Ethno-cultural specifics of cognitive style and worldview of personalities with different cerebral asymmetry

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №4 - 2012

Author: Zhumagaliyeva Bibinur , Caspian State University of Technologies and Engineering in honor of Sh. Yessenov, Kazakhstan

Ethno-psychological specifics of hemispheric asymmetry manifestation in the cognitive area implies conventional ways of formulating questions, strategies of search and filtering information, explanation models, argumentation patterns, etc., typical of a definite ethnic group and common to all its representatives. With relation to this ethnic group, they represent indicative features, primarily, environmental structures and their basic elements realized in creating the worldview. Cognitive style and worldview are determined by a number of background factors, such as history, politics, and culture, as well as social and individual peculiarities.

Ethno-psychological specifics of hemispheric asymmetry manifestation are characterized as field dependence-independence, different cognitive styles and a specific worldview. A cognitive style represents steady symptom clusters, personality dependent individual and age distinctions in cognitive activity. Cognitive style is the unity of the inner (intellectual, emotional, volitional and motivational) and external (behavioral) characteristics. Cognitive styles and directions in thinking are mostly determined by belonging to some ethnic group and depend on its historic and cultural background.

Ethno-cultural peculiarities and specifics of hemispheric asymmetry manifestation with Kazakhs and Russians in Kazakhstan were studied according to the Program among representatives of six age groups. Thus, the sample group was presented by 1480 persons aged 5-22, among them 840 being Kazakhs and 640 Russians.

The research was aimed at examining the assumption that exposure to specific social, historical, cultural and ethnic factors has formed and consolidated some peculiar features in the content and display of cognitive styles and worldview of the various ethnic communities in Kazakhstan possessing different hemispheric asymmetry.

Methodological basis for the research presents a set of methods, techniques and technologies adjusted to the issues of ethno-psychological research. They are as follows: a methodology for instant diagnosis of asymmetry by A.R. Luria; M. Shtambak test; a Side Selection questionnaire by B. Taggard; Gottshald’s Embedded Figures Test; a Direction in Thinking questionnaire by A. Alekseev, L. Gromova. Besides, we used the method of defining types of thinking through solving logic problems by respondents; projective drawing My Image of the World; a projective essay My Idea of the World; a variant of the Semantic Differential technique: The World Around Us is Like…, a variant of the Semantic Differential technique: The World Around Us -What is It Like?

At the stage of generalization and interpretation of the data, we used the Spearman rank correlation coefficient, χ2 - Yates criterion, χ2 - Pearson criterion, the discontinuous variability coefficient - φ, factor analysis.

While analyzing the research findings, it was found out that among the Kazakhs (N = 840) there was approximately equal distribution of right hemisphere (44.4%) and mixed (45.4%) types of domination, only 10% having left hemisphere prevalence.

Among Russians (N = 640), prevail individuals with mixed domination (58.5%), the number of persons with right hemisphere domination is half as large and makes 28.4%, testees with left hemisphere domination present the number 4.5 times less. This data shows that Kazakhs demonstrate 1.6 times higher incidence of right hemisphere dominance if compared with Russians, while persons with prevailing left hemisphere occur 2.9 times rarer. With Kazakhs mixed type occurs 1.2 times as small as with Russians. This confirms our theoretical assumptions about the cultural dependence of the right hemisphere dominance with Kazakhs, and left hemisphere dominance with Russians.

If we consider this data according to sexual identity, it may be noted that there are clear differences between the Kazakhs in terms of hemispheric response, so the proportion of males was 27.9% and females 72.1%, while for the left hemisphere and mixed response frequency of occurrence they were nearly similar (51.9% and 48.1%, 41% and 59% respectively).

In the Russian sample (N = 640), no distinct differences in hemisphere dominance were found in terms of sex identity, and the figures were as follows: left hemisphere males made 51.4% and females 48.6%; right hemisphere persons presented 52.6% and 47.4% respectively; mixed types were 42.2% of males and 57.8% of females.

Table 1. Percentage of occurrence of right and left hemisphere dominance in the ontogeny of Kazakhs and Russians

In brackets, the data is given for the Kazakhs preferring thinking in Russian.

Comparing the change in the frequency of occurrence of various types of hemispheric dominance among Kazakhs and Russians during the transition from one age period to another, we can judge about the dynamics of the FAM development specific to each age group, whereas the most important in our view is the dominant activity, social roles, and the language.

According to the results of the data presented in Table1, it may be noted that dynamics of the frequency of occurrence of different hemisphere dominance among the Kazakhs and Russians varies. The nature of these changes, as we have shown in the theoretical and confirmed in the empirical part of this study, depends on the education system and the language.

Results of the gender-related study of dynamics of hemispheric dominance among Kazakhs and Russians suggest that the dynamics of hemispheric dominance in terms of gender among Kazakhs and Russians is unequal. Significant differences (by χ2 - test) in the nature of the dynamics of hemispheric dominance according to left - (χ2 = 10,5 *), right (χ2 = 22,05 **) hemisphere dominance among the Kazakhs and the right hemisphere - (χ2 = 24,15 **), mixed (χ2 = 18.9 **) dominance among Russians apparently depend on the gender-role identity of men and women secured in the social, personal, professional, age, cultural characteristics of community.

Gender differences in hemisphere dominance are also explained by gender-role characteristics mediated by culture. They, apart from perception of the global social, economic and political events, are most clearly expressed in common sense ideas of individual differences in general, that is, are culturally specific.

Gender asymmetry is not only the condition and the product of cultural and biological reproduction of human beings, but also the form within which the reproduction mediated by social relations takes place.

The results of the specific worldview study of Kazakhs and Russians in terms of hemispheric dominance and gender are presented in the summary Table 2. Analysis of essays and drawings makes it possible to identify meaningful groups of categories used by respondents to describe the world.

Table 2. Results of essays data processing

Where: left hemisphere dominance (L), right hemisphere dominance (R) and mixed types of dominance (I)

The table shows that Russians with left hemisphere dominance clearly prefer topics related to communication, to other people and to their inner world, feelings, thoughts, dreams. This is particularly noticeable when we compare this data with that of testees from other groups.

Among the Russians with the right hemisphere dominance the group of descriptive categories prevails, comprising concepts of organic and inorganic nature. We should pay attention to the fact that within this group of categories, they have the one of abstract natural sciences.

Considering the results of the Russians with mixed types of domination, it should be noted that in their idea of the outer world they point out the categories related primarily to nature, the biosphere, and human use of nature.

The interesting point is that despite the prevalence of categories describing the world of nature and the world of communication, in the overall picture of ideas, the Kazakhs with left hemisphere dominance singled out aesthetic and ethical categories which were not observed with testees of the previous groups. This suggests that differences in the view of the outside world in this group can be explained by the influence of the national and linguistic identity.

Right hemisphere dominant Kazakhs’ ideas of the outside the world contain a large share of natural science concepts of nature and space-time, and, at the same time, they include representation of the world as the world of communication and ethical and aesthetic values. In this respect, the results of this group serve as a connecting bridge to the results of the Kazakhs mixed.

The Kazakhs mixed prefer diversity of views of the world. Compared with the previous group of testees, in their view it is not the world of people, but the world of technology. This is the only group of testees with explicitly expressed group of such descriptive categories.

Firstly, when analyzing the results, a variety of topics presented in the drawings attracts attention. For the boys, this diversity is less pronounced.

Secondly, interesting is the presence of pictures of equipment (2.5%) but only with the girls.

On the whole, we can report about the following findings on all sample groups:

1) The girls’ pictures are characterized by a wider thematic range than the boys’ pictures, which is indicative of more generalized views of the world of the latter group;

2) Basically, we have observed hemispherical dependence of specific features in the pictures of both boys and girls. At that, most evident dependence was expressed with right hemisphere dominant Russians and Kazakhs. Their pictures are characterized by a greater number of symbolic and allegoric images compared to definite and schematic ones;

3) Our supposition that the worldview depends on culture and ethnicity was substantiated by the results gained through projective drawing method, notably, by results of the Kazakh sample group.

Except for this data, with the help of the Semantic Differential technique and following it factorization, we have obtained information on the Kazakhs’ and Russians’ worldview prompting suggestions that personal views of the world are highly individual.

Thus, the Kazakhs “mixed” perceive the world as: complicated, inaccessible, cognizable, and dangerous (1st group of scales); diverse, rhythmical (repeated), lively and cosmic (3rd group of scales); ethically problematic in terms of behavior and actions (4th group).

The Kazakhs with right hemisphere dominance characterize the world in terms of its regularity, dimension, integrity, meaningfulness (1st group of scales); its energy, spontaneity, and mobility (3rd group). A very important point is the presence within this group of the idea of the world’s accessibility, cognoscibility, and perceivability (4th group of scales).

As is the case with the right-brain dominant Russians, this can be indicative of their constructive way of thinking which postulates the person’s response to flexibility, availability, and resistance to the constructions he is designing. At that, individuals with right hemisphere dominance are characterized with aesthetic attitude towards reality (scales of group 5). As opposed to left-brain dominant Russians, they show not the sensory aspect of perception but the emotional aspect that is related to the aesthetics of emotion, its inner amodal matter.

For the right-brain dominant Russians the following generalized specifics of the outer world perception is typical: the world’s energy, dynamic character, stability (1st group of scales); cognoscibility, availability, manageability (2nd group); beauty and brilliance (3rd group); mobility and activity (5th group); integrity, harmony, spirituality (axiological aspect) (6th group).

Left-brain Russians attract attention by the presence of ideas reflecting various sensory modalities of perception: brilliance, imagery (visual aspect) (5th group of scales); somatic sense (bodily-kinesthetic aspect), sensibility (emotional aspect), spirituality, corporeality (metaphysical aspect of somatic sense), wide-awakeness (visual aspect), endurance and changeability (kinesthetic aspect), vocalization (auditory aspect), aromatic quality (smelling), and taste. Somehow it contradicts the traditional ideas of the left-brain dominance, since such kind of perception with much attention paid to one’s own feelings and emotions is more typical for right-brain persons.

Information on the Russians with the mixed type of laterality and Kazakhs with left-brain dominance testify that most important for the first group are the categories of perception: beauty, activity, and harmony which likens them to the Russian right-brainers. For representatives of the second group most attractive features of the world are its cognizable and regular character, predictability; such an approach associates them with the Kazakhs from the mixed dominance group.

Lateralization basic tokens are indices of the cognitive area of an individual psychic’s manifestation, such as:

- Perceptual-cognitive and cognitive peculiarities of psyche of representatives of a definite ethnic group depend on the type of their cerebral lateralization;

- Interrelation of cerebral lateralization and ethno-cultural characteristics of an ethnic group is mediated by cognitive and perceptual structures;

- Cognitive style comprises both physiological and individual peculiarities of perception and brainwork.

Interrelation of cerebral lateralization and ethno-cultural characteristics of a personality is mediated through the cognitive style as an integrative characteristic of the national intellectual and cognitive area.

Ethno-cultural distinctions in the cognitive area of Kazakhs and Russians are manifested in the following:

a) Cerebral lateralization and different individual development, depending on the age, sexual identity and language;

b) Preference of particular intellectual strategies in the absence of statistical discrepancies with respect to parameter field dependence-independence;

c) Cultural and historical determinacy of the worldview of representatives of both ethnic groups.


1. Ananiev B.G. Selected psychological works. - M., 1978. – 341 p.

2. Arshavskii V.V. Mechanisms of interhemisphere asymmetry of the brain polymorphism forming among population // World of psychology, 1999. - ¹1. - P. 29-46.

3. Zhumagaliyeva B.K. Cognitive style ethno cultural peculiarities and personality’s picture of the world with different hemisphere asymmetry (on the materials of studying of Kazakhs and Russians). Candidate of psychological sciences dissertation. - M.: MHSA, 2002.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №4 - 2012

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