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Michelle J. Dusko, Emily S. Cramer, Ronald A. Rensink; Dependence of Perceptual Style on Culture. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):1153. doi: 10.1167/12.9.1153.
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East Asians appear to have a more holistic mode of visual memory than Westerners, being worse at recognizing objects presented in novel contexts (Chua, Boland & Nisbett, 2005), but better at recalling contextual elements of scenes (Masuda & Nisbett, 2001). There are also differences in visual search: Westerners show an asymmetry for targets defined by length (search for a long line among short is faster than short among long), whereas East Asians do not (Saiki, submitted).
To investigate the origin of these effects, we tested East Asians who had immigrated to Canada. Two tasks were used. One was a memory task which examined the effect of novel context. The other was a search task: a long line among short, as well as short among long. Observers completed a questionnaire (the Vancouver Index of Acculturation, or VIA), modified to assess their affiliation to North American and their heritage culture.
Search results replicated those of previous studies: no significant asymmetry in East Asians who had just arrived, but a strong one in Westerners. Immigrants who had lived in Canada for over two years also showed asymmetry, with no significant difference in degree of asymmetry between them and Westerners. Degree of asymmetry also showed some relationship with VIA score. Interestingly, when long-time immigrants were tested using their native language, search asymmetry disappeared. Meanwhile, the degree of context-dependence on the memory task did not depend on length of time in Canada.
These results indicate that cultural factors can affect perceptual style; these may reflect differences in visual environment. They also indicate that adapting to new cultures can result in new perceptual styles, even in adults. However, the old style remains available for use.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012
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