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The Development and Transmission of Culturally Unique Attentional Styles in Canada and Japan: A Demonstration of Children’s Cultural Learning and Parents’ Scaffolding Behaviors Open Access


Other title
cognitive development
parent-child dyads
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Senzaki, Sawa
Supervisor and department
Masuda, Takahiko (Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Kabata, Kaori (East Asian Studies)
Noels, Kim (Psychology)
Wang, Qi (Human Ecology)
Nicoladis, Elena (Psychology)
Wiebe, Sandra (Psychology)
Department of Psychology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Accumulating evidence suggests systematic cross-cultural differences in patterns of attention, such that North American adults’ attentional patterns tend to be more selective and object-oriented, while East Asian adults’ attentional patterns tend to be more diffused and context-sensitive. Although such culturally divergent patterns of attention are expected to be the product of socialization practices unique to these cultural groups, little research to date has examined this theoretical assumption. The present research investigated the development and transmission of culturally specific attentional patterns by focusing on parent-child socialization practices as the source of cultural differences in visual attention in Canada and Japan. Two studies established that although children at ages 4 to 9 do not demonstrate cross-cultural differences in patterns of attention when they independently engage in a visual attention task that requires verbal description and recall (Study 1), when parents and children jointly engage in the same visual attention task, cultural differences emerge (Study 2). Particularly, Canadian and Japanese parents directed children’s attention in a culturally unique manner, and this effect was especially strong among parents with older children. Age-related differences were also found in children’s behavior, such that older children (7- to 9-year-olds) showed cross-cultural differences in their attentional patterns, mirroring those of their parents (i.e., object-oriented in Canada and context sensitive in Japan). Younger children (4- to 6-year-olds), however, did not show cultural differences even when their parents were demonstrating culturally unique attentional patterns during joint task engagement. These findings suggest parent-child interactions differ across cultural groups, which contribute to the development of culturally unique cognitive processing styles. Implications of parental scaffolding and cultural learning during parent-child socialization practices are discussed.
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