Cultural Research :: What’s in a Name?

Kent Shaffer —  May 22, 2007

The reason why understanding culture is important in ministry is because people will respond to you based on their past personal history and their culture’s history. For instance, we have discussed before how the color yellow is sacred to China’s culture but signifies “sadness” in Greece’s culture and “jealousy” in France’s culture.

To further reinforce this concept of interpreting the present based on the past, Science Daily reports that Miami University researchers discovered that people will even go as far as associating specific physical attributes with names.

From the two photos below, which do you perceive to be Bob and which is Tim?

Which is Bob, and which is Tim?

An entire lecture hall of students chose the bearded man as Tim and the rounded-faced man as Bob. I did the same.

I must admit that I was surprised because I always thought that one’s perceptions of who looks like a “Bob” were shaped by that individual’s own history of personal encounters. But this research would suggest that instead of someone looking like a “Bob” because they look like your Uncle Bob (your personal history), that there is something present in your cultural DNA causing you and many others in your cultural community to make the association (cultural history).

Just how deep does culture’s influence run? And how strong is it?

[Photo Credit: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review]

Kent Shaffer

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I live in an RV with my wife and 2 kids and work with to help Christians collaborate and build a global Church library of free, open content.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Culture 101 (#4) « Clearly TTUMC - May 25, 2007

    [...] How Deep Does Culture Run? Take the who’s Bob and who’s Tim test. [...]

  2. Dying of Thirst » Post Topic » Judge not lest you be Judged! - October 31, 2007

    [...] out why. One possibility is that the sound of a name crosses over to a visual representation. (source) These types of effects of category labels on lower-level perception are becoming a concern for [...]