Neural basis of individualistic and collectivistic views of self

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Abstract

Individualism and collectivism refer to cultural values that influence how people construe themselves and their relation to the world. Individualists perceive themselves as stable entities, autonomous from other people and their environment, while collectivists view themselves as dynamic entities, continually defined by their social context and relationships. Despite rich understanding of how individualism and collectivism influence social cognition at a behavioral level, little is known about how these cultural values modulate neural representations underlying social cognition. Using cross-cultural functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined whether the cultural values of individualism and collectivism modulate neural activity within medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) during processing of general and contextual self judgments. Here, we show that neural activity within the anterior rostral portion of the MPFC during processing of general and contextual self judgments positively predicts how individualistic or collectivistic a person is across cultures. These results reveal two kinds of neural representations of self (eg, a general self and a contextual self) within MPFC and demonstrate how cultural values of individualism and collectivism shape these neural representations. Hum Brain Mapp, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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