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Culture-sensitive neural substrates of human cognition: a transcultural neuroimaging approach, by Han and Northoff

01/08/2008


Let us take another one that has been justly described as “foundational” for the field: Shihui Han and Georg Northoff’s 2008 overview of the area, implications, and future directions of transcultural neuroimaging in relation to “culturesensitive neural substrates of human cognition.” The authors position themselves clearly from the start: “A fascinating mystery facing human beings is how the brain gives rise to the mind.” Transcultural neuroimaging emerges as a way to deal with that mystery and is considered promising insofar as it “can bridge the gap between neuroscientific investigations of supposedly cultureinvariant neural mechanisms and psychological evidence of culture-sensitive cognition” (Han and Northoff 2008, 646). Once again, then, the mind, and culture as its ultimate collective product, are just what the brain does.


The authors aptly ask whether cultural experiences modulate or determine preexisting patterns of neural activity. This is a crucial question, one common to all attempts at bridging brain and culture. But is it is relevant for understanding culture? As the authors themselves point out, even if the same brain region is “recruited” by different groups for the same task, “two cultures might have different meanings for the concepts involved in a task” (652). The significant level of analysis must therefore be that of meanings and practices.

Han and Northoff realize that the notion of culture involves complexities that cannot be studied via the usual experimental designs. They recognize, for example, that there is no such thing as a homogenous “Western” or “East Asian” culture. Research practices, however, are less nuanced. It has been remarked that cultural psychology may give the impression that “there is a very small number of cultural identities (North American vs. East or Southeast Asian) that vary principally on the dimensions of individualismcollectivism or independent-interdependent self-construal” (Cohen 2009, 194). The same applies to cultural neurosciences, whose methods and experimental designs inevitably homogenize and factorize culture. More importantly, cultural neuroscience does not take culture as its object of study but as an independent variable on which a dependent one, such as the individualist-collectivist position, rests.

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

Title and abstract of the article

Abstract

Our brains and minds are shaped by our experiences, which mainly occur in the context of the culture in which we develop and live. Although psychologists have provided abundant evidence for diversity of human cognition and behaviour across cultures, the question of whether the neural correlates of human cognition are also culture-dependent is often not considered by neuroscientists. However, recent transcultural neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that one’s cultural background can influence the neural activity that underlies both high- and low-level cognitive functions. The findings provide a novel approach by which to distinguish culture-sensitive from culture-invariant neural mechanisms of human cognition.

Find the full article for download on Research Gate, or download it directly from here:

Han, Shihui, and Georg Northoff. 2008. Culture-Sensitive Neural Substrates of Human Cognition: A Tra...

Culture-Sensitive Neural Substrates of Human Cognition: A Transcultural Neuroimaging Approach (PDF)
Shihui Han is a professor at Peking University.

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Georg Northoff is a philosopher, neuroscientist and psychiatrist, holding degrees in all three disci...

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Learn more about the authors in the following links and videos:

georgnorthoff.com/

Dr. Georg Northoff talks about the neurophilosophy in researching the brain
Shihui Han on Cognitive/Affective and Neural Obstacles to Human Symbiosis

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Published in 15/01/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

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


01/08/2012The Encultured Brain, by Greg Downey and Daniel H. LendeThe Encultured Brain, by Greg Downey and Daniel H. Lende
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