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Cognitive Neuroscience Meets Culture

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This is a paper i wrote for the Education without Borders 2009 Conference in Dubai, U.A.E..

This is a paper i wrote for the Education without Borders 2009 Conference in Dubai, U.A.E..

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  • 1. Cognitive Neuroscience Meets Culture E-xchange: Cultural Exchange for Tolerance, Understanding and Peace Humayun Khan Ryerson University, Canada e-mail: khan.humayun5@gmail.comAbstract – Based on the most recent research on the brain, much has been revealed through the riveting field ofneuroscience. This paper will attempt to add to and explain the tie between culture and our brains and how eachaffects the other’s functioning. In hopes of shedding light on how different cultures pertain to differentneurological functions, the paper hopes to educate and explain the rationality behind the development of westerncultures and that of eastern cultures and how in essence one is really longing and hoping for the characteristics ofthe other in creating a reality which is a more balanced point of view. Much like how within each human beingthere are two hemispheres responsible for different functions, yet perception is a blend of the two polar points ofview made into a balanced reality. Through a thorough analysis of both the fields of neurology andanthropology, an understanding will emerge as to how human beings are virtually the sum total of theirperceptual fields and that we all start from a common place once conceived and brought into the world. Thepurpose will be to instil empathy and create a tolerance which allows for adaptability and changeIntroduction I was first introduced to the concept of Cognitive Neuroscience one summer when Idecided to pick up a new hobby. I went to the book store to purchase a book from which Icould teach myself, the sales representative recommended “Drawing on the Right-Side of theBrian” by Betty Edwards. Going through the entire book, with its exercises and insights, I wassuddenly able to draw quite proficiently and effectively. The process was spectacular, Isuddenly become aware that in order to draw I had to turn off my left-brain which didn’tenjoy doing such activities and simply ‘step to the right’ of my perception. (Edwards, 1999)Ibecame aware of how the left-brain objectifies and classifies objects by creating symbols torepresent them rather than perceiving them as they are, I also became aware that it wasobsessed with the categorization of my moments and its attention to time was sometime thathad to be put aside if any artistic endeavour was to be pursued. All I had to do was to gobeyond what my left-brain “thought” the object being perceived was and see it for what itactually was, how it actually was, where it actually was, and with no clock in sight suddenlyeverything became a constant flow of ability. (Edwards, 1999) Next I took up a job as a Research Assistant working for a marketing processorspecializing in the area of decision making. I spent four months getting familiar with thesubstantial amount of research which considered why we humans did what we did? Why wewere so often irrational? And where this discrepancy originated from? There was a cognitive-affective model, there was a rational-emotional model, and there was even an analytic-holisticmodel. The more I delved into the subject matter the more I saw the relationship between themodels and the functions of the right and left hemisphere which I will describe in lengthfollowing, and then I recalled the other concept I had read about; the competitiveness of thetwo hemispheres to establish dominance. This meant there was a great deal ofinappropriateness at times when an emotional situation elicited a rational response, and viceversa. An example of the first case is a couple in a relationship where one partner is unable toread the emotions of the other and reacts in a robotic manner that causes the relationship toend. Whereas, an example of the second situation is so often examined in marketing literature
  • 2. concerning a person purchases an item only to experience dissonance at the thought ofsomething superior to the product existing. How I came to relate cognitive neuroscience and culture is even more coincidental. Ihad immigrated to Canada 13 years ago from Pakistan, meaning I had come from South Asiato North America, from the east to the west, and within those past 13 years felt a great deal oftension pulling me from one culture to the other. I was sitting in my professor’s office oneday, who is also from Pakistan but came to Canada as an adult, about life back home. Hisdescription went something like, “You can’t compare the two. They are two very differentworlds. Life isn’t always on schedule like it is here, you don’t have to pull out your calendarwhen a relative or friend wants to do something, and you just do it. There is so much life allaround you, kids running from here to there, one family stopping into eat lunch with you, andthen going to eat dinner at someone else’s home. I tell you, when I was there I didn’t need toknow the end result for me to just do something. I would hop on a bus that took me to anothervillage where my best friend lived, it would take 3 hours, and I wouldn’t even be sure if hewas home, because we didn’t phones back then. If he was there we spent the whole dayplaying, but if he wasn’t I just took the next bus home and thought nothing more of it. I wasmore, what you would say, spontaneous. It was nice.” It didn’t occur to me then the insight that followed, but then we started talking aboutlife here in Canada. How it was so monotonous at times with all its rules and regulations. Allthe calendars and schedules, all the appointments, the work, the longing for leisure time,everything in its own place, and everything at its right time, it was all so consistent andreliable. The competitiveness, climbing the ladder of success, dog eats dog, cut throat realworld and so one. It suddenly occurred to me that the world we were describing reminded ofsomething, the left brain, and the world he was describing before back home in Pakistan,sounded strangely familiar to how the right brain operated. What follows is an explanation ofthe research conducted to date, and the connection between cognitive neuroscience, socialpsychology, and the culture clash between the east and west.The Existence of Dualities The idea that within one brain there could exist simultaneously two very differentmodes of processing first gained popularity in the 1970’s due to the works of the Nobel PrizeWinner Dr. Roger W. Sperry. He came to discover the phenomena by operating on the fibersof the “corpus callosum” which is popularly described as the highway via which the twohemispheres interact and communicate. (Sperry, Gazzaniga & Bogen, 1969) It is fascinating to understand how scientists came about discovering the primaryfunctions of our brains. These investigations were carried out on “split-brain” patients, whohad been severely disabled by epileptic seizures that involved both hemispheres. Theseindividuals had their “corpus callosum” severed, which led to one hemisphere being isolatedfrom the other. (Sperry, Gazzaniga & Bogen, 1969) These patients were then put through aseries of ingenious and insightful tests and experiments that allowed them to grasp how eachhemisphere perceived, interpreted, and processed reality. (Edwards, 1999) This ideology is by no means a new discovery, it is merely scientific evidence forwhat philosophers throughout the centuries have tried to grasp. One interesting item is thedescription of the “Ying and Yang” concept described in an ancient Chinese text popularlyknown as the ‘I Ching’. The Duality of Yin and Yang Yin Yang Feminine Masculine Negative Positive
  • 3. Moon Sun Darkness Light Yielding Aggressive Left side Right Side Cold Warm Autumn Spring Winter Summer Unconscious Conscious Table 1. - I Ching or Book of Changes, A Chinese Taoist Work Dualities have perplexed mankind for as long we could first distinguish between manand woman or masculine and feminine. Being pulled in two directions is a commonexperience, whether one yields to reason or lets his passion run wild, due to scientific break-through we can now identify them as attributes to the hemispheres that compose our brain.Right Hemisphere The right hemisphere which is also referred to as the limbic system is composed of theamygdala, the hippocampus, and hypothalamus is largely responsible for our emotions.(Taylor, 2006) It constructs reality as composed of an endless barrage of relationships, unableto differentiate a particular object from the environment within which it exists. (Taylor, 2006)In other words, it does not perceive objects independent of their environment, but as they existin relation to everything else in the environment. It is through the right hemisphere that we“see” the big picture, how various components come together to compose the whole. (Taylor,2006) It also allows us to dream, imagine, understand metaphors, and make gestures tocommunicate something we are unable to articulate with language. (Edwards, 1999) Time and space are not perceived in a linear but rather circular or non-temporalfashion, which means the right hemisphere has difficulty in constructing sequences necessaryfor execution of any sort, meaning planning out what needs to be done first, what next, andwhat after that. (Taylor, 2006) Reality is constructed moment by moment filled with all theintensity and sensation that are experienced by our senses. In other words for our righthemisphere no time exists but the present moment, and it is present to such a degree that itallows us to recall individual moments with intense clarity and sensation. (Taylor, 2006) The other thing the right hemisphere does not do is construct categories andhierarchies; everything exists in relation to everything else. (Taylor, 2006) It is what allows usto experience empathy, literally imaging how it would feel to be in some one else’s position,and well as the similarities that exist between one individual to another. (Taylor, 2006) Stereotypically, one can describe all the qualities of the right hemisphere by describingan artist, a dreamer, or a poet. It is what allows us to be creative, free from restraint,passionate, chaotic and think outside the box. (Edwards, 1999)Left Hemisphere The left hemisphere is what primarily distinguishes humans from all other forms oflife of earth; it is also often referred to as the neocortex. It is where our language andlanguage-related capabilities reside. (Sperry, 1984) Historically, because very often languageis seen as a vital component for human survival, the left-brain was deemed dominant or the“leading” brain by many 19th-century scientists, while viewing the lack of language capabilityof the right-brain as more primitive or less evolved. (Edwards, 1999) As for the functionality of the left-brain, it is completely asymmetrical to the right-brain. It takes all those individual moments perceived as unique and begins to sequence them,
  • 4. thereby constructing the past, present, and future. (Taylor, 2006) Evidently this is because itprocesses information in a very linear and methodological way; one might even go so far as tosay the human construction or idea of time is a result of our left-brain. It is also what allowsus to plan, because of it’s capabilities to sequence events; it comes to understand what musthappen first, then second, and then third in order for the desired result is to occur. (Taylor,2006) It’s primary method for coming to know reality is deductive reasoning, for example ifA is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then A must be greater than C. Through this itconstructs hierarchies of categorized information; which are bits and bits of detail it acquiresby singling out and objectifying everything in its surrounding environment. (Edwards, 1999)While it objectifies and singles out everything, it also constructs a symbol for it to identify itmore quickly the next time. This symbol system is one of the obstacles Dr. Betty Edwards inher book outlines as a hindrance to learning how to sketch. Because when we sketch, we drawthe perceived object, whether it is ‘still life’ or a human face, “as it is” in reality, not thesymbol of an apple or a generalized version of a face. This is why the shift to the right-brainallows for effective sketching, as it perceives the object being observed ‘as itexists’.(Edwards, 1999) The left-brain is also the home to the ego center, which allows us construct aconception of “self”. (Taylor, 2006)It is what allows us identify ourselves with a name, whatour credentials are, where we live, and all the other details we know of ourselves. (Taylor,2006) The ego center delights in our individuality, our uniqueness, and strives for self-sufficiency and ultimately independence. (Taylor, 2006) Left Hemisphere Right HemisphereVerbal: Using words to name, describe, Nonverbal: Using non-verbal cognition todefine. process perceptionsAnalytic: Figuring things out step-by-step Synthetic: Putting things together to formand part-by-part wholesSymbolic: Using a symbol to stand for Actual, real: Relating to things as they are, atsomething the present momentAbstract: Taking out a small bit of Analogic: Seeing likeness among things,information and using it to represent the understanding metaphoric relationshipswhole thingTemporal: Keeping track of time, Nontemporal: Without a sense of timesequencing one thing after another: Doingfirst things first, second things second, etc.Rational: Drawing conclusions based on Nonrational: Not requiring a basis of reason orreason and facts facts; willingness to suspend judgmentDigital: Using numbers as in counting Spatial: Seeing where things are in relation to other things and how parts go together to form a wholeLogical: Drawing conclusions based on Intuitive: Making leaps of insights, oftenlogic: one thing following another in logical based on incomplete patterns, hunches,order feelings, or visual imagesLinear: Thinking in terms of linked ideas, Holistic: Seeing whole things all at once;one thought directly following another; often perceiving the overall patterns and structures,leading to a convergent conclusion often leading to divergent conclusions Table 2. Summary of Hemisphere Asymmetry
  • 5. Independence vs. Dependence Coming to Canada at the age of seven, I now find myself to be unable to identifymyself either as entirely Pakistani or Canadian. Although I am clearly more western than mostpeople would consider me South Asian, I now tend to think of myself as a hybrid of twoworlds. One of the first key points I wanted to discuss is the ideology of independence vs.dependence. One of the great things I’ve observed while living here as I am sure manyeasterners have as well, is the inherent desire for North Americans born and raised to go outinto the world on their own in search of an elusive independence. It was a shock for me tolearn that most people moved out at the age of eighteen, and leave to go live out in the worldon their own. The thought was virtually unfathomable for me considering I would haveencountered a great deal of opposition from every member of my family had I stated the factthat I wanted to go away for a post-secondary education. Not to mention, I was so reliant onmy mother still for food and laundry, I would have highly doubted my ability to survive formore than a few days. I then realized how South Asian or Eastern families tend to want to staytogether for as long as humanely possible, all the members residing in this fantasy likemansion which has rooms enough to house everyone, from the grandparents, the parents, thesiblings, the spouses, the children, the nephews, the nieces, and maybe even a pet or two.Although this sounds highly exaggerated, Eastern parents have a great deal of difficultyletting go of their children. The emphasis being on relationships, Westerners think they existindependently or objectivity separate from the rest of their family, while Easterners tend tothing of their existence in relation to the roles they play in their day to day lives. Both ways of approaching life have their own pros and cons. In particular becauseindependence and individuality is so often stressed upon North Americans, many suffer fromfeelings of isolation and alienation from people around them. The dreary scene of people onmorning transit going to work with that apathetic look on their face or the exhaustion soevident when they go back home. The experience is so relative, yet it never occurs to anyoneto just converse with those they commute with to lighten the load. Everyone is caught up intheir own dreary worlds, afraid to make contact with someone who is also having a similarexperience. Everyone feels they exist objectively independent of everyone else. However, the Asian experience is on the other end of spectrum so far as to say life ispre-determined to the extent that it is virtually without any conceptualization of anindividualized self that has the capacity to think and feel for itself. I am referring to minutethings which being a South Asian myself have experienced, such as the difficulty in choosinga career path which does not deviate too far from what parents intend their children to do. Oreven on a personal level, the capacity to go out into the world and find a suitable andcompatible mate on my own instead of settling for families to come together and barter overthe lives of two people as if they were chattels. The argument here is that a heavy reliance of relationships for identity and a strongneed to diverge from relationships to form an identity both fall short of the mark. The egocentres in the left-hemisphere has a poor understanding of the need and importance ofrelationships, whereas the right-hemisphere and lack of ego has a poor understanding of whatit means to be an individual free to live via self-direction.There is No Time vs. There is Only Now North America and much of developed world allots its residents with all the physicalnecessities required for survival and healthy. Plentiful amounts of food, and clean water todrink at the opening of a tap, and for the most part a shelter of more or less significantadequacy to reside in. Yet, as psychologists will attest all around the developed world, there isa rising demand for their services, and now more than ever people are suffering from mental
  • 6. illnesses such as depression, anxiety, stress-related illnesses, low self-esteem, and although itsounds a little exaggerated a lack of meaning to their lives. My reasoning for mentioning this,is because of it’s correlation with the dominance of the left-hemisphere and neglect of theright-hemisphere. As I’ve mentioned before, the left-hemisphere constructs reality insequential, linear, and methodological order. With the ego centers also residing in the lefthemisphere there is a constant comparison happening between one’s current standing incontrast to a neighbour or worse yet the life of a celebrity so openly displayed in the media.So taking that a step further, stress and anxiety are so common of an experience that they havebecome commonly accepted variables in leading a life in ‘dog eat dog’ world here in thewestern world. But what is anxiety and stress, but a projection of the future in a negativeframe, a reliance of perhaps past encounters to anticipate troubles that lie somewhere out therein the distance. Examining other negative emotions such as regret and guilt, they are aninability to let go of the past, as if all the yesterdays were mentally recurring in the present. In other words, I find these general emotional disruptions to be the result of perceivingtime in a linear or sequential manner, and neglecting the present moment where both the pastand future collide to create ‘now’. As far as low-self esteem and a general discontent, Ibelieve they arise from the left-brains constant constructions of hierarchies and categories,which are no doubt very unproductive because they neglect the fact that there will always besomeone better off and someone worse off than oneself. Ironically, in Asian countries likeJapan, self-esteem is a foreign concept; one is often brought up be feel unworthy andinadequate so that there is constant striving for improvement. (Nisbett, 2004) So one the onehand Westerners feel bad about themselves because they constantly compare themselves toideas, whereas Easterners feel bad about themselves because the idea of egoism is abhorred. Eastern culture or Asia generally speaking however has its own share of issues. Thereis an inability to sequence and plan results in a lack of anything being accomplished. I canrecount several incidences where I will have gotten into a taxi cab to speak with a man fromPakistan describing his life back home, especially his work life, lacking any particularstructure or order for that matter. People can virtually get away without having actually“done” anything in their lives in particular government or military jobs, and when they cometo Canada, they are shocked to see how hard people work to earn half the income they wereearning back home doing nothing. Although this is not generally true of other Asian countriesthat are of orient descent, it certainly seems to be the case for South Asia. I think the issuestems from too much reliance on the right-hemisphere. By that I mean the inability to takepride in one’s job or more profoundly in one’s identity is a variable to a lack of valueattributed to the ego. There is little desire to be distinguished because perception is built uponwhere one fits in the world in relation to everyone else, and the thought of elevating one’sstature or one’s place in the grand scheme of things seems to be contradictory with the notionof accepting one’s lot in life. Also the idea of linear thinking or constructing time in a mannerthat will help sequence events and plans so as to strive for achievement is primarily neglectedas well.Scientific Research and Evidence The relationship I am attempting to construct is that North American and Westernculture highly correlates highly with the functionality of the left-hemisphere, whereas theAsian or Eastern culture is parallel to the workings of the right-hemisphere. Although the correlation between hemispheric functions and culture is not firmlyestablished in the current social sciences and cognitive neurology fields respectively, there isa substantial amount of evidence to which I am thank for conducted around the world. Thisscientific evidence is derived from the interest social scientists have taken in understanding
  • 7. the cognitive and perceptual differences between Asians and North Americans. I will attemptto summarize a few of the experiments done, their results, and their implications. At the University of Michigan, there is a world-renowned Culture and Cognitiondeparted headed by Dr. Richard E. Nisbett. His book, “The Geography of Thought” providesin-dept research as to how and why Westerners and Asians perceive, interpret, and experiencetheir worlds through very different cognitive lenses. I will attempt to briefly outline some oftheir findings and comments which support the view of culture being parallel to hemisphericfunctions. Linguistically speaking, in Chinese there is no word for “individualism”, the closest aperson can come to such a concept is the word for “selfishness”. In Japan, there is no usage ofthe personal pronoun “I”, instead there are many variations of “I” depending of course on thecontext. (Ip & Bond, 1995) From a study done in developmental psychology, six-year old American and Chinesechildren were asked to report daily events, for instance significant events like birthdays, ormore causal routines of preparing for bedtime. The proportion of self-reference was threetimes higher for American children, than Chinese children. They study went on to illustratethat American children made twice as many references to internal states, such as emotions andpreferences as did Chinese children. Evidently, the conceptualization of an individualized selfhappens early on depending on which end of the world one is raised in. (Han, Leichtman &Wang, 1998) A very famous study was conducted trying to test the hypothesis that that Asians viewthe world more holistically or through a wide-angle lens, whereas Westerners have tunnelvision or tend to focus in on an object independent of its environment. Students at theUniversity of Michigan and Kyoto University in Japan were shown eight colour animatedunderwater vignettes. The scenes were all generalized by having in them one or more “focal”or “salient” fish, which were larger, brighter, and faster-moving than any thing else in thepicture. Each individual scene also contained slower moving animals, as well as plants, rocks,bubbles, and such. They lasted for twenty seconds and were shown twice. The study reportedthat both American and Japanese students made an equal reference to the focal fish, however,the Japanese students made more than 60 percent more references to what the backgroundwas composed of whether it be a rock, plant, or less salient animals. The other interestingfinding was the initial sentence with which the students would begin to describe what it wasthey saw. Japanese students more than often started by referring to the environment (“Itlooked like a pond”), whereas Americans were three times more likely to refer to the focalfish (“There was a big fish…”). (Masuda & Nisbett, 2001) Another fascinating case of cognitive difference which again attests to theasymmetrical function of hemispheres and cultural differences is an experiment that sought totest the hypothesis that Westerners tend to think of the world in categories, while Asians tendto perceive the world in terms of relationships. American and Chinese Children were shownan illustration with three discernible objects. An example would be a “cow”, and then apicture of a “chicken” and “grass”. Children were asked to group the items, in other words,which would be grouped with the “cow”, a “chicken” or “grass”. What the psychologistsdiscovered was that American children preferred to group objects due to their belonging to the“taxonomic” category, which means the same classification that could be applied to both,whereas Chinese children preferred to group objects on the basis of relationships. So anAmerican child would answer the above mentioned questioned as “the cow and chicken gotogether because they are both animals”, while Chinese children would be more likely to say“the cow and the grass go together, because the cow eats the grass”. (Chiu, 1972) What these studies ultimately point out is that westerners perceive and approach theworld in a very analytical fashion adhering of course to the left-hemisphere way of thinking,
  • 8. whereas easterners perceive the world in a more holistic manner compatible with the righthemisphere. (Doidge, 2007)The “Balanced” Perspective on the World: Why One Hemisphere Needs the Other! The fact is that within each individual regardless of which end of the world they residein, they have within them a brain that is capable of perceiving and interpreting reality in twovery different ways. The issue being that within a specific culture there is usually a preferencefor one or the other side of the polarities that exist in the world and this is really a dominationof one hemisphere over the other. Imbalance ultimately leads to incompleteness, byunderstanding the functions of each hemisphere we can also come to understand and interpretculture in a radically different way, thereby understanding what facets of each we can startintegrating into our lifestyles to live the whole of life. In other words, both the East and Westexist simultaneously within any given person; however our adherence to one mode andneglect of the other is really underlying issue that needs to be addressed. One day while in a local market in Toronto with friends, who were visiting fromMontreal, I was in a shop that had a wide assortment of buttons which had different messageswritten on them to be sported on the knapsacks of politically-aware and activist youths. Onebutton which caught my eye read the following: To do is to be - Immanuel Kant To be is to do - Confucius Do Be Do Be Do - Frank Sinatra Although at first one is left wondering one would question the applicability of suchwords to the present essay, but for me it carried different implications. “To Do” is ultimatelythe function of the left-hemisphere; “To Be” is the functioning of the right-hemisphere. TheWest is known for all that it does, the East for it’s capacity to just be, yet what thosephilosophers discovered is that truly they are both complimentary ways of being that cannotexist without each other. Another striking thing that comes to mind is the billion dollar self-help industry whichis so predominant in the western hemisphere. These spiritual aids are really just packagingeastern spirituality into a good which is then sold into the marketplace as a recipe for beinghappy and living the good life. When I say eastern spirituality, I am referring to Buddhiststeachings of mediation and ‘being in the moment’ as well as real joy and fulfilment derivedfrom feelings of belonging to a community. In addition, virtually any westerner concernedwith his well-being is practicing the long-held eastern traditions of yoga and Thai-chi.Implications for Cultural Tolerance, Understanding, and Peace Unquestionably now more than ever it is necessary for understanding why particularcultures differ from others. There is no short list of examples of how the inability tounderstand or the willingness to exert and understand another culture is leading to bloodshedwherever one happens to be in the world. But in understanding how culture is really derived from neurology and inunderstanding how one’s own brain works, one can begin to understand and decipher theworld in an intelligible manner. One of the things I’d like to emphasize is that both Western and Eastern cultures arenot generic as to only follow and adhere to the functioning of one brain hemisphere over the
  • 9. other, rather each distinct culture lies somewhere on a continuum. However, this does meanthat different cultures have different preferences for where they reside on the spectrum andthus the domination of one way over the other is inevitable. What this does mean is understanding that adherence to one mode or way of beingusually results in the complete neglect in the other, so we each have to attempt to live a moreholistic life. This requires accepting and integrating both ways as something that reside withinus, and without one we are incomplete or imbalanced. For example, the Western world can better come to appreciate the importance offamily and community. The underlying relationships which make up the foundations of theirlives, but those in the East can benefit from growing out of such self-repressive relationshipsand benefit from being a little more individualistic. Going forward, due to globalization thehigh increase in cultural exchange will lead to a convergence of cultures. The implications of this paper suggest new means of cultural exchange, one that isprofoundly more efficient, tolerant, and understanding. Knowing how one culture is prone toperceive and interpret the world will lead to tremendous benefits. Imagine businessagreements, diplomatic exchanges, trade bargaining, peace and conflict resolutions, and eveninterpersonal exchanges becoming that much more effective. The interconnectedness of today’s world has led to a housing crisis in America effectthe economy of the entire world. And with China and India on track to becoming the nextsuperpowers of the world, North Americans need to be able to comprehend how Asians viewtheir environments, as well as their belief and value systems. The economic future of theworld may very much depend on the degree of understanding both cultural systems have foreach other.Conclusion Albert Einstein once said, “The most incomprehensible thing of all is that it is allcomprehensible.” The measure of that is how the secrets of our brains are being unlocked andexposed due to ground-breaking advances in cognitive neuroscience, which today extends itsreaches to the world of psychology, anthropology, and virtually any other field of humanstudy. The polarities which compose this world and our perception of them are nowscientifically proven to reside within us as two separate hemispheres capable of perceiving,interpreting, and processing reality in very asymmetrical ways. With our left-hemisphere’scapacity to sequence and plan thanks to its linear processing of time and our right-hemisphere’s ability to give each moment meaning with intense concentration, what occurs isa blended reality where we are one person viewing the world from two very different viewpoints. The fascinating aspect of how Western and Eastern cultures go about and perceive lifeas being attributed to a heavier reliance on one hemisphere over the other can provide insightsinto why the imbalance often leads to an imbalance within each individual as well. Humanbeings have struggled with ideas of selfishness, altruism, individualism, selflessness, formuch of our civilized history. The interesting thing of how each one of those characteristicscan now fall under the functioning of one half of our brain helps us understand that standingon either extreme leads to incompleteness. The spectrums that can be created are endless,such as capitalism vs. socialism, independence vs. dependence, individualistic vs. communityoriented, and the most obvious one male vs. female. I believe that because the entire worldhas now become a global village, with a strange feeling of interconnectedness that isoccurring, we are now on the verge of understanding how despite all our differences, howsimilar we truly are.
  • 10. ReferencesChiu, L.-H. 1972. “A cross-cultural comparison of cognitive styles in Chinese and Americanchildren.” International Journal of Psychology 7, 235 -242Doidge, N. 2007. The Brain that Changes Itself. New York, NY, USA: Penguin Group.Edwards, B. 1999. The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. New York, NY, USA:Penguin Putnam Inc.Han, J.J., Leichtman, M.D., and Wang, Q. 1998. “Autobiographical memory in Korean,Chinese, and American Children.” Developmental Psychology 34, 701-713Ip, G.W.M., and Bond, M.H. 1995. “Culture, values, and the spontaneous self-concept.”Asian Journal of Psychology 1, 29-35Masuda, T., and Nisbett, R. E. 2001. “Attending holistically vs. analytically: Comparing thecontext sensitivity of Japanese and Americans.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology81, 922 – 934Nisbett, R.E. 2004. The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners ThinkDifferently…And Why. New York, NY, USA: Simon & Schuster IncSperry, R.W., Gazzaniga, M.S. & Bogen J.E. 1969 “Interhemispheric relationships: theneocortical commissures, syndromes of hemispheric disconnection. Handbook of ClinicalNeurology. pp. 273-290Sperry, R. W. 1984. Consciousness, personal identity and the divided brain.Neuropsychologia 22, 661–673Taylor, J.B. 2006. My Stroke of Insight. New York, NY, USA: Penguin Group..

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