Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
People living in multicultural environments often encounter situations which require them to acquire different cultural schemas and to switch between these cultural schemas depending on their immediate sociocultural context. Prior behavioral studies show that priming cultural schemas reliably impacts mental processes and behavior underlying self-concept. However, less well understood is whether or not cultural priming affects neurobiological mechanisms underlying the self. Here we examined whether priming cultural values of individualism and collectivism in bicultural individuals affects neural activity in cortical midline structures underlying self-relevant processes using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Biculturals primed with individualistic values showed increased activation within medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) during general relative to contextual self-judgments, whereas biculturals primed with collectivistic values showed increased response within MPFC and PCC during contextual relative to general self-judgments. Moreover, degree of cultural priming was positively correlated with degree of MPFC and PCC activity during culturally congruent self-judgments. These findings illustrate the dynamic influence of culture on neural representations underlying the self and, more broadly, suggest a neurobiological basis by which people acculturate to novel environments.