Reasearch for my doctoral paper leads me to interesting articles, this is another one worth repeating.
Culture has been called “an amalgam of values, meanings, conventions and artifacts that constitute daily social realities” (Kitayama & Park, 2010). As a system of meaning and shared beliefs, culture provides a framework for our behavioral and affective norms. Countless studies in cultural psychology have examined the effect of culture on all aspects of our behavior, cognitionand emotion, delineating both differences and similarities across populations. More recently, findings in cultural neuroscience have outlined possible ways how cultural scripts that we learn during childhood and cultural practices that we observe as adults influence our brains.
What is cultural neuroscience?
Source: royyimzy/Adobe StockAs an interdisciplinary field of research, cultural neuroscience investigates the relationship between culture and the brain, particularly, the ways in which culture “both constructs and is constructed by the mind and its underlying brain pathways” (Kitayama & Park, 2010). Exactly how might culture wire our brains? According to findingsfrom cultural neuroscience, the mechanism has to do with the brain’s plasticity: the brain’s ability to adapt to long-lasting engagement in scripted behaviors (i.e. cultural tasks). The capacity of our brains to undergo structural changes from recurrent daily tasks has been well documented (e.g., larger hippocampi - a region that is intimately involved in spatial memory - of London taxi drivers; increased cortical density in the motor cortex of jugglers). Analogously, in order to process various cultural functions with more fluency, culture appears to become “embrained” from accumulated cultural experiences in our brains. Numerous fMRI studies have shown how cultural background can influence neural activity during various cognitive functions. For instance, cross-cultural differences in brain activity among Western and East Asian participants have been revealed during tasks including visual perception, attention, arithmetic processing, and self-reflection (see Han & Humphreys, 2016 for review).
Culture and self-construal
One of the widely studied traits to interpret cross-cultural differences in behavior, cognition and emotion is self-construal. Self-construal refers to how we perceive and understand ourselves. Western cultures promote an independent self-construal, where the self is viewed as a separate, autonomous entity and the emphasis is on the self’s independence and uniqueness. East Asian cultures, on the other hand, foster an interdependent self-construal, with a self that is more relational, harmonious and interconnected with others. Recent cultural neuroscience studies have given a glimpse into the interaction between self-construal, culture and the brain. In particular, research has suggested that self-construal mediates differences in brain activity across different cultures by activating a framework for various neural processes involved in cognition and emotion. In other words, because the self is formed in the context of our cultural scripts and practices, continuous engagement in cultural tasks that reflect values of independent or interdependent self-construals produces brain connections that are “culturally patterned”. This neural blueprint, according to researchers, is the foundation of the cultural construction of the self.
One way researchers have studied the influence of cultural values on neurocognitive processes is by priming participants towards independent and interdependent construals and then examining how the brain reacts to various situations afterwards. Priming can be done, for example, by asking participants to read stories containing different pronouns (“we” or “us” for interdependent self-construal and “I” or “me” for independent self-construal) and asking them to think about how similar or different they are to others. Findings have demonstrated various differences in neural activity after priming for independent or interdependent construals. For instance, priming has been shown to modulate the response to other people’s pain, as well as the degree with which we resonate with others. In another study, when participants were primed for independent construals during a gambling game, they showed more reward activation for winning money for themselves. However, when primed for interdependent construals, participants showed similar reward activation as when they had won money for a friend.
Culture also appears to influence the way the self is represented in our brains. In one experiment, Western and Chinese participants were asked to think about their selves, their mothers, or a public person. The fMRI data showed that the same parts of the brain (Medial Prefrontal Cortex) were activated when both groups thought about themselves. However, unlike with the Western participants, the MPFC was also activated among Chinese participants when they thought of their mothers. These results were interpreted as suggesting that the Chinese participants (interdependent self-construals) use the same brain area to represent both the self and their mothers, while the Western participants use the MPFC exclusively for self-representation.
Recent cultural neuroscience research is shedding light on how culture shapes our functional anatomy, biases our brains, affects our neural activity, and even influences the way we represent the self and others in our brains. Whether due to daily activities or genes, when neurons fire repeatedly in scripted ways for a prolonged time (essentially what cultural practices entail), brain pathways can be reinforced and established – all to enable a more seamless execution of cultural tasks and to “facilitate a cultural and biological adaptation” (Kitayama & Park, 2010). Thus, as some researchershave suggested, our endorsement of particular cultural values may leave a greater imprint on our brains than on our behaviors.
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Draganski B, Gaser C, Busch V, Schuierer G, Bogdahn U, May A. (2004). Neuroplasticity: Changes in grey matter induced by training. Nature, 427:311–312.
Frenkel, K. Cultural Neuroscientist Shinobu Kitayama. The fpr.org blog https://thefprorg.wordpress.com/fpr-interviews/cultural-psychologist-shinobu-kitayama/
Gardner, W. L., Gabriel, S., & Lee, A. Y. (1999). “I” value freedom, but “we” value relationships: Self-construal priming mirrors cultural differences in judgment. Psychological Science, 10(4), 321-326.
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Han, S., & Humphreys, G. (2016). Self-construal: a cultural framework for brain function. Current Opinion in Psychology, 8, 10-14.
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Yes, I just posted a photo of "don't be a dick". These are simple words, that yes are hard (not on the positivity side of the house), but those simple words got your attention right?
Yes, we live in a society that is all about LOOK AT ME culture, we have YT, SNAPCHAT, INSTA, FACEBOOK and so many other SOCIAL MEDIA outlets. But does it give a person a right to 'be a dick", or even the right to not expand our minds so far that we have forgotten who WE REALLY ARE? Yes, this is another lesson about authentic life.
We live in a society that is more about sharing negativity that really sharing positivity. DAILY even positive people I know, share the negative. It gets covered up with "well it's about being socially aware", which I am all about social awareness, but why as a society do we focus on the "dick moves" of the world. Why can't we focus, on the positive out of the negativity and give that more a universal signal boost? Do we use it as a coping tool to hide our own non authentic life? What are we truly masking?
I have had my share of negative things going on in my life, but with all of that I always try to see the good out of the negative. Is it hard? Why of course. When things stir off course, my world crumbles around me, remember I am only human on this planet earth. I don't have a magic spell that will make everything better. But I do have my own thoughts, and my own intentions where I can stir the course to a better solution. Now that is truly magical when all the combos are just right. Authentic life, is about all the lessons, you learn while making that magic happen. Authentic life is about all the right ingredients inside your soul and recognizing them and embracing them.
Authentic life is also about embracing. You embrace the bad and the good. You see the good in every situation, even in the bad times.
I will give you an example of embracing my own part of my life. Are you ready?
This past June we was rendered homeless, due to my ex landlord selling the house we lived in. We was given 20 DAYS to leave a home that we strived for over a year to keep, due to all the hardships of moving to a new location and starting over literally from scratch. My husband at the time was working 6 days a week, 2 jobs. He could not help me pack. My soul sister whom lives here in Washington as well, also had started a new job ( I was watching her daughter for her). So here it was not only effecting our life, but also my soul sister's life. Now at the time, I cried many tears. I was also very angry. I somehow made it through the 20 days, packing. We had another friend that was kind and left their van for us to use to move things. A few times they was able to come and move stuff in storage. WE did it with the combined effort of my close circle around me. The impossible task was conquered.
Next, we moved our couple suitcases, my service dog, tea cart and pillows into a secondary room my soul sister has. That is where my husband and I have been living since the end of June. July rolled around, and it was like shell shock. My husband, ended quitting one of his jobs to primary focus on the out of town job that paid more money and more hours (he was only part time at his old job and with new management very few hours). My husband on average commutes a total of 3-4 extra hours depending on traffic daily. Don't sound to bad, but my husband also is a driver for his work, so on the road an average of 9 hours daily, so in reality my husband spends 13-14 hours daily driving. He is tired. But this is the life we choose to do, and even with all of that driving- MY HUSBAND IS THE HAPPIEST he has ever been in years working. CRAZY RIGHT? No, that is embracing authentic life. Even as July rolled in, my soul sister's work schedule got crazy. I was able to be there for my soul daughter without her having the worry. So I embraced this was where I am suppose to be at this moment.
August/September rolls in and my hubby and I start seeking online for possible new places. Scary part was in the area he works in the places was just not in our budget. Ok, next...I just kept pushing forward. We even went to a place was was told NO, because before we could fill out the application, my husband simply did not make enough money, according to their standards and renting regulations. I felt so defeated that day. I just could not even look at the mountain without crying. My symbol of strength was completely WTF what's next? So I bucked up and kept searching. We applied for an income based apartment, we was yes, finally a break. Well, 2 days later we was denied, due to credit. Once again I felt defeated. How can my life be based on numbers on a piece of paper. What has society become, when we stopped looking at the person inside and we just all have become a credit score. That lead me to much more thinking.
When my brain thinks, it loves to remind me who I am. See, being homeless "but not homeless" according to society, I had more learning to do. During this trail in my life, I have learned why homelessness is an issue in America. I learned new information, that I am suppose to do share, and let there be that "social awareness", where normally people turn a blind eye. I also know all my positives in my life. Yes, I do have a roof over my head which I am utter grateful for. Not only am I safe but my family is as well. I also learned from all this experience, some inner child mantra work I really need to work on. See all of this has really uprooted my lotus flower inside myself. I feel lost, no place to land calling it my own. I feel this is a nail in a coffin for some issues and work I have been doing these past 2 years, starting over. As I write these words in the blog, you only see a fraction of the real me, my authentic self I am showing you now. The scared one, who doesn't know where she will be in the next few months. But is writing this blog in hopes of teaching. Why I even bother to write at all is to only teach, pass whatever knowledge in my life I am suppose to do. Be the bridge at this moment. My authentic life is to let you know no matter "who is being a dick" "that shitty stuff that happens" that look at all the beautiful lessons that life is teaching you, showing you and for love of it all what positives you can see and pass along.
My parting words are simple: DON'T BE A DICK to yourself. Allow yourself to focus on the good things, train your mind. Pass your knowledge to others and teach other's "NOT TO BE A DICK" Most important don't feed the negativity, your soul will thank you.
Yes, in continual of The Science of Happiness from my course I took at edx.org I bring you another excerise of self loving to do! It does not take long and you may find yourself in awe! Love and Light everyone! Enjoy
This exercise asks you to write a letter to yourself expressing compassion for an aspect of yourself that you don’t like. Research suggests that people who respond with compassion to their own flaws and setbacks—rather than beating themselves up over them—experience greater physical and mental health.
First, identify something about yourself that makes you feel ashamed, insecure, or not good enough. It could be something related to your personality, behavior, abilities, relationships, or any other part of your life.
Once you identify something, write it down and describe how it makes you feel. Sad? Embarrassed? Angry? Try to be as honest as possible, keeping in mind that no one but you will see what you write.
The next step is to write a letter to yourself expressing compassion, understanding, and acceptance for the part of yourself that you dislike.
As you write, follow these guidelines:
1. Imagine that there is someone who loves and accepts you unconditionally for who you are. What would that person say to you about this part of yourself?
2. Remind yourself that everyone has things about themselves that they don’t like, and that no one is without flaws. Think about how many other people in the world are struggling with the same thing that you’re struggling with.
3. Consider the ways in which events that have happened in your life, the family environment you grew up in, or even your genes may have contributed to this negative aspect of yourself.
4. In a compassionate way, ask yourself whether there are things that you could do to improve or better cope with this negative aspect. Focus on how constructive changes could make you feel happier, healthier, or more fulfilled, and avoid judging yourself.
5. After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back to it later and read it again. It may be especially helpful to read it whenever you’re feeling bad about this aspect of yourself, as a reminder to be more self-compassionate.
Evidence that it works
Breines, J. G. & Chen, S. (2012). Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18(9), 1133-1143.
Participants in an online study who wrote a compassionate paragraph to themselves regarding a personal weakness subsequently reported greater feelings of self-compassion. They also experienced other psychological benefits, such as greater motivation for self-improvement.
Other supporting evidence
Leary, M. R., Tate, E. B., Adams, C. E., Allen, A. B., & Hancock, J. (2007). Self-compassion and reactions to unpleasant self-relevant events: The implications of treating oneself kindly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 887-904.
Neff, K. D., & Germer, C. K. (2013). A pilot study and randomized controlled trial of the mindful self-compassion program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 28-44.
Shapira, L. B., & Mongrain, M. (2010). The benefits of self-compassion and optimism exercises for individuals vulnerable to depression. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 377-389.
Why it works
Self-compassion reduces painful feelings of shame and self-criticism that can compromise mental health and well-being and stand in the way of personal growth. Writing is a powerful way to cope with negative feelings and change the way you think about a difficult situation.
Writing in a self-compassionate way can help you replace your self-critical voice with a more compassionate one--one that comforts and reassures you rather than berating yourself for your shortcomings. It takes time and practice, but the more your write in this way, the more familiar and natural the compassionate voice will feel, and the easier it will be to remember to treat yourself kindly when you’re feeling down on yourself.
Juliana Breines, Ph.D., Brandeis University
Kristin Neff, Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin
confessions of a starseed
Wisdom to be passed to the human race...