Fifteen to 18 month-old infants from three nationalities were observed interacting with their mothers and during two self-recognition tasks. Scottish interactions were characterized by distal contact, Zambian interactions by proximal contact, and Turkish interactions by a mixture of contact strategies. These culturally distinct experiences may scaffold different perspectives on self. In support, Scottish infants performed best in a task requiring recognition of the self in an individualistic context (mirror self-recognition), whereas Zambian infants performed best in a task requiring recognition of the self in a less individualistic context (body-as-obstacle task). Turkish infants performed similarly to Zambian infants on the body-as-obstacle task, but outperformed Zambians on the mirror self-recognition task. Verbal contact (a distal strategy) was positively related to mirror self-recognition and negatively related to passing the body-as-obstacle task. Directive action and speech (proximal strategies) were negatively related to mirror self-recognition. Self-awareness performance was best predicted by cultural context; autonomous settings predicted success in mirror self-recognition, and related settings predicted success in the body-as-obstacle task. This novel data substantiates the idea that cultural factors may play a role in the early expression of self-awareness. More broadly, the results highlight the importance of moving beyond the mark test, and designing culturally sensitive tests of self-awareness.
Ross, J., Yilmaz, M., Dale, R., Cassidy, R., Yildirim , I., & Zeedyk, M. S. (2017). Cultural differences in self-recognition: the early development of autonomous and related selves? Developmental Science, 20(3), [e12387]. https://doi.org/10.1111/desc.12387