Cultural beliefs and practices profoundly shape behavior and cognition. As a consequence, cross-cultural differences have been demonstrated in cognition, perception and behavior. Neuroscientists have demonstrated that different types of experience ranging from sensory deprivation in early life to playing a musical instrument can result in measurable structural and functional changes in the brain. Therefore, differential cultural experience must also result in structural and functional changes in the brain.
A Sociocultural Neuroscience Approach to Neuroplasticity
Most of our understanding of psychology and brain function has come from research on small samples of individuals from Western industrialized nations. Thus, understanding brain mechanisms of cultural differences in behavior and cognition will help to provide a more complete and accurate picture of psychology in brain function.
We have previously investigated how an individual’s gender and ethnicity influence brain mechanisms underlying imitative learning (Losin, Cross, Iacoboni, & Dapretto, 2014), and we are currently investigating the sociocultural and neural mechanisms underlying previously documented ethnic, racial, and gender differences in pain report.