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Culture Affects How Brains Operate
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January 20, 2008, 02:25 AM
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We already know that foreign cultures really are different from our own. Now research has revealed that those differences actually affect brain function.
It`s no secret culture influences your food preferences and taste in music. But now scientists say it impacts the hard-wiring of your brain.

New research shows that people from different cultures use their brains differently to solve basic perceptual tasks.

Neuroscientists Trey Hedden and John Gabrieli of MIT`s McGovern Institute for Brain Research asked Americans and East Asians to solve basic shape puzzles while in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. They found that both groups could successfully complete the tasks, but American brains had to work harder at relative judgments, while East Asian brains found absolute judgments more challenging.

Previous psychology research has shown that American culture focuses on the individual and values independence, while East Asian culture is more community-focused and emphasizes seeing people and objects in context. This study provides the first neurological evidence that these cultural differences extend to brain activity patterns. [Culture Fundamentally Alters the Brain, LiveScience.com, Jan 18, 2008]

For more details (including diagrams of brain scans), see Culture influences brain function, brain imaging shows (MIT McGovern Institute, Jan 11, 2008):
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.�
Fascinating stuff.