January 22, 2008 at 5:55 am #27134
note:This is a another interesting study supporting my thesis that eastern and western spiritual practices are fundamentall different due to different brain patterning. I’ve quote research in my conferenece paper on Daoist Alchemy (see Articles page) on how left-right brain functions are switched in Japanese vs. Westerners, possibly due to influence of language.
This study confirms that Asians are more “field” or collective oriented, and westerners more individual/object oriented. It confirms it in brain functions with MRIs.
This difference is important to understand when undertaking Taoist practice. Embracing the five shen is fundamenally an “asian” approach to embracing the collective vs. exerting the will of one dominant aspect.
CULTURE FUNDAMENTALLY ALTERS THE BRAIN
By Clara Moskowitz
January 18, 2008
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.
“It’s kind of obvious if you look at ads and movies,” Gabrieli told
LiveScience. “You can tell that East Asian cultures emphasize
interdependence and the U.S. ads all say things like, ‘Be yourself, you’re
number one, pursue your goals.’ But how deep does this go? Does it really
influence the way you perceive the world in the most basic way? It’s very
striking that what seems to be a social perspective within the culture
drives all the way to perceptual judgment.”
The results of the study were published in the January issue of the journal
The scientists asked 10 Americans and 10 East Asians who had recently
arrived in the U.S. to look at pictures of lines within squares.
In some trials, subjects decided whether the lines were the same length,
regardless of the surrounding squares, requiring them to judge individual
objects independent of context. In others, participants judged whether
different sets of lines and squares were in the same proportion, regardless
of their absolute sizes, a task that requires comparing objects relative to
The fMRI revealed that Americans’ brains worked harder while making relative
judgments, because brain regions that reflect mentally demanding tasks lit
up. Conversely, East Asians activated the brain’s system for difficult jobs
while making absolute judgments. Both groups showed less activation in those
brain areas while doing tasks that researchers believe are in their cultural
“For the kind of thinking that was thought to be culturally unpreferred,
this system gets turned on,” Gabrieli said. “The harder you have to think
about something, the more it will be activated.”
The researchers were surprised to see so strong an effect, Gabrieli said,
and interested in the reasons for individual variations within a culture.
So they surveyed subjects to find out how strongly they identified with
their culture by asking questions about social attitudes, such as whether a
person is responsible for the failure of a family member.
In both groups, participants whose views were most aligned with their
culture’s values showed stronger brain effects.
Gabrieli said he is interested in testing whether brain patterns change if a
“There’s a hint that six months in a culture already changes you,” he said,
referring to psychological, rather than neurological, research. “It suggests
that there’s a lot of flexibility.”
The big divide
Scientists have long wondered about the biological root of cultural
“One question was, when people see the line and box, do they look different
all the way, starting at your retina?” Gabrieli said. “Or do you see the
same thing to start with but then your mind focuses on one dimension or
another. These data indicate that it’s at that later stage. In parts of the
brain that are involved in early vision, we didn¹t see a difference. Rather
we saw a difference in higher-processing brain areas. People from different
cultures don¹t see the world differently, but they think differently about
what they see.”
Gabireli said he does worry about unintended consequences of his research.
“The downside of these cultural studies is that one ends up stereotyping a
culture,” he said. “Are you creating big differences between people? I like
to think the more you understand different cultures, the better you
understand their perspectives.”January 22, 2008 at 12:29 pm #27135
I is interesting to see a possible switch from individuals sacraficing there individuality and happieness as to maintain status qou. To the collective suporting individual gifts as it strengthen the whole. But this wil demand great acceptance which the japanese might have to truly practice if it wishs to not see the young ones commit so much suicide. Life is individual, and I hope we try not to create to much artificial unity when we can just realize our natural connection and the benefit of impowering individuals with tools for there greater health, happieness, and openess for them to exspress there gifts.
I have been contemplating on how conscience is used by the continum or multidemisional collective that is a person to guide and stear. Like groups will often asighn a leader of the group so the can focus on there own tasks. Like the articals you posted before.
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