Shown a photograph, North American students of European background paid more attention to the object in the foreground of a scene, while students from China spent more time studying the background and taking in the whole scene, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. Their findings were reported in today's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers, led by Hannah-Faye Chua and Richard Nisbett, tracked the eye movements of the students — 25 European Americans and 27 native Chinese — to determine where they were looking in a picture and how long they focused on a particular area.
"They literally are seeing the world differently," said Nisbett. "Asians live in more socially complicated world than we do," he said in a telephone interview. "They have to pay more attention to others than we do. We are individualists."
I don't buy the interpretation, but the results are interesting. I wouldn't think about tracking the eye movements.