The communication of culturally dominant modes of attention from parents to children: A comparison of Canadian and Japanese parent-child conversations during a joint scene description task

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Previous findings have indicated that, when presented with visual information, North American undergraduate students selectively attend to focal objects, whereas East Asian undergraduate students are more sensitive to background information. However, little is known about how these differences are driven by culture and socialization processes. In this study, two experiments investigated how young children and their parents used culturally unique modes of attention (selective vs. context sensitive attention). We expected that children would slowly learn culturally unique modes of attention, and the experience of communicating with their parents would aid the development of such modes of attention. Study 1 tested children's solitary performance by examining Canadian and Japanese children's (4-6 vs. 7-9 years old) modes of attention during a scene description task, whereby children watched short animations by themselves and then described their observations. The results confirmed that children did not demonstrate significant cross-cultural differences in attention during the scene description task while working independently, although results did show rudimentary signs of culturally unique modes of attention in this task scenario by age 9. Study 2 examined parent-child (4-6 and 7-9 years old) dyads using the same task. The results indicated that parents communicated to their children differently across cultures, replicating attentional differences among undergraduate students in previous cross-cultural studies. Study 2 also demonstrated that children's culturally unique description styles increased significantly with age. The descriptions made by the older group (7-9 years old) showed significant cross-cultural variances in attention, while descriptions among the younger group (4-6 years old) did not. The significance of parental roles in the development of culturally unique modes of attention is discussed in addition to other possible facilitators of this developmental process.



    PLOS ONE 11(1), 2016-01-29

    Public Library of Science


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