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Emanuele De Luca, David J. Kelly, Sebastien Miellet, Kay Foreman, Roberto Caldara; Social experience does not abolish cultural diversity in eye movements for faces. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):377. doi: 10.1167/9.8.377.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
A burgeoning body of literature has shown that people from Eastern and Western cultures process information and perceive the world in fundamentally different ways. Adults from Western cultures process information analytically whereas adults from Eastern cultures process information in a more holistic manner (e.g., Nisbett & Miyamoto, 2005). Importantly, rather than merely reporting cultural variances, it is claimed that culture itself may be responsible for manufacturing the observed differences.
Recently, such findings have been extended to the domain of face processing. Western Caucasian (WC) adults typically fixate the eye and mouth regions during face learning and recognition. However, Blais et al. (2008) reported a striking cultural contrast. Contrary to expectations, East Asian (EA) observers predominantly fixated the nose region during face processing tasks. Consistent with previous observations in visual perception, Blais et al. (2008) attributed the reported differences to cultural factors. However, the possibility that genetic factors might underlie the divergent strategies has not yet been ruled out. In order to explore this option, we tested a group of British Born Chinese (BBC) adults. This population is genetically Chinese, but culturally Western. If culture is truly responsible for driving differences in fixation strategies, then BBCs should fixate the eye and mouth regions.
Consistent with previous cross-cultural studies where Easterners had some experience in a Western culture, BBC observers showed an intermixed pattern of results. However, analyses performed at the individual level offered novel insights into our findings. Across the 21 adults tested, the majority displayed an ‘Eastern’ strategy, with the rest showing a ‘Western’ strategy during face learning and recognition. To further clarify these findings, questionnaires were administered to assess the cultural outlook and backgrounds of our population. The variation in observed strategies, ranging from Eastern to Western, is explained in relation to the data yielded from the culture questionnaires.
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