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Keywords:

  • Culture;
  • Cognition;
  • Memory;
  • Context;
  • Attention

Abstract

In two experiments we demonstrate a substantial cross-cultural difference in a mnemonic context effect, whereby a magnitude estimate of a simple stimulus such as a line or circle is biased toward the center of the distribution of previously seen instances of the same class. In support of the hypothesis that Asians are more likely than Americans to disperse their attention to both the target stimulus and its mnemonic context, this effect was consistently larger for Japanese than for Americans. Moreover, the cultural difference was attenuated by an experimentally induced belief in class homogeneity that augmented the context effect itself in both cultures. More important, these belief effects happened in the absence of any objective change in stimulus distribution. Implications for sociocultural shaping of cognition are discussed.