Cristina E Salvador
Assistant Research Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

As a social and cultural psychologist, I examine how culture (a set of meanings and practices that make up daily realities we face) interfaces with biology to influence our thinking, feeling, and behavior. I analyze the influence of culture at multiple levels, including the brain, everyday language use, implicit measures, and big data. To pursue this overarching research agenda, I take three complementary approaches.

First, one powerful way to examine cultural influences is to draw systematic comparisons between groups. In one line of work, I find the psychological consequences of interdependence in cultures outside of East Asia (e.g., among Latin Americans, Indians, Arabs and Africans) are very different from what is documented in the literature. These ‘varieties of interdependence’ I am uncovering provide a new framework to think about the most studied construct in cultural psychology: interdependence.

Second, while many scholars acknowledge the importance of culture, there is debate about how deep cultural influences extend. I examine this by testing whether cultural differences are reflected in spontaneous neural responses. This approach has not only provided a new theoretical perspective for the study of the culture, but allowed the field to gain insights into culture that could not have been obtained with other methods. I describe two of these insights below, which include (i) cultural differences in default resting states and (ii) the nature of self-enhancement and self-criticism.

Third, daily social realities defined by social norms constitute a cultural environment. Yet, people are often unaware of their influence. To understand the influence of norms, I have examined (i) cultural factors that predict the spontaneous reactions to norms and (ii) how nations with more flexible relational norms have suffered a faster spread of COVID-19.

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