How Culture Affects How You Remember The Past

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It may surprise you to learn that your culture affects how you remember the past. According to a study by Brandeis University, published on Futurity , when remembering an event like a birthday party, Americans were more likely to focus on details like the color of the decorations and the icing on the cake while East Asians were inclined to remember interpersonal aspects like who served the cake or who danced with whom.

“Your culture influences what you perceive to be important around you,” explains Angela Gutchess, an assistant professor of psychology at Brandeis University. “If your culture values social interactions, you will remember those interactions better than a culture that values individual perceptions. Culture really shapes your memory.”

In the study, Gutchess and her research team tried to determine how culture and memories are related. The performed a series of memory exercises with students from the US and various East Asian cultures and the results were astounding. “Previous studies had shown East Asians were better able to remember background and contextual details but this study showed that’s not always the case,” she says. “This may be because East Asian memory is more focused on emotional context and social detail than visual detail.”

Studies like this could be useful to improving teaching methods in multicultural classrooms or even diplomatic relationships. What do you think of this study? Do you think the results are accurate? Do you think your culture affects how you remember events?

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