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 for a lecture:
Cultural Neuroscience: Linking Context to Genes and the Brain, Part I and Part II

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.

People

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

Cristina Salvador

Cristina Salvador

Graduate Student

The overarching goal of my research is to understand how culture interfaces with biology to influence our thinking, feeling, and behavior. To pursue this overarching research agenda, I have examined (i) the psychological mechanisms linked to interdependence in cultures outside of East Asia, (ii) how deeply culture influences spontaneous self-referential thought, and (iii) cultural influences on norms and their impact on recent societal trends.
CV | Scholar | Email

Qinggang Yu

Qinggang Yu

Graduate Student

My research is on investigating cultural influences on brain structures, as well as on brain functions underlying cognition and emotion. Additionally, I am interested in how genetics interacts with cultural dynamics at both behavioral and neural level.
Scholar | Email

Martha Berg

Martha Berg

Graduate Student

My research explores the ways in which culture shapes how we think about ourselves and about others. Specifically, I am interested in how culture influences the brain in social perception, perspective-taking, and moral reasoning.
CV | Scholar | Email | Twitter | Website

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.
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. In particular, I’m interested in how cultures influence people narrate and relate to their past and future selves, and the various outcomes (e.g., psychological wellbeing) of this subjective experience.
Email

Yuyan Han

Yuyan Han

Graduate Student

My research interest generally lies in judgment and decision making, culture, and emotion. Currently, I am investigating how rational reasoning on individual level can aggregate to biases on collective level.
Email

Sakura Takahashi

Sakura Takahashi

Graduate Student

I am interested in the methods that people use to control their emotions, both internally (e.g. cognitive reappraisal) and externally (e.g. substance use). I am hoping to explore differences in how people use these strategies across cultures.
Email

Amelie Rossmaier

Amelie Rossmaier

Visiting 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.
Email

Lab Affiliates

RICHARD NISBETT

University of Michigan | Website | Email

HAZEL R. MARKUS

Stanford University | Website | Email

ERIC IGOU

University of Limerick, Ireland | Website | Email

MAYUMI KARASAWA

Tokyo Women's Christian University | Website | Email

JOSE ALBERTO REYES

De La Salle University, The Philippines | Website

Alumni

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

Email

Website Artist

Tseng-Ping Chiu

National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan
Website | Email


Recent Papers at a Glance

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

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

Salvador, C.E., Kraus, B.T., Ackerman, J.M., Gelfand, M.J., & Kitayama, S. (2020).

Interdependent self-construal predicts reduced sensitivity to norms under pathogen threat: An electrocortical investigation. Biological Psychology.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • Prior work suggests that in the presence of threat people become more attune to norms. However, not all people may respond in the same way. Recent evidence shows that interdependent people may feel less alarmed by a threat because of the sense of social connection relationships provide. Consistent with this theorizing, we found that after being primed with a threat (vs. control), people showed enhanced vigilance and detection of norm violations. Importantly, this effect was attenuated for people high in interdependent self-construal.
  •   Why is this important?
  • Our work shows that interdependent self-construal impacts how people cope with external threats. As such, this may offer unique implications for the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020. Major outbreaks are being reported after large social gatherings. The sense of interdependence that may be enhanced in these groups could have fostered a sense of complacency if people become looser in norm enforcement. The public health implications of the current study may deserve a careful assessment in the future.
    -Cristina E. Salvador

Coe, C.L., Miyamoto, Y., Love, G.D., Karasawa, M., Kawakami, N., Kitayama, S., & Ryff, C.D. (2020).

Cultural and life style practices associated with low inflammatory physiology in Japanese adults. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • Our earlier work found that Japanese show remarkably better health profiles compared to Americans, including lower levels of inflammation. Here, we explored several lifestyle variables that might be associated with lower levels of both interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein and found a significant effect for both Japanese style diet and regular practice of relaxing bathing.
  •   Why is this important?
  • The finding illustrates how everyday cultural practices related to eating and bathing can serve as a powerful influence on biological health. It is also consistent with the earlier evidence that cardiovascular risks increase for Asian Americans by their U.S. generation status.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Na, J., Grossmann, I., Varnum, M.E.W., Karasawa, M., Cho, Y., Kitayama, S., & Nisbett, R.E. (2020).

Culture and personality revisited: Behavioral profiles and within-person stability in interdependent (vs. independent) social orientation and holistic (vs. analytic) cognitive style. Journal of Personality.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • Here we followed our earlier work (Na et al., 2010, PNAS) and showed that cultural syndromes of both social orientation (i.e., independent vs. interdependent) and cognitive style (i.e., analytic vs. holistic) are coherent at the collective level, but not at the individual level. The observation suggests that people selectively use cultural resources, particularly cultural tasks, to weave their identity in an idiographic fashion. These individualized profiles do have stability over time, the study finds. Methodologically, the study calls for novel ways to access measurement equivalence.
  •   Why is this important?
  • The findings address the important question of what coherence is at the levels of both culture and person. The two levels of coherence are distinct. The coherence at the cultural level goes like this, "individualists are non-holistic." However, at the individual level, you may or may not be non-holistic just because you are an individualist. Each person has an ideographic pattern of both social orientation and cognitive style, which provides the basis for the personal level coherence.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Salvador, C.E., Berg, M.K., Yu, Q., San Martin, A., & Kitayama, S. (2020).

Relational mobility predicts a faster spread of COVID-19: A 39 country study. Psychological Science.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • The current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all countries across the globe, yet some countries have been affected more than some others. We find that relational mobility (RM) is one important factor that explains this cross-country variation. RM is the community's tendency to engage with strangers and freely choose friends. Compared to their low RM counterparts, we find that countries high in RM compared have steeper growth rates of COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths.
  •   Why is this important?
  • Our findings suggest that COVID-19 may spread faster in societies that facilitate broader social contact with others than those that don't. This research underscores the need for social distancing to “flatten the curve,” especially in countries that value social openness (such as the U.S., Spain, Brazil, Mexico, and Canada). Notably, had the US been lower in relational mobility – as low as Japan, the COVID-related deaths would have been 8% (281) of the actual number reported at the end of the 30-day study period (3417).
    -Cristina E. Salvador

Glazer, J., King, A., Yoon, C., Liberzon, I., & Kitayama, S. (2020).

DRD4 Polymorphisms Modulate Reward Positivity and P3a in a Gambling Task: Exploring a Genetic Basis for Cultural Learning. Psychophysiology.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • Prior evidence shows that specific allelic variants of the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4) sensitize carriers of these variants to cultural values and practices. We have argued that this happens because the carriers are more sensitive to cultural reward contingencies. Here, we provided the first evidence for this hypothesis. Compared to non-carriers, carriers were more sensitive to reward signals in a gambling task.
  •   Why is this important?
  • Ours is the first evidence for a putative mechanism for the DRD4 x culture interaction effect in the endorsement of cultural values and the volume of specific cortical regions that supposedly support culturally sanctioned behaviors. This empirical effort is an important step forward!
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Kitayama, S., & Park, J. (2020).

Is Conscientiousness Always Associated With Better Health? A U.S.–Japan Cross-Cultural Examination of Biological Health Risk. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • Is conscientiousness (a personality trait composed of diligence, dutifulness, and organization) healthy? According to the current literature of personality and health, the answer to this question is a resounding yes. Our paper calls into question this accepted wisdom. We used large cross-cultural surveys and showed that conscientiousness predicts better biological health among Americans. Moreover, healthy lifestyle mediates this relationship. All this is to show the existent evidence is robust and replicable. However, among Japanese, there was no direct association between conscientiousness and biological health. Moreover, conscientiousness predicted a tendency to carry out social obligations faithfully. This latter tendency, in turn, predicted impaired biological health. What this means is that conscientious Japanese work so hard because of the sense of social duty that they become less healthy.
  •   Why is this important?
  • This work is yet another demonstration that what appears to be a pan-cultural relationship between personality and health is contingent on socio-cultural context. A personality trait that is salubrious in one context may not be in another.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Berg, M.K., Yu, Q., Salvador, C.E., Melani, I., & Kitayama, S. (2020).

Mandated Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) Vaccination Predicts Flattened Curves for the Spread of COVID-19. Science Advances.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • In this paper, we test whether countries that mandate BCG vaccination show flattened growth curves in COVID-19 infections and deaths, compared to those that do not. We find that countries that still maintain mandated BCG policies (e.g., China, Finland, and France) show significantly flatter growth curves, compared to those that had one only during the 20th century (e.g., Australia, Ecuador, and Spain) or those that never had one (e.g., Italy, Lebanon, and the U.S.).
  •   Why is this important?
  • The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have devastating consequences around the globe, without a current solution. We provide evidence suggesting that BCG vaccination can be effective in "flattening the curve." Notably, our model predicts that if the United States mandated BCG vaccination, it would have only suffered 19% of its actual death toll by the end of March.
    -Martha K. Berg

Kitayama, S., Yu, Q., King, A. P., Yoon, C., & Liberzon, I. (2020).

The Gray Matter Volume of the Temporoparietal Junction Varies Across Cultures: A Moderating Role of the Dopamine D4 Receptor Gene (DRD4). Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • The temporoparietal junction (TPJ) is a region of the brain that is involved uniquely in perspective-taking. The finding that the TPJ is greater in volume for Asians than for European Americans suggests that there is a structural brain basis for a known cultural variation in the propensity toward perspective-taking, which is higher for Asians than for European Americans. The origin of the cultural variation may lie in cultural learning, as suggested by the moderation of the cultural difference by the DRD4 gene.
  •   Why is this important?
  • To participate in Asian cultural conventions requires perspective-taking and thus entails active recruitment of TPJ. Thus, our finding contributes to the growing evidence that culture is inscribed into the brain through reinforcement-based learning.
    -Shinobu Kitayama

Kitayama, S., Berg, M. K., & Chopik, W. J. (2020).

Culture and Well-Being in Late Adulthood: Theory and Evidence. American Psychologist.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • This paper outlines a theoretical model for understanding how culture shapes the psychological experience of aging. We propose that Western cultural contexts uphold a "youthful" ideal of active, positive independence. In late adulthood, as physical and cognitive capacities decline, this ideal becomes less attainable, creating a cultural mismatch that is potentially alienating. On the other hand, Asian cultural contexts prioritize adjusting to age-graded social roles, which may be more attainable throughout the lifespan. We review evidence in support of this theoretical model of culture and aging.
  •   Why is this important?
  • As the global population ages, it becomes increasingly important to understand the psychological experiences of older age. In particular, our work highlights a critical need to acknowledge the role of culture in shaping the trajectory of life-span adult development.
    -Martha K. Berg

Salvador, C. E., Mu, Y., Gelfand, M. J., & Kitayama, S. (2020).

When Norm Violations Are Spontaneously Detected: An Electrocortical Investigation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • The paper addresses the factors that influence the spontaneous detection of norm violations. We showed that a neural marker of norm violation detection (N400) increases when those who believe their societal norms to be tight (vs. loose) are induced to be relationally oriented. Importantly, we induced relational tendencies with a previously validated subliminal priming procedure. The joint effect of relational orientation and perceptions of tightness vs. looseness of cultural norms illuminates how the reaction to norm violations is automatic and dynamically modulated. Our findings offer implications for the conditions in which norm-violating behaviors are monitored and the pertinent cultural norms enforced. It also sheds light on potential mechanisms for known cultural variations in the sensitivity toward norm violations.
  •   Why is this important?
  • Tightness and Interdependence are seen as two orthogonal, but related cultural dimensions. We demonstrated that inducing relational orientation (a proxy of interdependence) increased sensitivity to norms. Importantly, this only occurred for individuals who perceive their social context to be tight. This shows how both tightness and interdependence dynamically interact to increase sensitivity to norms.
    -Cristina E. Salvador

Yu, Q., & Kitayama, S. (2019).

Does Facial Action Modulate Neural Responses of Emotion? An Examination With the Late Positive Potential (LPP). Emotion.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • In this paper, we show that the late positive potential (LPP), an electrocortical marker of emotional arousal in response to arousing stimuli, is modulated by one's facial expressions. In particular, a frowning expression increases LPP in response to negative stimuli, but decreases LPP in response to positive stimuli. Smiling expression produces an opposite, albeit weaker effect. Behavioral ratings yield consistent results, such that stimuli were rated less pleasant when frowning compared to when smiling.
  •   Why is this important?
  • The facial feedback hypothesis states that facial actions can causally influence emotional experience. Although researchers have theorized that the effect of facial actions is direct (through certain neurophysiological pathways) and is not mediated by cognitive processes, there has been no solid evidence supporting it. By using a direct and well-validated electrophysiological signature of emotional arousal, our study thus provides the first evidence that facial actions may directly modulate cortical and subcortical emotional processing.
    -Qinggang Yu

Na, J., Grossmann, I., Varnum, M. E. W., Karasawa, M., Cho, Y., Kitayama, S., & Nisbett, R. E. (2019).

Culture and Personality Revisited: Behavioral Profiles and Within‐Person Stability in Interdependent (vs. Independent) Social Orientation and Holistic (vs. Analytic) Cognitive Style. Journal of Personality.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • Previous work found negligible correlations among the tasks measuring social orientation and cognitive style in spite of reliable cultural differences in the same tasks. Although the finding may suggest that individuals differences in social orientation and cognitive style are noisy and random, our work shows that one's profile across these tasks are stable.
  •   Why is this important?
  • The present findings suggest that both social orientation and cognitive style are a construct consisting of loosely-related and yet, cross-temporally stable subdomains. This kind of conceptualization could explain both reliable cultural differences at the group level and negligible correlations at the individual level. Moreover, it highlights the fact that within-person variability among different tasks can be an integral aspect of one's cultural orientation.
    -Jinkyung Na

Kraus, B., & Kitayama, S. (2019).

Interdependent Self-Construal Predicts Emotion Suppression in Asian Americans: An Electro-cortical Investigation. Biological Psychology.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • Previous work (Murata et al. 2013) showed that people of East Asian descent demonstrated a greater ability to suppress their emotional arousal to an unpleasant stimulus than people of European-American descent. However, the exact individual difference across cultures that drove this effect remained unclear. Here, we measured independent vs. interdependent self-construal and found that this moderated the ability to suppress emotions (as measured by the LPP) in East Asians but not European-Americans.
  •   Why is this important?
  • This is the first demonstration that interdependent self-construal is critical for the efficacy of suppression as an emotional regulation technique for East Asians, but not for European-Americans. Only East Asians high in interdependence were able to suppress their emotional arousal, while no effect of interdependence was observed for European-Americans. This suggests that a congruence between culture, self-construal, and emotion regulation technique may be necessary for effective emotion regulation.
    -Brian Kraus

Park, J., Kitayama, S., Miyamoto, Y., & Coe, C. L. (2019).

Feeling Bad is Not Always Unhealthy: Culture Moderates the Link between Negative Affect and Diurnal Cortisol Profiles. Emotion.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • It is widely assumed that recurrent daily experiences of negative affect are unhealthy. In this paper, we provide evidence that challenges the generalizability of this assumption by demonstrating that culture moderates the relationship between negative affect and biological stress responses, with a focus on the HPA-axis activity. For Americans, negative affect was associated with a flattening of the diurnal cortisol slope. In contrast, this relationship was negligible among Japanese.
  •   Why is this important?
  • It has been theorized that negative affect may have culturally divergent health effects depending on whether it is interpreted as a failure of self-control, and thus poses a threat to the self, or is generally accepted as a natural aspect of life, and thus does not pose a self-threat. Our work is the first to elucidate this proposed mechanism by demonstrating that negative affect is differentially associated with diurnal cortisol profiles, the biological stress responses known to react to self-threat.
    -Jiyoung Park

Miyamoto, Y., & Kitayama, S. (2018).

Cultural Differences in Correspondence Bias are Systematic and Multifaceted. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • In this commentary, we first pointed out that U.S.-Japan comparison that was not examined in ML2 had been the singular focus of the original study by Miyamoto and Kitayama (2002). We then confirmed that the original finding does successfully replicate in ML2, with CB greater in magnitude in the U.S. than in Japan. We further showed that cross-cultural variability in the magnitude of CB can be predicted by various factors, such as perceived persuasiveness of essays, which suggests the need to take these factors into consideration when comparing the magnitude of CB across cultures. We end with a plea for systematic cross-cultural research in social psychology that is based on due respect for diversity on many human dimensions.
  •   Why is this important?
  • At the age of globalization, it is increasingly important to recognize that countries that vary in history, cultural heritage, geopolitical economy, and the like could show corresponding diversity in various psychological effects. Hence, we may be advised to start with a cardinal assumption that countries that are excluded from the mainstream psychology (referred to as “less WEIRD samples” in ML2) could be diverse on a variety of dimensions including ones that are fundamentally psychological.
    -Yuri Miyamoto

San Martín, A., Sinaceur, M., Madi, A., Tompson, S., Maddux, W. W., & Kitayama, S. (2018).

Self-Assertive Interdependence in Arab Culture. Nature Human Behavior.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • Integrating historical and anthropological sources with an emerging socio-ecological perspective, we argue that Arabs show a self-assertive form of interdependence, which involves both a strong commitment to in-groups and strong self-assertion for the sake of protecting the in-group.
  •   Why is this important?
  • Arabs represent a pan-ethnic, cultural group of 400M people in 22 countries, spanning from North Africa to Western Asia. Despite their numerous contributions to arts and science, and their key role in global business and politics, Arabs are relatively neglected in extant social and cultural psychological literature. The few empirical studies that exist are limited to explicit self-reports, which are subject to response biases, lack predictive validity, etc. Therefore, virtually nothing is known about how Arab people may be characterized by more implicit psychological tendencies and compare with (independent) Westerners and (interdependent) East Asians. This is an important step in the study of different varieties of interdependence around the globe.
    -Álvaro San Martín

Yu, Q., Abe, N., King, A., Yoon, C., Liberzon, I., & Kitayama, S. (2018).

Cultural Variation in the Gray Matter Volume of the Prefrontal Cortex is Moderated by the Dopamine D4 Receptor Gene (DRD4). Cerebral Cortex.

  •   What is this paper about?
  • In this paper, we show that the gray matter (GM) volume of a few prefrontal regions, including the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), is greater among European Americans than among East Asian-born Asians. Importantly, this cultural difference is more pronounced among carriers of the 7- or 2-repeat allele of the DRD4 gene, a genetic variant that is known to heighten individual's sensitivity to cultural influences. We also present preliminary evidence that as a function of time the East Asians have stayed in the U.S., their brain becomes "Americanized" (i.e., increased OFC GM volume), but only if they are the carriers.
  •   Why is this important?
  • It has been long theorized that culture and brain constitute each other. Our paper, however, presents the first evidence that culture can shape the morphometric property of the human brain. This study opens up a new direction of research to look at how culture may "go deep under the skin" to influence the structural and functional organization of the brain.
    -Qinggang Yu

News

BCG paper featured in UM News

A recent press release from the University of Michigan’s Research News team featured our new paper, first-authored by graduate student Martha Berg. Click here to read on news.umich.edu

New NSF funded project!

National Science Foundation has funded our project, “Globalizing Cultural Psychology: Varieties of Interdependence Across Four Regions of the World.” Stay tuned! We will have a lot to report in due course.