Psychology

Religion and Togetherness

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Science  27 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5995, pp. 997
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5995.997-a
CREDIT: PIETER JANSZ. SAENREDAM, INTERIOR OF THE BUURKERK, UTRECHT, 1645 (COLLECTION OF THE KIMBELL ART MUSEUM, FORT WORTH, TEXAS)

As academic psychologists have ventured beyond institutional and national boundaries, they have come upon an impressive influence of culture upon cognition. A canonical example of this is the relative tendency of East Asians to see visual scenes via a holistic mindset in contrast to the Western style of focusing on salient objects. Nevertheless, within these cultural categories, there is considerable intrinsic variation, which can be uncovered, for instance, in comparisons of Chinese and Japanese. Colzato et al. have looked at the linkage between religious upbringing and visual perception in three somewhat less heterogeneous populations—neo-Calvinists in the Netherlands, Roman Catholics in Italy, and Orthodox Jews in Israel—and found that adherents of each of these religions differed from atheists of the same cultural background. The Calvinists, whose tradition emphasizes the role of the individual, showed greater visual attentiveness to local features, whereas the big picture perspective was favored by Catholics and Jews, whose traditions stress social togetherness.

Cognition 117, 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.07.003 (2010).

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