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Connecting and separating mind-sets: culture as situated cognition.

by Daphna Oyserman, Nicholas Sorensen, Rolf Reber, Sylvia Xiaohua Chen
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ()


People perceive meaningful wholes and later separate out constituent parts (D. Navon, 1977). Yet there are cross-national differences in whether a focal target or integrated whole is first perceived. Rather than construe these differences as fixed, the proposed culture-as-situated-cognition model explains these differences as due to whether a collective or individual mind-set is cued at the moment of observation. Eight studies demonstrated that when cultural mind-set and task demands are congruent, easier tasks are accomplished more quickly and more difficult or time-constrained tasks are accomplished more accurately (Study 1: Koreans, Korean Americans; Study 2: Hong Kong Chinese; Study 3: European- and Asian-heritage Americans; Study 4: Americans; Study: 5 Hong Kong Chinese; Study 6: Americans; Study 7: Norwegians; Study 8: African-, European-, and Asian-heritage Americans). Meta-analyses (d = .34) demonstrated homogeneous effects across geographic place (East-West), racial-ethnic group, task, and sensory mode-differences are cued in the moment. Contrast and separation are salient individual mind-set procedures, resulting in focus on a single target or main point. Assimilation and connection are salient collective mind-set procedures, resulting in focus on multiplicity and integration.

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