The central theme of my current research interests is the intricate relationship between cultures and social cognition, with focuses on two lines of research: 1) culture and social cognition, studying cultural effects on causal inference, responsibility judgment, and decision making; 2) culture and social self, studying ambivalence and centrality of individual self and cultural identity.
1. Culture and Social Cognition: Making Sense the Sense-making in Everyday life
The increasing use of culture as a psychological construct and research variable to study psychology has had profound impact to our understanding of human social cognition (see Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Noreannazyn, 2001; Peng, Ames, & Knowles, 2001, for reviews). However, the cross-cultural work on culture and cognition has often been misconstrued as simply showing how people in different cultures differ on their basic cognitive processes. In fact, I have always viewed my culture and cognition research as a scientifically approach aligned with psychology’s broader mission – an understanding of human mental activities in natural settings. Instead of studying only the mental activities occurring on line in a single universal mind isolated from any social/cultural context, I am interested in mental activities that have been taking places as long as hundreds of years occurring distributively across all the minds of an entire community and its descendant communities in a giving social/cultural context. Hence, human mental activities in everyday life provide the defining problems of my culture and cognition research. How and why the basic cognitive operations, such as perception and memory, being utilized different across cultures? Do people from different cultures understand cause, intent, rationality, responsibility and consequence differently? How do they judge credibility, plausibility, probability, and truth-value? Why and how of the instruments they possess for making sense of situations and for constructing new meaning such as tools of induction, deduction, categorization, reasoning, judgment and decision-making be constructed differently across different human communities? How do people from different cultures use them in judgment, decision, action, reason, choice, persuasion, and expression? How do people understanding and communicate with people of other cultures?
2. Culture and Social Self: The Fluidity of Self and the Centrality of Social Identity
Since William James, self has been one of the central topics of contemporary psychology. According to many scholars that self-concept is a dynamic, multidimensional, and organized knowledge structure that can be divided into content, structural, and evaluative components. A growing corpus of cross-cultural research points to substantial cultural variations in the content of the self-concept (e.g., the proportion of traits vs. social roles used in describing the self), the structure of the self-concept (e.g., discrepancies between the actual and ideal selves), and global self-esteem. My interests on this line of research focus on evaluative components of the self-concept as well as social components of self concepts. Specifically, I am interested in how different cognitive orientations affect the processes of self evaluations as well as the degree of merging between self- and group-representations—or "identity centrality" and its psychological implications.
Psychologists have long been cast as "essentially irrelevant to the study of culture." I am striving to show that psychologists can not only contribute to our understanding of human cultures; more importantly, psychology should be at the cores of what cultures really are. After, cultures are human creations, an artificial environment that human minds created to regular our own thoughts, feeling and behaviors.
Peng, K. & Liao, Jianquang (2009). Mathematical modeling of the culture and cognition paradigms. Journal of Chinese Social Science, 79-88. (In Chinese)
Peng, K. (2009). The Psychology of Economic Man: The games people played. People’s University Journal, 3, 61-69. (In Chinese)
Spencer-Rodgers, J., Peng, K., & Wang, L. (2009). Dialecticism and the co-occurrence of positive and negative affect across cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.
Peng, W., Peng, X. & Peng, K. (2009). The Paradox of Education Fairness in China. Annals of Economics and Finance, 10 (1),199-213.
Spencer-Rodgers, J., Peng, K., & Wang, L. (2009). Cultural Differences in Self-Verification: The Role of Naïve Dialecticism. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45 (2), 860-866.
Paletz, S. B. F., & Peng, K. (2009). Problem finding and contradiction: Examining the relationship between naïve dialectical thinking, ethnicity, and creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 21(2), 1-13.
Boucher, H., Peng, K., Shi, J. & Wang, L. (2009). Culture and implicit self-esteem: Chinese are “good” and “bad” at the same time. Journal of Cross-cultural psychology, 40, 24-45.
Tadmor, C., Tetlock, P. & Peng, K. (2009). Acculturation strategies and integrative complexity: The cognitive implications of biculturalism. Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, 40, 105-139.
Note: Winner of the Best Paper Award for “best paper on the annual conference of the Managerial and Cognition Division, Academy of Management 2007.
Spencer-Rodgers, J., Boucher, H., Mori, S., Wang, L. & Peng, K. (2009).The Dialectical self-concept: Contradiction, Change, and Holism in East Asian cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 29-44.
Peng, K. & Zhong, N. (2009). Psychology and the development of China. Wangqian Psychological Publishing. (In Chinese)
Peng, K. & Wang, Y. (2009). Psychology of cross-cultural communication. Beijing Normal University Press. (In Chinese)