On the afternoon of October 28, the 51th Gao Juefu Psychological Lecture was held at the Conference Room of Tiannan Building, Suiyuan Campus, Nanjing Normal University. Prof. Han Shihui, who comes from Peking University, was invited to give a lecture entitled “Thinking about the Self: From Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience”. Prof. Han is a distinguished professor at the School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, Peking University, and a principal investigator at PKU-IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Peking University. He is the director of Culture and Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. He served as the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Peking University between 2003 and 2007. He studies cultural and genetic influences on neural substrates of social cognition such as self-referential processing, empathy, death awareness, etc. The lecture was hosted by Prof. Liu Chang (Nanjing Normal University), and attracted a large audience including some faculty and PhD and master students from our School of Psychology.
In the lecture, Prof. Han suggested different thinking styles in Westerners and Chinese (analytic vs. holistic) lead to disparities between the two cultures not only in perception and attention but also in high‐level social cognition such as self‐representation. Most Western philosophers discussed the self by focusing on personal self‐identity, whereas Chinese philosophers emphasized the relation between the self and others. Dissimilar philosophical thinking of the self is associated with distinct cognitive styles of self‐representation (i.e., the independent self in Westerners and the interdependent self in Chinese). He also pointed out that recent brain imaging studies found that Westerners employed the medial prefrontal cortex to represent only the individual self, whereas Chinese utilized the same brain area to represent both the self and close others, providing neural basis of cultural differences in self‐representation. He suggested that the cultural differences in thinking styles between Westerners and Chinese influence both psychological and neural structure of self‐representation.
In the last Question & Answer session, Prof. Han with the teachers and students who attended the lecture had a positive interaction. The lecture arose the great interests of the audience and was ended in applause.