Cultural differences are generally explained by how people see themselves in relation to social interaction partners. While Western culture emphasizes independence, East Asian culture emphasizes interdependence. Despite this focus on social interactions, it remains elusive how people from different cultures process feedback on their own (and on others') character traits. Here, participants of either German or Chinese origin engaged in a face-to-face interaction. Consequently, they updated their self- and other-ratings of 80 character traits (e.g., polite, pedantic) after receiving feedback from their interaction partners. To exclude potential confounds, we obtained data from German and Chinese participants in Berlin [functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)] and in Beijing (behavior). We tested cultural influences on social conformity, positivity biases, and self-related neural activity. First, Chinese conformed more to social feedback than Germans (i.e., Chinese updated their trait ratings more). Second, regardless of culture, participants processed self- and other-related feedback in a positively biased way (i.e., they updated more toward desirable than toward undesirable feedback). Third, changes in self-related medial prefrontal cortex activity were greater in Germans than in Chinese during feedback processing. By investigating conformity, positivity biases, and self-related activity in relation to feedback obtained in a real-life interaction, we provide an essential step toward a unifying framework for understanding the diversity of human culture.
Korn, C. W., Fan, Y., Zhang, K., Wang, C., Han, S., & Heekeren, H. R. (2014). Cultural influences on social feedback processing of character traits. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00192