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In cross cultural studies of optical illusions there was evidence that some cultural groups responded differently to samples from western cultures. For example, Rivers (1901) had compared the responses of Pacific Murray islanders with those of a UK sample , using both the Muller-Lyer distortion illusion and vertical–horizontal illusion. He found they were more susceptible to the latter than the Muller Lyer.

The idea of carpentered environments, that is environments which are man made rather than natural environments, was first developed in a paper by Segall, Campbell and Herskovitz[1] to explain this.

They suggested that in western cultures:

people live in a culture in which straight lines abound and in which perhaps 90 per cent of the acute and obtuse angles formed on the retina by the straight lines of the visual field are realistically interpretable as right angles extended in space

and because of this they tend to add the dimension of depth into their perceptions of 2D drawing and thus experience the optical illusions as a result.

They suggested that the cultural differences they identified in response to Muller-Lyer stimuli were due to some subjects being raised in environments with the angles and perspectives typical of constructed housing and others groups being raised in less structured surroundings.

Subsequent hypothesis testing[edit | edit source]

Jahoda (1966) studied the Ghanaian Lobi and Dogomba tribes, who live in open environments and round houses, with the Ashanti who live in a forested environment in rectangular buildings. Their hypothesis was that the former would be more susceptible to the horizontal-vertical illusion while the Ashanti would have a stronger response to the Muller Lyer. However this was nor confirmed in their study.

Current position[edit | edit source]

As it turned out subsequent research suggested the diferences were due to retinal pigmentation but the idea has still some currency(cn).

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Marshall H. Segall, Donald T. Campbell, Melville J. Herskovits (February 22, 1963). Cultural Differences in the Perception of Geometric Illusions. Science, New Series, Vol. 139, No. 3556 , pp. 769-771
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