Culture differences in neural processing of faces and houses in the ventral visual cortex


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Abstract

Behavioral and eye-tracking studies on cultural differences have found that while Westerners have a bias for analytic processing and attend more to face features, East Asians are more holistic and attend more to contextual scenes. In this neuroimaging study, we hypothesized that these culturally different visual processing styles would be associated with cultural differences in the selective activity of the fusiform regions for faces, and the parahippocampal and lingual regions for contextual stimuli. East Asians and Westerners passively viewed face and house stimuli during an functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment. As expected, we observed more selectivity for faces in Westerners in the left fusiform face area (FFA) reflecting a more analytic processing style. Additionally, Westerners showed bilateral activity to faces in the FFA whereas East Asians showed more right lateralization. In contrast, no cultural differences were detected in the parahippocampal place area (PPA), although there was a trend for East Asians to show greater house selectivity than Westerners in the lingual landmark area, consistent with more holistic processing in East Asians. These findings demonstrate group biases in Westerners and East Asians that operate on perceptual processing in the brain and are consistent with previous eye-tracking data that show cultural biases to faces.

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