Western culture, they have found, conditions people to think of themselves as highly independent entities. And when looking at scenes, Westerners tend to focus on central objects more than on their surroundings.
In contrast, East Asian cultures stress interdependence. When Easterners take in a scene, they tend to focus more on the context as well as the object: the whole block, say, rather than the BMW parked in the foreground.
To use a camera analogy, “the Americans are more zoom and the East Asians are more panoramic,” said Dr. Denise Park of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas in Dallas. “The Easterner probably sees more, and the Westerner probably sees less, but in more detail.”
You can test your own perceptions using the gallery of images that accompany this article.