Cultural Artifacts

Kevin Lewis

January 18, 2010

Do Green Products Make Us Better People?

Nina Mazar & Chen-Bo Zhong
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Consumer choices not only reflect price and quality preferences but also social and moral values as witnessed in the remarkable growth of the global market for organic and environmentally friendly products. Building on recent research on behavioral priming and moral regulation, we find that mere exposure to green products and the purchase of them lead to markedly different behavioral consequences. In line with the halo associated with green consumerism, people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green than conventional products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products as opposed to conventional products. Together, the studies show that consumption is more tightly connected to our social and ethical behaviors in directions and domains other than previously thought.


Young Muslim women on the face veil (niqab): A tool of resistance in Europe but rejected in the United States

Faegheh Shirazi & Smeeta Mishra
International Journal of Cultural Studies, January 2010, Pages 43-62

In order to understand Muslim women's views on veiling in the West, one must take into account historical and socio-political factors such as a country's colonial/national history, the nature of its immigration regime, the demographic composition of immigrant groups, and how the nation operationalizes concepts such as secularism and citizenship. While academic literature and media reports on young Muslim women in Europe indicate that wearing the niqab or face veil is often viewed as an act of rebellion or a form of personal/political/religious identity, our in-depth interviews of young Muslim women in the United States reveal a different story. While half the participants in this study wore a headscarf or hijab, not one of them said they were interested in wearing the niqab. Instead, they believed the niqab was unnecessary in the American context. However, an overwhelming majority upheld the right of a woman to wear a niqab if she wanted to do so. Two American Muslim women narrated why they gave up wearing the niqab after wearing it for a short time.


Variation in memory for body movements across cultures

Daniel Haun & Christian Rapold
Current Biology, 15 December 2009, Pages R1068-R1069

There has been considerable controversy over the existence of cognitive differences across human cultures: some claim that human cognition is essentially universal, others that it reflects cultural specificities. One domain of interest has been spatial cognition. Despite the global universality of physical space, cultures vary as to how space is coded in their language. Some, for example, do not use egocentric ‘left, right, front, back' constructions to code spatial relations, instead using allocentric notions like ‘north, south, east, west': "The spoon is north of the bowl!" Whether or not spatial cognition also varies across cultures remains a contested question. Here we investigate whether memory for movements of one's own body differs between cultures with contrastive strategies for coding spatial relations. Our results show that the ways in which we memorize movements of our own body differ in line with culture-specific preferences for how to conceive of spatial relations.


Culture as Common Sense: Perceived Consensus Versus Personal Beliefs as Mechanisms of Cultural Influence

Xi Zou, Kim-Pong Tam, Michael Morris, Sau-lai Lee, Ivy Yee-Man Lau & Chi-yue Chiu
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, October 2009, Pages 579-597

The authors propose that culture affects people through their perceptions of what is consensually believed. Whereas past research has examined whether cultural differences in social judgment are mediated by differences in individuals' personal values and beliefs, this article investigates whether they are mediated by differences in individuals' perceptions of the views of people around them. The authors propose that individuals who perceive that traditional views are culturally consensual (e.g., Chinese participants who believe that most of their fellows hold collectivistic values) will themselves behave and think in culturally typical ways. Four studies of previously well-established cultural differences found that cultural differences were mediated by participants' perceived consensus as much as by participants' personal views. This held true for cultural differences in the bases of compliance (Study 1), attributional foci (Study 2), and counterfactual thinking styles (Study 3). To tease apart the effect of consensus perception from other possibly associated individual differences, in Study 4, the authors experimentally manipulated which of 2 cultures was salient to bicultural participants and found that judgments were guided by participants' perception of the consensual view of the salient culture.


Culture, gaze and the neural processing of fear expressions

Reginald Adams, Robert Franklin, Nicholas Rule, Jonathan Freeman, Kestutis Kveraga, Nouchine Hadjikhani, Sakiko Yoshikawa & Nalini Ambady
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

The direction of others' eye gaze has important influences on how we perceive their emotional expressions. Here, we examined differences in neural activation to direct- versus averted-gaze fear faces as a function of culture of the participant (Japanese versus US Caucasian), culture of the stimulus face (Japanese versus US Caucasian), and the relation between the two. We employed a previously validated paradigm to examine differences in neural activation in response to rapidly presented direct- versus averted-fear expressions, finding clear evidence for a culturally determined role of gaze in the processing of fear. Greater neural responsivity was apparent to averted- versus direct-gaze fear in several regions related to face and emotion processing, including bilateral amygdalae, when posed on same-culture faces, whereas greater response to direct- versus averted-gaze fear was apparent in these same regions when posed on other-culture faces. We also found preliminary evidence for intercultural variation including differential responses across participants to Japanese versus US Caucasian stimuli, and to a lesser degree differences in how Japanese and US Caucasian participants responded to these stimuli. These findings reveal a meaningful role of culture in the processing of eye gaze and emotion, and highlight their interactive influences in neural processing.


Culture Modulates Eye-Movements to Visual Novelty

Joshua Goh1, Jiat Chow Tan & Denise Park
PLoS ONE, December 2009, e8238

Background: When viewing complex scenes, East Asians attend more to contexts whereas Westerners attend more to objects, reflecting cultural differences in holistic and analytic visual processing styles respectively. This eye-tracking study investigated more specific mechanisms and the robustness of these cultural biases in visual processing when salient changes in the objects and backgrounds occur in complex pictures.

Methodology/Principal Findings: Chinese Singaporean (East Asian) and Caucasian US (Western) participants passively viewed pictures containing selectively changing objects and background scenes that strongly captured participants' attention in a data-driven manner. We found that although participants from both groups responded to object changes in the pictures, there was still evidence for cultural divergence in eye-movements. The number of object fixations in the US participants was more affected by object change than in the Singapore participants. Additionally, despite the picture manipulations, US participants consistently maintained longer durations for both object and background fixations, with eye-movements that generally remained within the focal objects. In contrast, Singapore participants had shorter fixation durations with eye-movements that alternated more between objects and backgrounds.

Conclusions/Significance: The results demonstrate a robust cultural bias in visual processing even when external stimuli draw attention in an opposite manner to the cultural bias. These findings also extend previous studies by revealing more specific, but consistent, effects of culture on the different aspects of visual attention as measured by fixation duration, number of fixations, and saccades between objects and backgrounds.


Neural mechanisms of the influence of popularity on adolescent ratings of music

Gregory Berns, Monica Capra, Sara Moore & Charles Noussair
NeuroImage, 1 February 2010, Pages 2687-2696

It is well-known that social influences affect consumption decisions. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to elucidate the neural mechanisms associated with social influence with regard to a common consumer good: music. Our study population was adolescents, age 12-17. Music is a common purchase in this age group, and it is widely believed that adolescent behavior is influenced by perceptions of popularity in their reference group. Using 15-s clips of songs from, we obtained behavioral measures of preferences and neurobiological responses to the songs. The data were gathered with, and without, the overall popularity of the song revealed. Song popularity had a significant effect on the participants' likability ratings of the songs. fMRI results showed a strong correlation between the participants' rating and activity in the caudate nucleus, a region previously implicated in reward-driven actions. The tendency to change one's evaluation of a song was positively correlated with activation in the anterior insula and anterior cingulate, two regions that are associated with physiological arousal and negative affective states. Sensitivity to popularity was linked to lower activation levels in the middle temporal gyrus, suggesting a lower depth of musical semantic processing. Our results suggest that a principal mechanism whereby popularity ratings affect consumer choice is through the anxiety generated by the mismatch between one's own preferences and others'. This mismatch anxiety motivates people to switch their choices in the direction of the consensus. Our data suggest that this is a major force behind the conformity observed in music tastes in some teenagers.


Religiosity as Self-Enhancement: A Meta-Analysis of the Relation Between Socially Desirable Responding and Religiosity

Constantine Sedikides & Jochen Gebauer
Personality and Social Psychology Review, forthcoming

In a meta-analysis, the authors test the theoretical formulation that religiosity is a means for self-enhancement. The authors operationalized self-enhancement as socially desirable responding (SDR) and focused on three facets of religiosity: intrinsic, extrinsic, and religion-as-quest. Importantly, they assessed two moderators of the relation between SDR and religiosity. Macrolevel culture reflected countries that varied in degree of religiosity (from high to low: United States, Canada, United Kingdom). Micro-level culture reflected U.S. universities high (Christian) versus low (secular) on religiosity. The results were generally consistent with the theoretical formulation. Both macro-level and micro-level culture moderated the relation between SDR and religiosity: This relation was more positive in samples that placed higher value on religiosity (United States > Canada > United Kingdom; Christian universities > secular universities). The evidence suggests that religiosity is partly in the service of self-enhancement.


Economic Growth and the Separation of Church and State: The French Case

Raphaël Franck
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

This article provides a test of the secularization hypothesis, which argues that economic growth, industrialization, increased literacy, and low fertility decrease religiosity. It focuses on the elections of the secular politicians who voted in favor of the separation between Church and State in the French Parliament in 1905. If the secularization hypothesis is correct, these secular politicians should have been elected in the most developed areas of France at the turn of the twentieth century. Contrary to the predictions of the secularization hypothesis, we find that the support for secular politicians originated in the rural areas of France.


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