As others in the field, they started with the observation that whereas North Americans and Europeans tend to view the self as independent, autonomous, and separate from others, East Asians emphasize interdependence and interconnectedness. The experimental design was standard: thirteen Chinese and thirteen Western college students were scanned while asked to judge if an adjective was adequate to describe the self, the mother, and other. They were also asked (as a neutral control condition) to judge the font of the words.
The study apparently mediated between a social constructivism that downplays the role of biology in cultural and social processes and practices and a naturalistic reductionism according to which interpersonal and cultural relations arise in the brain. However, unless one holds one of the two positions and thereby engages in a form of dualism, it is hard to justify costly experiments to arrive at statements such as “culture influences the functional neuroanatomy of self-representation” or “habitual cognitive processes are accompanied by detectible [sic] parallel neural processes” (1315, 1314). The paradox is that a significant Cartesian bias persists behind the explicit emphasis on brain-culture reciprocal interactions.
Inspired by the homonymous book by Fernando Vidal and Francisco Ortega, this timespace presents the authors' genealogy of the cerebral subject and the influence of the neurological discourse in human sciences, mental health and culture.