Mental Activity and Culture: The Elusive Real World

  • Gert Jan HofstedeEmail author
Part of the Intelligent Systems Reference Library book series (ISRL, volume 134)


How does culture affect mental activity? That question, applied to the design of social agents, is tackled in this chapter. Mental activity acts on the perceived outside world. It does so in three steps: perceive, interpret, select action. We see that when culture is taken into account, objective reality disappears to a large extent. Instead, perception, interpretation and action selection can differ in many ways between agents from different cultures. This complicates the design of artificially intelligent systems. On the other hand, theory exists that can help us deal with these complications. All people have a shared set of drives and capacities, on which cultures are built. Good knowledge exists on how culture affects perception, interpretation, and action. Empirical research has uncovered major distinctions in social life across cultures. One could say that intelligent agents with different cultures live in the same social world, but in systematically different social landscapes. This social world—in the form of generic sociological theory—and these differences—in the form of cross-cultural theory—can be used for designing these agents. The state of the art is still tentative. The chapter gives examples from recent literature that can serve as points of departure for further work.


Culture Social agents Mental activity Drives Social landscape Generic sociological theory Cross-cultural theory Reality Perception Interpretation Action selection 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Sciences, Applied Information Technology Group & SiLiCoWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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