Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Within-Culture Variation in Field Dependence/independence: A Region-Level Investigation across China

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Within-Culture Variation in Field Dependence/independence: A Region-Level Investigation across China

Article excerpt

Field dependence/independence (FDI) refers to one's preferred style in perceiving one's surroundings, either analytically and individually, or globally and collectively, characterized as field independence and field dependence, respectively. FDI has been recognized as the customary pattern in cognitive processing, specifically in perception, memory, thoughts, and problem solving (Bagley, 1995; Ji, Peng, & Nisbett, 2000, Witkin, 1967). Measured using the Embedded Figures Test (EFT; Witkin, Oltman, Raskin, & Karp, 1971), field-independent (FI) individuals usually tend to perceive objects in an analytic style, excel in individuating targets in their surroundings, and have a more logic-biased perceptual style, compared with field-dependent (FD) people, who are highly influenced by the context of their surroundings. Individual difference in FDI is associated with many factors, including age (Bagley, 1995) and culture (Kuhnen, Hannover, Roeder, et al., 2001). To the extent that cognitive styles are end products of particular socialization processes, as Witkin (1967) suggested, cross-cultural studies of cognitive style have great potential value for furthering understanding of the forces shaping cognitive development.

Cross-cultural variation in FDI has been shown in many studies (Bagley, 1995; Ji, Peng, & Nisbett, 2000; Kuhnen, Hannover, Roeder, et al., 2001). In a nation-level investigation of FDI, Kuhnen, Hannover, Roeder, et al. (2001) revealed that differences in FDI were impacted by the cross-culture variation in individualism/collectivism. Participants from four countries comprising two different cultures were assessed using the EFT, and the results showed that the U.S. and German participants (two individualist cultures) were higher in field independence than were the Russian and Malaysian participants (two collectivist cultures). Empirical evidence found in culture-priming studies is consistent with this conclusion (Kuhnen & Oyserman, 2002). For instance, in three of their four studies, Kuhnen, Hannover, and Schubert (2001) found that individualism-primed participants performed relatively better in two differently administered versions of the EFT (Horn, 1962; Witkin et al., 1977; higher speed of problem solving and larger number of identified embedded figures) than did collectivism-primed participants, suggesting that priming with individualist culture leads to higher degrees of context-independent cognitive processing than it does with collectivist culture. From this, we surmised that differences of culture are mirrored in FDI, and deduced that individualist people are more likely to perceive objects as being unrelated to their surroundings than are collectivist people. Consistent with this reasoning, Ji et al. (2000) showed that people from individualist Western cultures were more FI than were collectivist Asians.

As indicated by Oyserman, Coon, and Kemmelmeier (2002), both cross-cultural and within-culture studies are significant in cultural psychology. Within-culture variation in cognitive processing has received little attention (Kashima et al., 2004), whereas there have been a number of recent studies focused on regional-level differences in individualism/collectivism within a culture, especially in China (Talhelm et al., 2014; Varnum & Kitayama, 2010; Yamawaki, 2012). The concept that China as representative of collectivist culture has been challenged recently. Based on the individualism/collectivism dimension, Talhelm et al. (2014) found that southern Chinese exposed to the rice farming culture performed in a more collectivist and global perceptual style, whereas northern Chinese exposed to the wheat-farming culture tended to perform in a more individualist and analytic perceptual style. This is because some forms of subsistence farming require more functional interdependence than do others. For example, compared with wheat, growing rice needs more coordination with neighbors because of irrigation and labor requirements. …

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