Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 97, issue 2 (2009) pp. 217-235
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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