The cultural neuroscience of person perception

Jonathan B. Freeman, Nicholas O. Rule, Nalini Ambady

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In the last few years, theorists have argued that culture can shape processes of basic visual perception. This work has primarily focused on cultural influences in nonsocial domains, such as cross-cultural differences in seeing and attending to focal stimuli versus backgrounds. Recently, researchers have begun to examine how culture can shape processes of social perception. We review such evidence and describe how culture tunes both the outcomes of social perception (as revealed in behavioral responses) as well as the activity of the neural mechanisms that mediate these outcomes. Such evidence comes from the domains of emotion recognition, social status perception, social group evaluation, and mental state inference. We explicate these findings through our viewpoint that ecologically important aspects of the sociocultural environment shape perceptual processing and its neural basis. More broadly, we discuss the promise of a cultural neuroscience approach to social perception and some of its epistemological challenges as a nascent interdisciplinary enterprise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-201
Number of pages11
JournalProgress in Brain Research
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 2009


  • behavior
  • culture
  • emotions
  • face
  • neuroscience
  • perception
  • psychology
  • social status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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