Research has shown that East Asians tend to be more influenced by background social information than North Americans. To further examine these findings, we collected event-related brain potentials (ERP) during a face lineup emotion rating task where participants were asked to rate the emotions of central persons of five person emotion lineups. Lineups were either congruent, with all faces showing similar emotions, or incongruent, with central face emotions differing from background face emotions. The behavioral results replicated previous findings, showing that Japanese ratings were more influenced by background information than European Canadians. The ERP data showed incongruity effects, showing increased processing of socially incongruent brainwaves (than congruent lineups) in early (the N400) and late (the LPC) meaning-based processing of stimuli. Differences in processing were not seen between the two conditions for European Canadians. Furthermore, independence social orientation beliefs explained these incongruity effects: (1) Independence social orientation beliefs moderated the two cultures’ early processing patterns, showing a negative relationship between independence and European Canadians’ N400 incongruity effects, while East Asians generally processed social incongruence early, and (2) independence social orientation beliefs were negatively related with both groups’ later processing of social incongruence. The importance of culture in social judgments is discussed.
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Before proceeding to the experimental trials, participants acclimated to the task first through an untimed and then a timed practice session, with four practice judgments each. At this point, participants engaged in the main task where they first viewed and rated 32 lineups, and then were provided a 2 min break, before proceeding to the final 32 judgments.
This resulted in a loss of 4 participants for the European Canadian group and 3 participants for the Japanese group, leaving 38 European Canadians (17 Females and 21 Males) and 39 Japanese (22 Females and 17 Males) for ERP analyses.
Similar behavioral findings were found when averaging all four congruent and incongruent condition ratings, averaging reverse scored ratings of emotions of center persons when their emotions were opposite of the rating type (i.e., happy center faces and negative ratings) with ratings of similar ratings and emotions (i.e., happy center faces and positive ratings).
Trials surviving ERP preprocessing for the congruent and incongruent conditions did not differ between cultures, conditions, or have a significant interaction between culture and condition (European Canadians Congruent M = 28.21, SD = 2.26, Incongruent M = 28.37, SD = 2.21; Japanese Congruent M = 28.03, SD = 2.23, Incongruent M = 27.64, SD = 2.19).
Means for the N400 for the two culture were: European Canadians Congruent M = −1.77 µV, SD = .88, Incongruent M = −1.72 µV, SD = .74; Japanese Congruent M = −1.16 µV, SD = .83, Incongruent M = −1.34 µV, SD = .80, and means for the LPC for the two cultures were: European Canadians Congruent M = 1.64 µV, SD = 1.04, Incongruent M = 1.57 µV, SD = 1.00; Japanese Congruent M = 1.15 µV, SD = .96, Incongruent M = 1.43 µV, SD = 1.02.
See Footnote 5
One outlier was excluded from the moderation analysis due to it being greater than 3 standard deviations from regression lines. However, we should note that both with and without this outlier, the moderation interaction was still significant.
We also analyzed correlations between the rating incongruity effect and the N400 incongruity effect, and the rating incongruity effect and the LPC incongruity effect, finding no significant correlations when combining or separating the two culture’s data (p > .2).
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We thank Yvonne Chen, Shez Kassam, Hajin Lee, Liman Li, Kristina Nand, Sawa Senzaki, Kristen Zentner, and other members of the Culture and Cognition Laboratory at the Department of Psychology at the University of Alberta for their kind assistance and feedback.
This research was approved by the University of Alberta ethics board in accordance to the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. All participants gave us their informed consent.
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Russell, M.J., Masuda, T., Hioki, K. et al. Culture and social judgments: the importance of culture in Japanese and European Canadians’ N400 and LPC processing of face lineup emotion judgments. Cult. Brain 3, 131–147 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40167-015-0032-1