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«Examining Cultural Drifts in Artworks through History and Development: Cultural Comparisons between Japanese and Western Landscape Paintings and ...»

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Cultural Psychology

Examining Cultural Drifts in Artworks through History and Development:

Cultural Comparisons between Japanese and Western Landscape Paintings

and Drawings.

Kristina Nand, Taka Masuda, Sawa Senzaki and Keiko Ishii

Journal Name: Frontiers in Psychology

ISSN: 1664-1078

Article type: Original Research Article

Received on: 13 Jun 2014

Accepted on: 31 Aug 2014 Provisional PDF published on: 31 Aug 2014 www.frontiersin.org: www.frontiersin.org Citation: Nand K, Masuda T, Senzaki S and Ishii K(2014) Examining Cultural Drifts in Artworks through History and Development: Cultural Comparisons between Japanese and Western Landscape Paintings and Drawings.. Front. Psychol. 5:1041.

doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01041 Copyright statement: © 2014 Nand, Masuda, Senzaki and Ishii. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

This Provisional PDF corresponds to the article as it appeared upon acceptance, after rigorous peer-review. Fully formatted PDF and full text (HTML) versions will be made available soon.


Examining Cultural Drifts in Artworks through History and Development:

Cultural Comparisons between Japanese and Western Landscape Paintings and Drawings.

Kristina Nand Takahiko Masuda University of Alberta Sawa Senzaki University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Keiko Ishii Kobe Un

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Research on cultural products suggest that there are substantial cultural variations between East Asian and European landscape masterpieces and contemporary members’ landscape artwork (Masuda et al., 2008), and that these cultural differences in drawing styles emerge around the age of 8 (Senzaki et al., 2014). However, culture is not static. To explore the dynamics of historical and ontogenetic influence on artistic expressions, we examined (1) 17th to 20th century Japanese and Western landscape masterpieces, and (2) cross-sectional adolescent data in landscape artworks alongside previous findings of elementary school-aged children, and undergraduates. The results showed cultural variations in artworks and masterpieces as well as substantial “cultural drifts” (Herskovits, 1948) where at certain time periods in history and in development, people’s expressions deviated from culturally default patterns but occasionally returned to its previous state. The bidirectional influence of culture and implications for

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Examining Cultural Drifts in Artworks through History and Development:

Cultural Comparisons between Japanese and Western Landscape Paintings and Drawings.

The Cyclical Nature of Culture and Psyche Since cultural psychology has launched under the assumption that culture and psyche mutually construct one another in that our cultural meanings and practices bring rise to culturally specific ways of thinking and behaving, which in turn maintain culture (Bruner, 1990; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Shweder, 1991), numerous studies have demonstrated that there are systematic cultural variations in cognition and perception. Specifically, members of East Asian cultures tend to be holistic in their thinking patterns, attending to and interpreting a given event contextually and as a whole, whereas members of North American cultures tend to be analytic thinkers, selectively attending to focal objects and events independent from context and interpreting a given event by focusing on salient information (Nisbett, 2003; Nisbett & Masuda, 2003; Nisbett & Miyamoto, 2005; Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001). This heightened awareness to context results in East Asians, in comparison to North Americans, being sensitive to not only focal objects but also surrounding contextual information (Chua, Boland, & Nisbett, 2005; Ji, Peng, & Nisbett, 2000; Kitayama, Duffy, Kawamura & Larsen, 2003; Masuda & Nisbett, 2001;

2006; Masuda, Akase, Radford, & Wang, 2008; Masuda, Ellsworth, Mesquita, Leu, Tanida, & van de Veerdonk, 2008; Masuda, Wang, Ishii, & Ito, 2012; Senzaki, Masuda, & Ishii, in press).

In addition to the investigation of cultural influences on basic psychological processes, notably attention, researchers have recently begun to investigate the other path in how people convey dominant cultural messages by producing cultural products--public, shared and tangible representations (Morling & Lamoreaux, 2008). Their studies have demonstrated that East Asian

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Senzaki, Masuda, & Nand, 2014), the amount of information in conference posters and websites (Wang, Masuda, Ito, & Rashid, 2012), and the physical environment of cities and towns (Miyamoto, Nisbett, & Masuda, 2006) contain more information that represents interdependence and a holistic way of understanding the world, whereas Western cultural products contain information that represents independence and an analytic way of understanding the world.

In particular, Masuda and colleagues’ (2008) studies are regarded as the first comprehensive attempts to investigate the relationship between culture and aesthetics.

Historically speaking, East Asian and European cultures utilized different artistic methods in order to portray information from a three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional canvas.

East Asians see space as more flexible and all-encompassing while Westerners think of space as contained, distinguished by the separation between the ground and the sky (Vogt, 2013).

Therefore, East Asian landscape art has historically applied a bird’s-eye perspective in order to illustrate an entire scene. This perspective resulted in the horizon line being located high in the frame and the viewer looking down onto a scene that could be appreciated from any point of view. Furthermore, this perspective provided abundant space to allow artists to draw not only focal events, but also contextual events. In contrast, the technique of linear perspective was invented by Europeans during the Renaissance. Linear perspective allowed the artists to create an illusory three-dimensional view, where depth of field was actualized through converging information in the frame into a single point (Kubovy, 1986). However, this technique resulted in horizon lines being placed in the lower part of the frame, and one’s perspective was fixed at the viewer’s eye-level. Consequently, contextual information was restricted to what was realistically

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By analyzing the ratio of the horizon drawn to the frame and the number of objects used, which are useful indicators to indirectly measure people’s degree of context sensitivity, Masuda et al. (2008) identified that 15th to 19th century landscape masterpieces produced by East Asians were more likely than their Western counterparts to have higher horizons in the frame, contain more pieces of information, and holistically encompass context, and that this cultural variation in artistic expressions was observable even in landscape drawings of contemporary East Asian international students and American undergraduate students. Furthermore, Masuda et al.’s (2008) studies and subsequent research (Wang et al., 2012) has demonstrated that people indeed prefer artistic expressions which reflect dominant cultural meaning systems—East Asian’s context sensitive ideologies vs. Western object-oriented ideologies. These findings suggest that one’s aesthetic expression and its cultural products, such as drawings, can be a useful tool to size up dominant messages of a given culture. As Bruner (1990), Shweder (1991), and Miller (1999) emphasized, one of the most important theoretical assumptions of cultural psychology is to treat culture and the human psyche as a mutually constitutive dynamism. A series of research on culture and aesthetics provide evidence that such assumptions of mutuality are empirically testable, and that cultural variations in aesthetics are substantial (Masuda, Wang, Ito, & Senzaki, 2012 for review).

The Dynamic Nature of Culture Recent advances of research on culture and psychology, however, revealed that the existing model of culture and psychology is vulnerable to cultural change and that in fact, culture is not static. Researchers who advocate the importance of cultural change have demonstrated evidence of dynamic shifts in social structures in a given culture, while highlighting the discord

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potential for consequential social problems (Hamamura, 2013; Norasakkunkit, Uchida & Toivonen, 2012). Nonetheless, it is also true that some cultural phenomena persist in the face of change (Heine, 2011; Richerson & Boyd, 2005). In order to overcome the lack of methodology in cultural psychology to capture culture as a dynamic processes where both change and persistence are substantial, several theorists have attempted to incorporate wider time frameworks into their theories (Chiu & Hong, 2006; Masuda, in press; Tomasello, 1999).

For example, Tomasello (1999), in reference to theoretical frameworks of Vygotskian traditions (Vygotsky, 1978), maintained that to understand the cultural origin of human cognition, comprehensively understanding three time frameworks is necessary: phylogenetic, ontogenetic and historical. Phylogenetic processes should be understood in the widest time framework. Throughout the evolution of the human species, culture has constantly influenced human biology and psychology such as conformity to the group, self-other distinction, and theory of mind. Historical processes focus on how cultural learning provides humans with skills for both accumulating and building on knowledge over generations through creating major and minor improvements to our cultural artifacts and behavior. This way of sustaining cultural knowledge specific to the human species is termed “the ratchet effect” (Tomasello, Kruger, & Ratner, 1993). Finally, ontogenetic processes should be understood in the narrowest time framework. Children develop in the midst of cultural products and through interaction with mature members of a given culture. Throughout their entire developmental trajectory, they acquire and internalize specific skills necessary for survival in their culture. Here, examining how children interact with their caregivers, how culture is transmitted and how it is internalized, otherwise known as “scaffolding processes” (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976), is necessary in order

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Analyses of phylogeny require a research paradigm to examine the biological bases of human nature in a larger time frame. Therefore, it may not be applicable for most of the issues discussed in current cultural psychology. Ontogenetic and historical processes, however, have the potential to be incorporated into current research paradigms in cultural psychology. In fact, several studies have addressed the issues under the name of culture and history as well as culture and development.

Culture and History. Compared to research on ontogenetic processes, research on historical processes has not been fully examined in psychology. In the limited research that exists, studies on historical changes in self-esteem (Twenge & Campbell, 2001; Twenge, Campbell, & Gentile, 2012) must be counted as successful examples. Much research on historical trend analyses of human behaviors has been done in the field of political sciences (e.g.

Putnam, 2000), census analyses and demographic analyses (e.g. Goldin, 1998), and research on intelligence (e.g. Flynn, 1987; 1994; 1999). Furthermore, although the field of art history has addressed artistic expressions throughout time (e.g. Giedion, 1964; Gombrich, 1966), few research has been done in cultural psychology. To answer the necessity of historical research on culture and aesthetics, as aforementioned, Masuda et al.’s (2008) historical analyses examined landscape masterpieces spanning 500 years, and demonstrated systematic cultural variations in artistic expressions between East Asians and Westerners.

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