Cultural Influences on Social and Self-Relevant Memory

Part of the International and Cultural Psychology book series (ICUP)


Culture can impact the way in which an individual perceives the world around him or her. While definitions of culture vary widely between and within the varying social sciences, a cross-disciplinary definition might encompass culture as the values, ideas, and systems of belief that are shared amongst a network of interacting individuals who form a societal structure from which persons derive a sense of identification and interpret the world around them (Bruner, 1990; D’Andrade, 1984; DiMaggio, 1997; Geertz, 1973; Kashima, Woolcock, & Kashima, 2000; Sperber, 1996). Thus, culture can influence cognition related to social, emotional, and self-relevant processes. These processes correspondingly can shape the construction of culture, through the effects of personally held values and ideas as well as through interactions with others. A host of research indicates that Westerners tend to focus on objects, categories, and the self as an independent entity, whereas Easterners attend more to contexts, functional relationships, and group-relevant information. The lens imparted by one’s culture can direct attention, filtering which aspects of one’s environment are noted and encoded into memory (Gutchess & Indeck, 2009). In terms of memory retrieval, the cultural lens can shape which details are stored in memory and which cues serve as effective elicitors of information from memory.


Cross-cultural Cognition Memory fMRI Autobiographical Self-reference Social Emotion 



The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation (BCS-1147707), supporting their research in this area. We thank Pete Millar for comments and assistance with the preparation of this chapter.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA

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