Cultural and Linguistic Influence on Developmental Neural Basis of Theory of Mind and Self-Construal: Whorfian Hypothesis Revisited, pp.1-34
Authors: Chiyoko Kobayashi Frank, Department of Psychology, Cornell University, NY
Abstract: Recent cross-cultural research on various cognitive functions found clear cultural influence on how we perceive our world. Likewise, neuroimaging research has found significant influence of culture / language in theory of mind (ToM) – ability to understand mental states of others – and self-construal (which is related to ToM) in the neural level. In this chapter, cross-cultural and brain imaging research on ToM and related social cognition are selectively reviewed. I discuss the roles of medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) that have been consistently implicated in ToM and perspective-taking (or distinguishing “self” from “other”). These structures may be particularly important for culturally unique ways of social cognition related to ToM and self-construal. Next, I briefly review current developmental theories of ToM, and discuss whether or not the recent findings from neuroimaging studies of ToM in children support these theories. Functional relationship between “language regions” and ToM will also be reviewed along with these discussions. Lastly, I present two models of culture / language-dependent and independent ToM development.