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Welcome to the Culture and Cognition Lab!

We try to understand how the sociocultural world and the mind make each other up to influence various facets of psychological function including cognition, emotion, motivation, the self, and health. We have used a wide array of methods including behavioral and neural measures as well as genetic and epigenetic indicators.

Click here for an overview of our lab

Click here to read a recent APA article about Shinobu Kitayama
"Shinobu Kitayama wants psychology to represent people in non-Western societies, too"

Research Themes

In recent years, our lab has focused on the following three research areas.
They converge to contribute to a long-standing program of research on the interface between socio-cultural processes and mentality.

Please click the links below to learn more about each of these research areas.


Current Lab Members
Shinobu Kitayama

Shinobu Kitayama

Principal Investigator; Robert B. Zajonc Collegiate Professor of Psychology

Our most recent work examines, among others, the self, cognition and emotion, norm psychology, and varieties of interdependence across the globe, with behavioral, neuroendocrine, neuroscience, and genetic and epigenetic methods.
CV | Scholar | Email|
SPSP Heritage Wall

Irene Melani

Irene Melani

Graduate Student

My research interests revolve broadly around understanding why and how cultural differences exist and manifest. Specifically, I am interested in the mechanisms underlying cultural variations in cognition and the ways individuals organize themselves within groups.
CV | Scholar | Email

Tong Suo

Tong Suo

Graduate Student

My research interests revolve around the sense of self across time, namely autobiographical memory and future thinking, in-cultural contexts. I'm also interested in how cultural match and mismatch predicts well-being.
CV | Email

Amelie Rossmaier

Amelie Rossmaier

Graduate Student

My research interests revolve around culture and group dynamics. Specifically, I am focusing on how culture influences our motivation to conform and to trust in norms.
CV | Email

Yaxin Xiao

Yaxin Xiao

Graduate Student

My research interests revolve around culture, social cognition, and neuroscience. Specifically, I am interested in exploring how culture learning on social cognition shapes our brain differently on both structural and activational levels. I am also interested in culture variations on the human physiological processes (e.g., neuroendocrine and immune systems).
CV | Email

Mohammadhasan (Hasan) Sharifian

Mohammadhasan (Hasan) Sharifian

graduate student

My research revolves around culture and intergroup processes. Specifically, I am curious about the link between cultural tendencies and prejudice, conflict, and extremism. I am especially interested in focusing on understudied regions such as the Middle East and North Africa.
CV | Email

Erin Wang

Erin Wang

Lab Manager

My research interests revolve around cultural neuroscience and emotion. I am interested in understanding the psychological processes within diverse cultural contexts and how cultural experiences influence the brain and mental health.

Oona Cha

Oona Cha

Visiting Scholar

My research focuses on examining factors affecting workers and organizations based on my understanding and insights regarding cultural contexts and social circumstances of Asian countries. Some of the current topics include work-life interaction, work addiction, and cultural experience of envy and other negative emotions.
Website | Email

Lab Affiliates


University of Michigan | Website | Email


Stanford University | Website | Email


University of Limerick, Ireland | Website | Email


Tokyo Women's Christian University | Website | Email


De La Salle University, The Philippines | Website


Steve Heine

University of British Columbia Website | Email

Beth Morling

University of Delaware Website | Email

Ayse Uskul

University of Kent Website | Email

Takahiko Masuda

University of Alberta Website | Email

Sean Duffy

Rutgers University - Camden Website | Email

Heykyung Park

Toshie Imada

Brunel University, UK Website | Email

Keiko Ishii

Nagoya University, Japan Website | Email

Yuri Miyamoto

University of Wisconsin - Madison Website | Email

Yukiko Uchida

Kyoto University, Japan Website | Email

Nick Bowman

University of Iowa Website | Email

Jinkyung Na

Soang University, Korea Website | Email

Thomas Talhelm

University of Chicago Website | Email

Timur Sevincer

University of Hamburg, Germany Website | Email

Igor Grossmann

University of Waterloo Website | Email

Michael Varnum

Arizona State University Website | Email

Asuka Murata

Sakushin Gakuin University Website | Email

Hannah Chua

Cisco Website | Email

Jiyoung Park

University of Texas - Dallas Website | Email

Sasha Kimel

California State University - San Marcos Website | Email

Yay-hyung Cho

Highline College Website | Email

Steve Tompson

Guild Education Website | Email

Sarah Huff

University of Denver Website | Email

Tseng-Ping Chiu

National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan Website | Email

Hide Hitokoto

Fukuoka University

James Glazer

Northwestern University Website | Email

Brian Kraus

Northwestern University Website | Email

Saori Tsukamoto

Nagoya University

Ariana McNulty

Akio Kakishima

Publicis Sapient Website

Aya Kamikubo

Meg Seymour

National Center for Health Research Email

Cristina Salvador

Duke University Website | Email

Martha Berg

Meta, UX Researcher Email

Allon Vishkin

Technion – Israel Institute of Technology Website |Email

Qinggang Yu


Shijie Qu


Akihiro Tanaka

Tokyo Women's Christian University Email

Website Artist

Tseng-Ping Chiu

National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan Website | Email
Recent Papers at a Glance

Kitayama, S., & Salvador, C. E. (2024)

Cultural Psychology: Beyond East and West. Annual Review of Psychology.

  • What is this paper about?
  • This paper offers a comprehensive review of the state of cultural psychology. It covered (i) major constructs guiding the field, (ii) cultural evolution, and (iii) varieties of interdependence across the globe.
  • Why is this important?
  • The field of cultural psychology is poised to expand to the future. This paper distills the major accomplishments of the past and identify the directions for the future.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Kitayama, S., & Rossmaier, A. (2023)

Cultural evolution needed to complete the Grossmann theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

  • What is this paper about?
  • This is a commentary on a target article by Grossmann in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. It bolsters the basic insight that negative emotions are sometimes adaptive and adds a cultural consideration.
  • Why is this important?
  • Our work shows the central significance of cultural considerations in understanding the basic biological functions of emotion.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Park, J., Kitayama, S., & Miyamoto, Y. (2023)

When High Subjective Social Status Becomes a Burden: A Japan–U.S. Comparison of Biological Health Markers. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

  • What is this paper about?
  • Subjective social status is widely believed to be associated with better health. This paper shows the first evidence that this belief does not travel well beyond Western culture.
  • Why is this important?
  • Subjective social status has various culture-specific meanings that have yet to be fully uncovered and spelled out. Our paper is an effort to address this knowledge gap.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Yu, Q., Schaefer, S. M., Davidson, R. J., & Kitayama, S. (2023)

Behavioral adjustment moderates the effect of neuroticism on brain volume relative to intracranial volume. Journal of Personality.

  • What is this paper about?
  • Neuroticism is believed to have an adverse effect on health. Here, we show that this possibility, as applied to brain health, is significantly moderated by "behavioral adjustment," one's ability and motivation to adjust their behaviors to situational contingencies.
  • Why is this important?
  • This work contributes to the emerging literature on personality neuroscience by showing that a socio-cultural variable significantly moderates the impact of personality on the brain.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Kitayama, S. (2023)

People in the U.S. Think They are Better Than They Actually Are. People in Asia Don’t. Scientific American.

  • What is this paper about?
  • This paper illustrates the culture-dependency of positive illusions. It discusses why these illusions are not human universals. Instead, they are adaptations to Western culture emphasizing the self's independence and positivity.
  • Why is this important?
  • The paper shows how the assumed universality of positive illusions may tacitly promote ethnocentrism and how the cultural work discussed here could potentially begin addressing this potential misfall of the current literature.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Vishkin, A., Kitayama, S., Berg, M. K., Diener, E., Gross-Manos, D., Ben-Arieh, A. & Tamir, M. (2022)

Adherence to Emotion Norms is Greater in Individualist Cultures Than in Collectivist Cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

  • What is this paper about?
  • Non-Western collectivist societies are typically tight in social norms. However, the norms at issue pertain primarily to external behaviors. How about feeling norms, the norms about what emotions to feel and how much? We expected and found that the feeling norms are stronger in individualistic societies.
  • Why is this important?
  • This work expands the scope of norm psychology. Further, it shows how individualist societies regulate and even control each individual's inner states that are assumed to be independent and immune to social influences.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Kitayama, S., Salavador, C. E., Nanakdewa, K., Rossmaier, A., San Martin, A. & Savani, K. (2022)

Varieties of Interdependence and the Emergence of the Modern West: Toward the Globalizing of Psychology. American Psychologist.

  • What is this paper about?
  • The last three decades of cultural psychology research expanded the scope of psychology from exclusively Euro-centric to include East Asian perspectives. However, much has yet to be learned about the Rest. In this paper, we present a theoretical framework for this endeavor. We cover four non-Western regions, i.e., East Asia, South Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. They show distinct varieties of interdependence. We then analyze how some of these traditions, shaped over the last several thousand years, influenced the emergence of the Modern West, which has formed the basis of contemporary Western culture.
  • Why is this important?
  • Our work may be a stepping stone toward globalizing psychology and refining psychological theories that fully apply to even those outside the West.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Kitayama, S., & Yu, Q. (2022)

Going Beyond Heritability: Mechanisms of Gene-Culture Coevolution. Brain and Behavioral Science.

  • What is this paper about?
  • This paper is a commentary on Uchiyama & Muthkrishna's target article entitled, "Cultural evolution of genetic heritability." Uchiyama and Muthkrishna offer an important cautionary note on the interpretation of the heritability index. However, it does not directly address how culture and genes might interact. Here, we suggest that one allele of the dopamine D4 receptor gene promotes the acquisition of cultural values and practices and likely has co-evolved with the human culture over the last 50,000 years.
  • Why is this important?
  • Uchiyama and Muthkrishna's analysis stops short of directly addressing the dynamic interaction between culture and genes. We have offered the hypothesis that even though cultural traits are entirely contingent on ecological (i.e., environmental) factors, genetic factors may still modulate cultural acquisition. These genetic factors likely helped the human species acquire and sustain cultural traditions over the last 50,000 years. By pushing this type of analysis forward, we may better understand how genes and culture have co-evolved to produce contemporary cultural and individual variations.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Kitayama, S., Camp, N. P., & Salvador, C. E. (2022).

Culture and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Multiple Mechanisms and Policy Implications. Social Issues and Policy Review

  • What is this paper about?
  • The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has taken a massive toll on human life worldwide. The case of the United States—the world’s largest economy—is particularly noteworthy since the country suffered a disproportionately larger number of deaths than all other countries during the first year of the pandemic. Here, we used a cultural psychology perspective, which offers unique insights into the vulnerability of this country. The emphasis is on mutually reinforcing interactions across collective, cultural, and psychological levels of analysis. We review extant evidence and argue that various factors at these disparate levels converged to foster an independent mode of action, which, in turn, undermined effective coping with the infectious disease. Several policy recommendations are offered.
  • Why is this important?
  • The 21st century will most likely be the century of infectious diseases due to population expansion (which reduces the distance between humans and viruses of wild animal origin) and globalization (which makes the global spread of infectious viruses far more likely). As social and cultural psychological processes powerfully mediate the spread of a virus, building a deeper understanding of them is of utmost significance. This theoretical understanding is indispensable to make society better prepared for epidemics and pandemics in the future. Moreover, it is already clear that the effort to understand various social, behavioral, and psychological aspects of the current pandemic has significantly expanded the scientific knowledge of the social, behavioral, and psychological sciences. This crosstalk between theory-building and practical problem solving will enrich our science –and our policies-- in the future to come.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Kitayama, S. (in press).

Seeking the Middle Way: An Exploration of Culture, Mind, and the Brain. In S. Kassin (Ed.). Pillars of Social Psychology: Stories and Retrospectives. Cambridge University Press.

  • What is this paper about?
  • This essay is a personal reflection of the field of culture in psychology. This reflection would hopefully contribute to a fuller understanding of how the field of social psychology has evolved. It is one of 50+ similar reflections and retrospectives on various topics. In my reflection, I start with a brief memoir of where I came from and why and how I became fascinated with the study of culture. I then illustrate, in a broad stroke, what we have accomplished. I also explain why I took on the questions of the brain in this connection more recently. Throughout, the theme is the dialectic between the effort to see many different effects with various methods and the single-mindedness in how we might understand the relationship between culture and the agency.
  • Why is this important?
  • The study of culture in social psychology as we know it today has been a development in the last few decades. This essay addresses how this effort has helped expand the scope of social psychology by incorporating culture and diversity into the field’s theoretical framework.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Salvador, C.E., Kamikubo, A., Kraus, B., Hsiao, N., Hu, J., Karasawa, M., & Kitayama, S. (2021).

Self-referential Processing Accounts for Cultural Variation in Self-enhancement vs. Criticism: An Electrocortical Investigation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

  • What is this paper about?
  • Self-enhancement, the tendency to view the self positively is widespread and robust in Western cultural contexts. However, this tendency is much weaker and sometimes reversed among East Asians. While the idea that cultural variation in self-enhancement exists is longstanding, the underlying mechanisms for self-enhancement or the associated cultural variation are unknown. Here, we propose the self-referential processing hypothesis of self-enhancement. Specifically, we suggest that self-enhancement involves spontaneously linking a positive outcome to the self. Using an EEG marker of internal (vs. external) attention, upper alpha, we show that European Americans show greater internal attention when they imagine a success (vs. failure) occurring to the self. The comparable effect was not observed among Taiwanese. Further, we show that the cultural difference in internal attention in response to successes (vs. failures) predicts their self-reported levels of self-enhancement. These findings suggest that people who self-enhance spontaneously recruit internal attention during self-referential processing for favorable events that occur to them.
  • Why is this important?
  • Self-enhancement is one of the most widely studied phenomenon in social psychology. Many theories have been proposed, including a primarily motivational or cognitive accounts. Here, we integrate these two accounts and suggest that self-enhancement spontaneously recruits self-referential processing in response to ones’ successes (vs. failures). We show evidence for this mechanism among European Americans. Consistent with prior work that East Asians do not self-enhance, we failed to find a comparable effect among Taiwanese. The cultural difference in self-referential processing explained why European Americans showed self-enhancement (perceived they were impacted more by a success than failure) and Taiwanese did not.
    -Cristina Salvador

Kraus, B., Salvador, C.E., Kamikubo, A., Hsiao, N., Hu, J., Karasawa, M., & Kitayama, S. (2021).

Oscillatory alpha power at rest reveals an independent self: A cross-cultural investigation. Biological Psychology.

  • What is this paper about?
  • A primary foundation of cross-cultural research is that differences in values and beliefs across cultures affect how individuals within those cultures think and behave. A common way to quantify these differences between East Asian and European American cultures is by assessing self-construal, or the salience of one’s own personal beliefs and desires (independent self-construal). Here, we measured independent self-construal and also collected electroencephalogram (EEG) alpha power at rest, a correlate of default mode network (DMN) activity and self-referential processing. We found a positive correlation between these measures when the eyes were closed and combining across four independent samples, indicating that resting-state alpha power is correlated with the salience of the personal self at rest.
  • Why is this important?
  • This study provides important evidence for a foundational claim of cross-cultural psychology, that the salience of the self varies systematically for those who endorse values consistent with East Asian or European American cultures. Even when no task is being performed, self-construal is associated with these systematic differences in neural activity. This offers important insights into how culture affects neuroplasticity.
    -Brian Kraus

Yu, Q., King, A.P., Yoon, C., Liberzon, I., Schaefer, S.M., Davidson, R. J., & Kitayama, S. (2021).

Interdependent self-construal predicts increased gray matter volume of scene processing regions in the brain. Biological Psychology.

  • What is this paper about?
  • Holistic cognitive style entails allocating greater attention to contextual scenes surrounding focal objects. Building on prior work showing that East Asians tend to be more holistic than European Americans, we find that East Asians have greater gray matter (GM) volume in brain regions uniquely involved in the processing of contextual scenes compared to European Americans. Moreover, the GM volume in one of the scene-processing regions, the parahippocampal place area, is associated with the construal of the self as interdependent (vs. independent).
  • Why is this important?
  • Our study provides the first evidence of a structural neural correlate of cultural variation in cognitive style. Importantly, we show that self-construal is implicated in the origin of this variation. Together, our study reinforces the idea that culture is "embrained".
    -Qinggang Yu

Yu, Q., Salvador, C.E., Melani, I., Berg, M.K., Neblett, E.W., & Kitayama, S. (2021).

Racial residential segregation and economic disparity jointly exacerbate COVID-19 fatality in large American cities. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

  • What is this paper about?
  • Systemic racism is an important reason for the disproportionately high COVID-19 fatality among American Blacks and Hispanics. But it is not clear exactly which aspects of systemic racism might be responsible for it. Here, we filled this gap by showing that racial residential segregation plays a major role. Specifically, we found that metropolitan areas that segregate Blacks and Hispanics had a faster growth of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Moreover, the income inequality of the area exacerbated the malignant effect of residential segregation.
  • Why is this important?
  • Systemic racism has been made bare in recent incidences that motivated the Black Lives Matter movement. However, social scientists have yet to pin down exactly what is systemic about systemic racism. Our work shows that the history of residential segregation is a major culprit in the context of the current pandemic. It thus contributes to a better understanding of social structural forces as a significant determinant of the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
    -Qinggang Yu

Click here for earlier publications


Shinobu Kitayama received Gold Medal Award for Impact in Psychology

“The American Psychological Foundation’s flagship award recognizes the work of a psychologist or group of psychologists that is impactful, innovative, and transformational. Dr. Shinobu Kitayama is recognized for his groundbreaking work on culture, as it is related to the self and all psychological processes that comprise it, including cognitive, emotional, and motivational processes.” Congratulations, Shinobu! […]