Joan Chiao: Cultural Neuroscience


The study of culture and biology have historically been stratified, however, recent theoretical and methodological advances in cultural and biological sciences provide novel opportunities for understanding the nature and origin of
human diversity by bridging these gaps. Cultural neuroscience is an emerging interdisciplinary science that investigates cultural variation in psychological, neural and genomic processes as a means of articulating the bidirectional relationship of these processes and their emergent properties.
Here I will discuss how cultural and genetic diversity affect mind, brain and behavior across multiple timescales. Specifically, in this talk, I will review recent evidence elucidating the effect of cultural values, practices, and beliefs, such as individualism-collectivism, racial identification, and preference for social hierarchy, on brain and behavior. I will also present evidence for culture-gene coevolution of individualism-collectivism and the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR). Finally, I will examine the implications of cultural neuroscience research for addressing population health disparities and public policy across the globe.

Dr. Joan Y. Chiao is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University in 2006 studying social psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Her main research interests include cultural neuroscience of emotion and social interaction, social and affective neuroscience across development, social dominance and affiliation, and integrating psychology and neuroscience research with public policy and population health issues. Chiao currently serves on the board of several journals including Culture and Brain, NeuroImage, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Social Neuroscience, Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. From 2009 to 2010, she served as editor for an edited volume of Progress in Brain Research on cultural neuroscience called Cultural Neuroscience: Cultural Influences on Brain Function and a special issue on cultural neuroscience in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Dr. Chiao is a recipient of funding from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and Technology. In 2011, she was named a Rising Star by the American Psychological Society and received a NIMH Early Career International Travel Award.