02 September 2005

Visual thinking: How culture influences perception

XPLANE is known as the visual thinking company. Sometimes people ask me what we mean by visual thinking. One answer is that seeing and thinking are difficult to separate: The mind works with the eyes in mysterious ways to interpret the world. Here's good example of how that works: a recent study about how your cultural background may influence the way you see the world.

Wired News: In Asia, the Eyes Have It: "Kyle R. Cave of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst commented: 'These results are particularly striking because they show that these cultural differences extend to low level perceptual processes such as how we control our eyes. They suggest that the way that we see and explore the world literally depends on where we come from.'"

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Sydney said...

Ok, I read the article referenced in your comment, and its interesting but I think the causative factors may not be that to which the writer attributed it. Or at least not solely to that.

In China, for several decades, there was a big brother society where every nuance of interaction with someone else had to be closely monitored and measured.

One had to worry about whether one was misperceived by a neighbor, workmate or anyone else, lest a bad report be generated to "big brother," (someone in the communist hierarchy. This was something people lived with day in and day out. I think this would be a far more likely reason for the Chinese to be overly concerned with social interactions.

In the same manner, I think you'll find family structures set up in this fashion in the U.S. where people would respond the same way because they've been conditioned to have to worry an inordinate amount about how they are being perceived by others in order to maintain a status quo.

Unknown said...

Great point and I agree. Still, the net result is the same and the practical aspects are what interest me the most, i.e., be aware that our perceptual filters necessarily bias information before it hits our brains.

This is one of the reasons that eyewitnesses are among the least reliable forms of evidence, even though they are often the most convincing and believable.

Step said...

I also read this article. Very fascinating - I found it to be a good reminder of how very different we can be from each other. This is why clear communication is essential, yet not enough.

Someone told me once in relation to grammar "be gracious about others' grammar or spelling, but disciplined about your own." This same principle can be applied to much more than just grammar, of course.