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Neural basis of individualistic and collectivistic views of the self, by Chiao et al.

01/01/2009 (Aprox)


Let us take a frequently quoted article in the field, published in 2009 in Human Brain Mapping and entitled “Neural Basis of Individualistic and Collectivistic Views of the Self.” Its goal was to understand how individualism and collectivism “modulate neural representations underlying social cognition” (Chiao et al. 2009, 2813).


Such studies of the neural “bases” of individualism and collectivism are characteristic of the neurodisciplines in at least two ways. First, they illustrate a characteristic slippage between the establishment of statistical correlations (here, with culture as predictor) and the identification of anatomo-functional “bases” or “underpinnings.” Second, the outcomes that could matter are predictable without neuroscience or neuroimaging. The authors of “Neural Basis of Individualistic and Collectivistic Views of the Self” point to “an intriguing aspect” of their findings, namely that participants’ cultural values (individualism or collectivism) rather than cultural affiliation (being white American or native Japanese) “modulated” neural response during self-judgments (Chiao et al. 2009, 2819).

But in the Western and East Asian contexts from which the study drew its subjects, people adjust to various environmental demands, so that culture, as defined by ethnic or national affiliation, cannot be expected always to match individual behavior. Its findings are therefore far from “intriguing.” The main thing a study such as the one we just summarized does is to convey the assumption that culture is based on the brain and the belief that a phenomenon becomes more real or objective by virtue of having a neural correlate. Unless these assumptions are made, there is no need for neuroscience to apprehend the “dynamic nature of cultural values across individuals and cultural groups” (2819).

Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

The file for the full article, originally published in Human Brain Mapping, is below. 

Neural Basis of Individualistic and Collectivistic Views of the Self (PDF)
The first author of the article, Joan Chiao, phD, is a professor at Northwestern University.

Interview with Joan Chiao at the Association for Psychological Science

Your Brain on Culture, an article at the American Psychological Association that features Joan Chiao


In the video below, you can learn more about what are individualistic and collectivistic cultures. The point of the article published by Chiao et al. in 2009 was to attempt to demonstrate how these different cultural viewpoints can shape neural activity. 

Cultural Intelligence: What is Collectivism? Individualist Culture vs Collectivist Culture

You can also watch these lectures by Joan Chiao:

Cultural Neuroscience and the Collective Good
The Science of Compassion: Origins, Measures, and Interventions - Joan Chiao, Ph.D. (skip to 225s)

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Published in 14/01/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

All events in the topic Chap. 2: The Neurodisciplines of Culture:


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01/01/2009 (Aprox)01/01/2013 (Aprox)Special Issues on Cultural Neuroscience
01/03/2012 (Aprox)01/05/2012 (Aprox)Special Issues on NeuroanthropologySpecial Issues on Neuroanthropology
01/01/2007 (Aprox)First appearance of the term cultural neuroscienceFirst appearance of the term cultural neuroscience
01/01/1992 (Aprox)Early use of the term social neuroscience
29/12/2004Social Neuroscience, by John T. Cacioppo and Gary BerntsonSocial Neuroscience, by John T. Cacioppo and Gary Berntson
01/01/2006 (Aprox)Launch of the journal Social Neuroscience
01/01/2008 (Aprox)Foundation of the Social and Affective Neuroscience SocietyFoundation of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society
20/01/2010Foundation of the Society for Social NeuroscienceFoundation of the Society for Social Neuroscience
01/01/2013 (Aprox)Foundation of the journal Culture & Brain
01/01/1991 (Aprox)Thinking Through Cultures, by Richard ShwederThinking Through Cultures, by Richard Shweder
01/01/2009 (Aprox)Neural basis of individualistic and collectivistic views of the self, by Chiao et al.Neural basis of individualistic and collectivistic views of the self, by Chiao et al.
23/08/2008The first Ph.D. in NeuroanthropologyThe first Ph.D. in Neuroanthropology
01/01/2015 (Aprox)Cultural Neuroscience: Connecting Culture, Brain, and Genes, by Kitayama and HuffCultural Neuroscience: Connecting Culture, Brain, and Genes, by Kitayama and Huff
01/01/1871 (Aprox)Primitive Culture, by Edward Burnett TylorPrimitive Culture, by Edward Burnett Tylor
01/01/1985 (Aprox)Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, by Raymond WilliamsKeywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, by Raymond Williams
01/01/1928 (Aprox)Coming of Age in Samoa, by Margaret MeadComing of Age in Samoa, by Margaret Mead
01/06/2006Launch of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective NeuroscienceLaunch of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
01/01/1997 (Aprox)Appearance of the term neuroanthropology in the Dictionary of AnthropologyAppearance of the term neuroanthropology in the Dictionary of Anthropology
01/01/2012 (Aprox)Neuroanthropology vs. Cultural Neuroscience
01/01/2007 (Aprox)Neural Basis of Cultural Influence on Self-Representation, by Zhu et al.
01/01/2003 (Aprox)01/01/2015 (Aprox)Topics researched in cultural neuroscienceTopics researched in cultural neuroscience