Essentializing the binary self: Individualism and collectivism in cultural neuroscience


Within the emerging field of cultural neuroscience (CN) one branch of research focuses on the neural underpinnings of “individualistic/Western” vs. “collectivistic/Eastern” self-views. These studies uncritically adopt essentialist assumptions from classic cross-cultural research, mainly following the tradition of Markus and Kitayama (1991), into the domain of functional neuroimaging. In this perspective article we analyze recent publications and conference proceedings of the 18th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (2012) and problematize the essentialist and simplistic understanding of “culture” in these studies. Further, we argue against the binary structure of the drawn “cultural” comparisons and their underlying Eurocentrism. Finally we scrutinize whether valuations within the constructed binarities bear the risk of constructing and reproducing a postcolonial, orientalist argumentation pattern.


Essentializing the binary self: individualism and collectivism in cultural neuroscience. Martínez Mateo M, Cabanis M, Stenmanns J, Krach S. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Jun 21;7:289. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00289. eCollection 2013.

Scroll to Top