Culture is shaped by the different rules that exist in human societies and affects the social behaviour of people (Macionis et al, 2011). For example, Western culture emphasizes autonomy, independence and uniqueness, while Asian culture emphasizes teamwork connection, harmony and compliance (Varnum et al., 2010). The statements above are depicted in the constructs of individualism and collectivism (Senzaki, Masuda and Ishii, 2014). More specifically, individualist cultures highlight the needs of the individual concerning the needs of the group as a whole (Triandi, 1995). Members of individualistic cultures are considered independent and autonomous. The attitudes and preferences of people identify their social behaviour, so, the cultures of North America and Western Europe tend to be individualistic (Miyamoto, et al., 2006). On the other hand, in collectivist cultures, the needs and goals of the group as a whole are highlighted over the needs and desires of each individual. In these cultures, the interface between people and relationships with other members of the team play a central role in the identity of each individual (Triandi, 1995; Hofstede, 2001). Examples of cultures that tend to be more collectivist are the cultures of Asia, Central America and Africa (Miyamoto, et al., 2006).
Many studies compared members of interdependent and collectivist East Asian cultures with an independent and individualist European American cultures into picture perception (Kitayama and Uskul, 2011; Nisbett and Masuda, 2003; Nisbett and Miyamoto, 2005). These showed that East Asians are more likely to attend to the perceptual field as a whole and to perceive relationships between a salient object and background than European Americans who are more likely to attend the salient object (Nisbett & Masuda, 2003). Senzaki, Masuda and Ishii (2014) demonstrated the existence of culturally unique patterns of attention, focusing on cultural differences that occur when participants observed an image and then described the image. According to cultural psychologists in a given society, narratives and practices historically inform a set of meaning systems, this is referred to as a worldview. Also, a culturally specific thinking style develops based on such culturally defined worldviews (Nisbett & Masuda, 2003). For example, North Americans’ patterns of attention are influenced by their unique social and historical background. The emphasis on the identification of each object’s stable properties, which is independent of context is the characteristic of this type of attention (Senzaki, Masuda and Ishii 2014). On the other hand, East Asians’ patterns of attention, prioritize a holistic understanding of the complexity and interrelatedness among objects, emphasizing context rather than objects’ properties. This happens because influenced by ancient Chinese meaning systems ( Cromer, 1993; Senzaki, Masuda and Ishii 2014). European Canadian students and Japanese students took part and were asked to observe vignettes of underwater scenes and then to describe what they had perceived. Results found that while using an eye tracker that records the position of the eyes and the movements they make, both groups observed the salient object similarly. However, when testing the narrative, the results highlighted cultural differences in patterns of attention. This study further supports Chun and Wolfe’s (2001) assertion that visual experiences are specific to contextual constructs and an individual’s attention. According to Chua, Boland & Nisbett (2005), European and Chinese students watched some pictures. The characteristic of these images was that they contained animals or vehicles in the foreground. The result was that the European American students would observe the focal object more quickly. On the other hand, Chinese students focused on the background first. It is now widely accepted that there is a difference in the mode of processing information between people from different cultures, with East Asians being more holistic, and Westerners being more analytic (Kitayama and Uskul, 2011; Nisbett and Masuda, 2003; Nisbett and Miyamoto, 2005).
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