2009

During the past 50 years, psychologists have concentrated on what they presume to be universal aspects of human cognition. However, this approach marginalises how socio-cultural factors may influence these processes. An emerging body of literature has shown that people from Eastern (eg China & Japan) and Western (eg Europe & North America) cultures perceive the world and process information in fundamentally different ways. Such studies have revealed that people from Western Cultures process information analytically by focusing on salient objects and using categorical rules when organising their environment. In contrast, people from Eastern cultures process information in a more holistic manner, focusing on relationships and perceptual similarities among objects.

Somewhat surprisingly, there is a scarcity of developmental studies examining when the analytical and holistic processing styles observed in adults emerge during ontogeny. If culture is integral for creating perceptual variances, then testing across age groups will provide insights regarding when cultural diversity emerges. This research project will use a range of perceptual tasks, similar to those previously used with adults, to address this question. Furthermore, the researchers will investigate whether differences extend to face processing as has recently been reported in adults, by testing children with recognition and classification tasks.