"By each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future."
Perception is influenced not only by our sensory systems but also by our experience of living in a particular culture. People from different cultures may perceive the physical world differently. Consider a classic example offered by the anthropologist Colin Turnbull. Turnbull took Kenge, an African pygmy guide, on his first trip outside the dense forest into the open plain. When Kenge saw buffalo several miles away on the plain, he took them to be insects. When he got closer to the animals and recognized them as buffalo, he was aghast at how the animals had been able to grow so quickly. Why would Kenge mistake a buffalo for an insect? In Kenge’s culture, people lived in remote villages in a dense forest. He had never before had an unobstructed view of objects at a great distance. He lacked the experience needed to acquire size constancy for distant objects - to learn that objects retain their size even as the image they project on our eyes grows smaller.
Recent research shows that Westerners and East Asians tend to perceive the same visual scenes in different ways. Investigators found that Americans tend to focus more attention on objects in the foreground of visual scenes than do East Asians, whereas East Asians take in more of the background or contextual characteristics than do Americans (Nisbett, et al. 2005). When it comes to West and East, Nisbett and his colleagues claim, we have two fundamentally different processing styles, a Western style focusing on categorizing specific objects versus a more holistic Eastern style of attending to contextual information and making judgments about relationships among objects rather than simply classifying them.