Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How you remember dance steps depends on culture: I think step to the left, you think step to the east

Date:
January 4, 2010
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Even the way people remember dance moves depends on the culture they come from, according to a new article. Whereas a German or other Westerner might think in terms of "step to the right, step to the left," a nomadic hunter-gatherer from Namibia might think something more like "step to the east, step to the west."

Zulu warriors in South Africa perform their ritual battle dance before going to fight. Even the way people remember dance moves depends on the culture they come from.
Credit: iStockphoto/Cliff Parnell

Even the way people remember dance moves depends on the culture they come from, according to a report in the December 14th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. Whereas a German or other Westerner might think in terms of "step to the right, step to the left," a nomadic hunter-gatherer from Namibia might think something more like "step to the east, step to the west."

Those differences aren't just a matter of language; rather, they reflect differences in the way our minds encode and remember spatial relationships.

"The human mind varies more across cultures than we generally assume," said Daniel Haun of the Max Planck Research Group for Comparative Cognitive Anthropology. "Even everyday tasks that we would never think of doing any other way, like remembering body movements, are done differently in other places."

Researchers knew that cultures differ in the way that they represent the locations of objects in space. But, Haun and Christian Rapold explain, knowing where our own hands and feet are has a strongly "egocentric" organization in the brain. Therefore, you might expect all people to remember body movements in essentially the same manner.

Not so, the new study shows. The researchers conducted experiments in which they asked groups of German children and Hai||om (sometimes referred to as Haikom) children from Namibia to learn a dance. The dance instructor (experimenter) stood by their side and demonstrated a simple move, shaking clasped hands from side to side in a right-left-right-right sequence. He then asked them to turn around to face the opposite direction and "dance again."

German children who successfully learned the dance almost always moved their hands to their right-left-right-right regardless of which direction they were facing. In contrast, the Hai||om children switched the direction of their movements, from right-left-right-right to left-right-left-left, depending on which way they were facing at the time.

The new findings highlight the extraordinary diversity and flexibility of the human mind, the researchers say.

"It's becoming more and more clear that we cannot simply extrapolate from investigations within our own population to others," Haun said. "To understand the human mind, we need to widen our perspective and assume diversity rather than universality of cognition until proven otherwise."

The researchers include Daniel B.M. Haun, at Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands; Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany; and University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK; and Christian J. Rapold, at Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "How you remember dance steps depends on culture: I think step to the left, you think step to the east." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091214121951.htm>.
Cell Press. (2010, January 4). How you remember dance steps depends on culture: I think step to the left, you think step to the east. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091214121951.htm
Cell Press. "How you remember dance steps depends on culture: I think step to the left, you think step to the east." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091214121951.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Center for Science in the Public Interest released its 2014 list of single meals with whopping calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins