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What Is the Connection between Culture and Cognition?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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The main connection between culture and cognition is that different cultures provide a framework for each member's thought processes, perceptions, beliefs, and assigned degrees of importance to various areas of daily life. One goal of studying cognition is to describe how different people view and react to the world around them. According to some theories of cognition, people form their own unique sets of behaviors based on the external stimuli in their day-to-day environments. This particular idea often relates to the processes of learning and socialization that take place in every culture. Socialization processes normally begin for each culture's members beginning nearly at their times of birth.

Many psychologists who study culture and cognition report that a given culture's values and practices have a deep impression on its members on a subconscious and even on an unconscious level. Some of their research shows a direct link between people's cognitive patterns and whether they grew up in an individualist versus a collectivist culture. People raised in a collectivist culture normally view themselves as parts of a whole, and people from an individualist culture perceive themselves as separate entities. The resulting differences are apparent in areas such as visual perception and language. Some studies show that different people read text and view images in varying directions according to the cultures in which they were educated as young children.

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Various disciplines such as anthropology and sociology also frequently involve studies of culture and cognition. Researchers who study social cognition often report that people are taught different ideas of what is socially appropriate according to their cultures. These variations usually lead to members of one culture mentally processing one certain behavior as positive while another culture may perceive the same behavior as negative. For instance, spitting on someone is considered an insult in some cultures while other cultures view the same action as a blessing to banish harmful spirits. This example is just one of many connected to intertwined culture and cognition.

The discipline of cultural cognition often relates to exactly how various cultures influence their members' values. People who grow up in a culture that values individual success will usually place more importance on individual freedoms than certain practices that may benefit an entire society. This link between culture and cognition often shapes other areas such as the laws, economic practices, and even religious traditions of a given society's accepted culture.

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