Cross cultural studies in perception


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Cross-Cultural Studies

lIf human perception is innate, the same abilities should be seen all over the world. lIf human perception is the result of learning then there should be a difference in perceptual skills between humans raised in different environments. lBut … if there are differences are these biological differences that might affect their perceptual abilities OR ecological differences in their environment (live in a forest) or culture (no tradition of drawing)

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Cultural differences in perceptual development?

 ‘Carpenteredness’ (Segall, Campbell & Herskovits, 1966):

  Some African tribes who are not used to buildings and a world composed of rectangles, are less likely than westerners to see illusions like the Muller-Lyer. Muller-Lyer illusion

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Turnbill 1961: size constancy

lJungle pygmies who lived in a forest were taken to an open space, where they thought the distant buffalo were ants. lThey had never been able to see depth on that scale before. As they got nearer the animals, they thought they were growing. lCan our experience of an environment influence the way we perceive new stimuli?

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research on 2 dimensional pictures


lCan we only understand 2-D pictures because we are exposed to them from an early age, in books etc lHochberg & Brooks 1962. hid all pictures from their child  for 19 months but when then shown 2-d pictures, he could still correctly identify objects

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Hudson (1960):

 Investigated depth perception with various tribal groups in Africa using pictures where cues help the viewer to perceive depth.

lThe picture contains depth cues: overlapping objects and relative size, height in the visual field. lHudson suggested a correct interpretation is that the hunter is trying to spear the antelope, which is nearer to him than the elephant. An incorrect interpretation is that the elephant is nearer and about to be speared. lParticipants were asked: l‘What do you see?’
‘Which is nearer, the antelope or the elephant?’
‘What is the man doing?’'
lThe results indicted that both children and adults found it difficult to perceive depth in the pictures.

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Culture and Perceptual Set: Deregowski (1972)

 Are pictures are seen and understood in the same way in different cultures.

Used ‘split’ type drawings   lSplit type drawings show all the important features of an object which could not normally be seen at once from that perspective. lPerspective drawings give just one view of an object.  

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lFound people from several cultures preferred drawings which don't show perspective, but are split to show both sides of an object at the same time. lAlso found split-style representation is universal and is seen in drawings by European children before they are taught differently.   lSuggests that perceiving perspective in drawings is in fact a specific cultural skill, which is learned rather than automatic.

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Evaluation of cross cultural evidence


lLess scientific rigour (e.g. control) – studies are old lCues in Hudson pictures were weak lStimulus material may not mean the same thing in another culture – results may be because of lack of familiarity rather than lack of perceptual ability. lSample sizes tend to be small lImposed etic lResearcher bias lBut do offer interesting insights into visual perception

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