Right: Left:: East: West. Evidence that individuals from East Asian and South Asian cultures emphasize right hemisphere functions in comparison to Euro-American cultures

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Abstract

We present evidence that individuals from East or South Asian cultures (Japanese college students in Japan and East or South Asian born and raised college students in the USA) tend to exhibit default thinking that corresponds to right hemisphere holistic functions, as compared to Caucasian individuals from a Western culture (born and raised in the USA). In two lateralized tasks (locating the nose in a scrambled face, and global-local letter task), both Asian groups showed a greater right hemisphere bias than the Western group. In a third lateralized task, judging similarity in terms of visual form versus functional/semantic categorizations, there was not a reliable difference between the groups. On a classic, ambiguous face composed of vegetables, both Eastern groups displayed a greater right hemisphere (holistic face processing) bias than the Western group. These results support an “East - Right Hemisphere, West - Left Hemisphere” hypothesis, as originally proposed by Ornstein (1972). This hypothesis is open as to the degree to which social-cultural forces were involved in hemispheric specialization, or the opposite, or both. Our aim is to encourage a more thorough analysis of this hypothesis, suggesting both lateralization studies corresponding to documented East-West differences, and East-West studies corresponding to lateralization differences.

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