Project Report

. A number of native Chinese participants were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in Beijing, China (the EAPSI host site), and fMRI data were compared with a group of White American participants scanned in Cambridge, MA, USA. In the task, participants viewed computer-generated faces morphed along race, from White to Asian, surrounded in either American, Chinese, or neutral scene contexts. A number of brain regions, including the fusiform gyrus, retrosplenial cortex, and parahippocampal gyrus, showed race x context interactive effects, with higher responses as facial race and the context became more congruent. Behaviorally, race categorizations of the face were systematically influenced by the surrounding context, with American contexts biasing categorizations toward White, and Chinese contexts biasing categorizations toward Asian, relative to neutral contexts. These fMRI and behavioral effects were generally consistent across the two cultures. Based on these results, a manuscript is currently in preparation. The fMRI results are important for our understanding of the phenomenon of categorical face perception, its influence by visual and cultural context, and its neural basis. They also further characterize the roles of the fusiform in face processing and retrosplenial cortex and parahippocampal gyrus in scene/context processing. The behavioral results revealed quite strong influences of visual context on the categorical perception phenomenon. The results more broadly shed light on the underlying nature of the face-category representations hosted in various brain regions. In doing so, the results obtained from this work may have broad implications and advance knowledge and understanding across many research fields, including the cognitive psychology and neuroscience of categorization, visual perception, object integration, and face perception, and the social psychology of person perception. The results may also provide new insights for the emerging fields of social and cultural neuroscience by revealing both cultural differences and similarities in brain function and more deeply characterizing the neural mechanisms underlying person perception. The broader impacts of the research are also substantial. The majority of cognitive neuroscience research has have been conducted on Western individuals, which has recently led researchers to cast serious doubt on the generalizability of behavioral and brain-imaging results to individuals from other cultures, such as China. Much of the presented results converged across the two cultures. The research also broadens the participation of a scientifically underrepresented group: East Asians living in China. Through this award, the Principal Investigator was also put in interaction with Chinese scientists and immersed in the Chinese scientific community. These enriching experiences have brought about cross-cultural scientific collaboration, which is critical to emerging fields of social and cultural neuroscience, and more broadly for our understanding of human diversity and both cultural similarities and differences.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
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Carter Kimsey
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Freeman Jonathan B
United States
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