Culture, Control, and Illusory Pattern Perception

Cynthia S. Wang, Jennifer A. Whitson, Tanya Menon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Lacking control causes illusory pattern perception, but does culture influence the patterns people perceive? Different cultural contexts invite distinct types of control, with people from Western cultures emphasizing primary control methods (i.e., personal agency) and people from East Asian cultures emphasizing secondary control methods (i.e., adjustment to surroundings). Four experiments suggest that cultural differences in primary versus secondary control orientation shape the patterns people perceive within horoscopes. When lacking (vs. possessing) control, Westerners are relatively more likely to rely on horoscopes that help them understand themselves, whereas East Asians are relatively more likely to rely on horoscopes that help them understand others. The authors isolate underlying mechanisms, demonstrating that, following loss of control, people high on primary control rely on self-focused horoscopes and people high on secondary control rely on horoscopes about friends. Thus, cultural differences in primary versus secondary control create unique signatures in pattern perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)630-638
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Volume3
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012

Keywords

  • culture
  • pattern perception
  • primary control
  • secondary control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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