Cultural differences in scene perception?

In The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Volume 62, Issue 2 February 2009 , pages 276 – 285

"Scene perception and memory revealed by eye movements and receiver-operating characteristic analyses: Does a cultural difference truly exist?"

Authors: Kris Evans,  Caren M. Rotello,  Xingshan Li, and Keith Rayner


Cultural differences have been observed in scene perception and memory: Chinese participants purportedly attend to the background information more than did American participants. We investigated the influence of culture by recording eye movements during scene perception and while participants made recognition memory judgements. Real-world pictures with a focal object on a background were shown to both American and Chinese participants while their eye movements were recorded. Later, memory for the focal object in each scene was tested, and the relationship between the focal object (studied, new) and the background context (studied, new) was manipulated. Receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curves show that both sensitivity and response bias were changed when objects were tested in new contexts. However, neither the decrease in accuracy nor the response bias shift differed with culture. The eye movement patterns were also similar across cultural groups. Both groups made longer and more fixations on the focal objects than on the contexts. The similarity of eye movement patterns and recognition memory behaviour suggests that both Americans and Chinese use the same strategies in scene perception and memory.




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