People from different cultures use their brains differently to solve the same tasks. This could explain things like why, in Western cultures anyway, blind tasting tests have shown that, to most people, more expensive wine actually TASTES better.

In BBC News, Kathryn Westcott reports that when researchers asked 21 volunteers to try different bottles of the same type of red wine and report on which ones they liked best. The only information they were given was the price. When two people were given the same wine to drink but told that they were different and that one was much more expensive, they both liked the “more expensive” one better.

Psychological research has established that American culture, which values the individual, emphasizes the independence of objects from their contexts, while East Asian societies emphasize the collective and the contextual interdependence of objects. This is even reflected in our brain patterns. researcher John Gabrieli asked 10 East Asians recently arrived in the US and 10 Americans to make quick judgments while their brains were being scanned while they were being shown a images of lines within squares, he found out that the Americans were better at judging the absolute lengths of the lines, while the Asians were better at judging the correct relationships between the lines and the squares they were in.

Gabrieli says, “Everyone uses the same attention machinery for more difficult cognitive tasks, but they are trained to use it in different ways, and it’s the culture that does the training. It’s fascinating that the way in which the brain responds to these simple drawings reflects, in a predictable way, how the individual thinks about independent or interdependent social relationships.”

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