The influence of culture: holistic versus analytic perception

There is recent evidence that perceptual processes are influenced by culture. Westerners tend to engage in context-independent and analytic perceptual processes by focusing on a salient object independently of its context, whereas Asians tend to engage in context-dependent and holistic perceptual processes by attending to the relationship between the object and the context in which the object is located. Recent research has explored mechanisms underlying such cultural differences, which indicate that participating in different social practices leads to both chronic as well as temporary shifts in perception. These findings establish a dynamic relationship between the cultural context and perceptual processes. We suggest that perception can no longer be regarded as consisting of processes that are universal across all people at all times.

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Read also: The effect of Culture on Perception and Cognition: A conceptual framework

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The evolutionary origins of human cultural capacities and their implications for understanding human behavior

Humans are unique in their range of environments, and the nature and diversity of their behavioral adaptations. While a variety of local genetic adaptations exist within our species, it seems certain that the same basic genetic endowment produces arctic foraging, tropical horticulture, and desert pastoralism—a constellation that represents a greater range of subsistence behavior than the rest of the Primate Order combined. The behavioral adaptations that explain the immense success of our species are cultural in the sense that they are transmitted among individuals by social learning and have accumulated over generations. Understanding how and when such culturally-evolved adaptations arise requires understanding both the evolution of the psychological mechanisms which underlie human social learning and the evolutionary (population) dynamics of cultural systems.

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Posted in Cultural capacities, Evolution | Tagged ,

Interculturalism or multiculturalism?

This essay discusses the difference between the concepts of multiculturalism and interculturalism, both concepts which are currently on the Canadian scene. It argues that the difference between the two is not so much a matter of the concrete policies, but concerns rather the story that we tell about where we are coming from and where we are going. In some ways, we could argue that interculturalism is more suitable for certain European countries.

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Intercultural Communication, Identity, and Social Movements in the Digital Age

This book examines the complex and multidimensional relationship between culture and social media, and its specific impact on issues of identity and social movements, in a globalized world. Contemporary cyberculture involves communication among people who are culturally, nationally, and linguistically similar or radically different. Social media becomes a space for mediated cultural information transfer which can either facilitate a vibrant public sphere or create cultural and social cleavages. Contributors of the book come from diverse cultural backgrounds to provide a comprehensive analysis of how these social media exchanges allow members of traditionally oppressed groups to find their voices, cultivate communities, and construct their cultural identities in multiple ways. This book will be of great relevance to scholars and students working in the field of media and new media studies, intercultural communication, especially critical intercultural communication, and academics studying social identity and social movements.

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An evolutionary life history explanation of sexism and gender inequality

Predisposed to differences in parental investment, men and women are expected to enact different reproduction-oriented, accelerated life-history strategies when facing high extrinsic risks or resource insecurity. Sexual selection processes would strengthen the sex differences in support of such accelerated life-history strategy, causing women to divert more time and energy to reproductive activities and depend more on men’s economic provisioning and therefore enforcing sexist attitudes and gender inequality. This paper provides empirical support for this life-history explanation of sexism based on data from the World Values Survey and four United Nations sources. The results generally support our explanation in the following manners: (1) Societal-level extrinsic risks (worries over intergroup violence) were associated with higher sexism. (2) Men were more sexist, and the association between individual-level resource insecurity and sexism was more moderate in countries and regions with greater society-level extrinsic risks. (3) Societal-level extrinsic risks (adult mortality) and resource availability were associated with higher and lower gender inequality, respectively, through the mediating effects of accelerated life-history strategies, indicated by adolescent birth rates and total fertility.

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Posted in Evolution, Gender | Tagged ,

The first hominin feet

New research suggests that groups of ~130 modern humans at minimum undertook planned expeditions to colonize Sahul via a northern route. However, the necessity of more evidence to test this model reflects a need for change in the way we investigate the population history of this region.

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Control of Fire by Middle Palaeolithic Hominins

The use of fire played an important role in the social and technological development of the genus Homo. Most archaeologists agree that this was a multi-stage process, beginning with the exploitation of natural fires and ending with the ability to create fire from scratch. Some have argued that in the Middle Palaeolithic (MP) hominin fire use was limited by the availability of fire in the landscape. Here, we present a record of the abundance of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), organic compounds that are produced during the combustion of organic material, from Lusakert Cave, a MP site in Armenia. We find no correlation between the abundance of light PAHs (3–4 rings), which are a major component of wildfire PAH emissions and are shown to disperse widely during fire events, and heavy PAHs (5–6 rings), which are a major component of particulate emissions of burned wood. Instead, we find heavy PAHs correlate with MP artifact density at the site. Given that hPAH abundance correlates with occupation intensity rather than lPAH abundance, we argue that MP hominins were able to control fire and utilize it regardless of the variability of fires in the environment. Together with other studies on MP fire use, these results suggest that the ability of hominins to manipulate fire independent of exploitation of wildfires was spatially variable in the MP and may have developed multiple times in the genus Homo.

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The homeland of modern humans

A study has concluded that the earliest ancestors of anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) emerged in a southern African ‘homeland’ and thrived there for 70 thousand years. The breakthrough findings are published in the prestigious journal Nature today. The authors propose that changes in Africa’s climate triggered the first human explorations, which initiated the development of humans’ genetic, ethnic and cultural diversity. This study provides a window into the first 100 thousand years of modern humans’ history.

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Family Habitus as the Cultural Context for Childhood

The article is based on a longitudinal qualitative study carried out by the author on children and their families in two areas of Belgrade (Serbia) in 1993-4 and 2000. Its goal is to provide an insight into how everyday life is structured and constructed for children by their family habitus. There are significant distinctions in how families from different social strata use their resources and thereby provide different cultural contexts for children. The main conclusion is that family habitus has a strong influence on allocation, distribution and the use of family resources and thereby structures the everyday life of children. At the same time, it activates different kinds of capital for (and by) children and thereby constructs different childhood practices.

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Posted in Children, Cultural capital, Family | Tagged , ,

Exploring the Development of Cultural Identities in Immigrant Transitions

This paper examines the processes by which cultural identities develop through the use of symbolic resources (Zittoun, 2006). The notion of symbolic resources provides a framework that enables one to consider developmental transitions between practices and between historical times. For Portuguese students, these transitions initially involved a rupture, a loss of social resources and linguistic resources, which resulted in cultural awareness. This cultural awareness led to alterations in the positioning of their cultural selves, either by themselves personally or by others. Social resources mediated access to new symbolic resources, and this included experiencing the ‘other’ as constructive and meaningful to the self. This ‘other’ became symbolic and thus the physical presence of that person is not necessarily needed. We argue that in order to comprehend cultural identity development, the notion of symbolic resources can be extended to include the social resource as that which is ‘symbolic’.

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