Cross-cultural Differences in Cognitive Development: Relations and Objects

Growing evidence indicates a suite of generalized differences in the attentional and cognitive processing of adults from Eastern and Western cultures. Cognition in Eastern adults is often more relational and in Western adults is more object focused. Three experiments examined whether these differences characterize the cognition of preschool children in the two cultures. In Experiment 1, 4-year-olds from the two cultures (N = 64) participated in a relational match-to-standard task in two conditions, with simple or richly detailed objects, in which a focus on individual objects may hurt performance. Rich objects, consistent with past research, strongly limited the performance of U.S. children but not Japanese children. In Experiment 2, U.S. and Japanese 4-year-olds (N = 72) participated in a visual search task that required them to find a specific object in a cluttered, but organized as a scene, visual field in which object-centric attention might be expected to aid performance and relational attentional pattern may hinder the performance because of relational structure that was poised by the scene. U.S. children outperformed Japanese children. In Experiment 3, 4-year-olds from both cultures (N = 36) participated in a visual search task that was similar to Experiment 2 but with randomly placed objects, where there should not be a difference between the performance of two cultures because the relational structure that may be posed by the scene is eliminated. This double-dissociation is discussed in terms of implications for different developmental trajectories, with different developmental subtasks in the two cultures.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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