Science in China Series C

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 89–96 | Cite as

In search of the Chinese self: An fMRI study

  • Zhang Li 
  • Zhou Tiangang 
  • Zhang Jian 
  • Liu Zuxiang 
  • Fan Jin 
  • Zhu Ying Email author


Cultural influences on the concept of self is a very important topic for social cognitive neuroscientific exploration, as yet, little if anything is known about this topic at the neural level. The present study investigates this problem by looking at the Chinese culture's influence on the concept of self, in which the self includes mother. In Western cultures, self-referential processing leads to a memory performance advantage over other forms of semantic processing including mother-referential, other-referential and general semantic processing, and an advantage that is potentially localizable to the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). In Chinese culture, however, the behavioral study showed that mother-referential processing was comparable with self-referential processing in both memory performance and autonoetic awareness. The present study attempts to address whether similar neural correlates (e.g. MPFC) are acting to facilitate both types of referencing. Participants judged trait adjectives under three reference conditions of self, other and semantic processing in Experiment I, and a mother-reference condition replaced the other-reference condition in Experiment II. The results showed that when compared to other, self-referential processing yielded activations of MPFC and cingulate areas. However, when compared to mother, the activation of MPFC disappeared in self-referential processing, which suggests that mother and self may have a common brain region in the MPFC and that the Chinese idea of self includes mother.

Key words

self-reference mother-reference interdependent self medial prefrontal cortex 


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Copyright information

© Science in China Press 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhang Li 
    • 1
    • 4
  • Zhou Tiangang 
    • 2
  • Zhang Jian 
    • 1
  • Liu Zuxiang 
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fan Jin 
    • 3
  • Zhu Ying 
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Cognitive ScienceGraduate School and Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Laboratory of Neuroimaging, Department of PsychiatryMount Sinai School of MedicineUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyCapital Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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