Exposure to an urban environment alters the local bias of a remote culture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Serge Caparos
  • Lubna Ahmed
  • Jan W. de Fockert
  • Karina J. Linnell
  • Jules Davidoff

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of London


There is substantial evidence that populations in the Western world exhibit a local bias compared to East Asian populations that is widely ascribed to a difference between individualistic and collectivist societies. However, we report that traditional Himba - a remote interdependent society - exhibit a strong local bias compared to both Japanese and British participants in the Ebbinghaus illusion and in a similarity-matching task with hierarchical figures. Critically, we measured the effect of exposure to an urban environment on local bias in the Himba. Even a brief exposure to an urban environment caused a shift in processing style: the local bias was reduced in traditional Himba who had visited a local town and even more reduced in urbanised Himba who had moved to that town on a permanent basis. We therefore propose that exposure to an urban environment contributes to the global bias found in Western and Japanese populations.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-85
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Cross-cultural differences, Environmental effects, Perceptual style, Social organization, Visual perception