It is widely accepted that culture is “an integrated pattern of behavior shared by people in a society” (Lee and Johnson 94). Admittedly, people of one cultural group can be characterized by similar behavior and perception patterns. People living in the contemporary globalized world have understood the importance of such cultural diversity. The importance of understanding cultural peculiarities is especially important in business. Scientists try to investigate to what extent cultural peculiarities affect individuals’ behavior, and businessmen try to find out how this can be used and how to make people buy their products worldwide.
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For instance, Richards et al. state that posters are “one of the most prominent carriers” of cultural values (1). They reveal some visual message which is to be perceived in a certain way. Admittedly, posters advertising the same products are perceived differently by people of different cultures. Thus, cultural peculiarities make people focus on particular things. To illustrate the difference in perception of people of different cultures it is possible to analyze posters from two different parts of the planet, South Korea and Switzerland. Admittedly, though the posters advertise the same thing, alcohol products, visualization is quite different.
The analysis of 23 posters from South Korea and 20 posters from Switzerland suggests that people of Eastern culture concentrate on event revealing human figures socializing, drinking, whereas people of Western culture are more concerned with the product itself. Masuda et al. report that “object-focused attention” developed in the West and the “context-oriented” attention which emerged in the East “was not a mere coincidence” (1274). It is reported that “individualistic Europeans developed a linear perspective” which presupposes that spectators see the object, and “collectivistic East Asians developed a floating perspective” which presupposes that spectators see the social world “holistically” (1273).
Peng and Knowles’s survey also suggests that people pertaining to the Western culture are more concerned with “dispositional factors” and those pertaining to the Eastern culture focus on “contextual factors” (1272). The posters collected for the research support such assumption. Thus, Western posters depicted mainly the product, whereas the Eastern posters focused on the event.
For instance, 22 out of 23 Eastern posters depict a human figure, and only 5 out of 20 Western posters have human figures. Admittedly, a human figure depicted on a poster creates some kind of event: socializing, having fun, dreaming, relaxing. The depiction of the product on Western posters is more concerned with its properties. Thus, the posters follow the basic principles of perception in their respective cultures.
Reportedly, when describing a picture Japanese people tend “to include information about the context of objects and about relationships among the objects”, but Americans primarily describe “the physical appearance of the object” (Masuda et al. 1261). It is necessary to add that the contextual perception of Eastern people is manifested not only in their artistic heritage but in the contemporary advertisement as well. Thus, Eastern art can be characterized by “a wide-open space” which “can be intentionally left empty so viewers can enjoy the sense of ma (space) as a softening factor of salient visual representation” (Masuda et al. 1263). The Eastern posters under consideration can be regarded as good examples of conventional Eastern art since there is a lot of space which sometimes is dominating.
As has been mentioned above, human figures create a certain effect on the event. The facial expressions of the figures depicted on the posters are also very interesting in terms of analysis of cultural diversity. Reportedly, people better understand facial expressions when “judging facial expressions of their own race” (Russell 436). Reputedly, emotional restraint is the norm in countries of Eastern culture. Thus, the Eastern posters depict people (mainly girls) who smile moderately, so to say, whereas the Western posters reveal people who smile overtly. All posters depict happy people. Nevertheless, facial expressions differ significantly. It is quite unclear whether people of different culture would perceive in the same way the facial expressions of the human figures depicted on the posters.
More so, Western posters locate the product in the center, and the image of the product is rather large (usually larger than other objects). Whereas, Eastern posters locate the image of the product in the bottom (mainly in the right-hand corner) and the product itself is rather small in comparison with other (central) objects. Only one Eastern poster locates the product in the center. Reportedly, “cultural differences in picture decoding” are shaped by differences “in object processing”, i.e. “culture affects neural function when nonverbal stimuli are processed” (Gutchess 108).
In conclusion, Switzerland and South Korean advertisement posters can be regarded as an appropriate illustration of cultural diversity. They advertise alcoholic drinks in different ways since people of these cultures perceive visual codes in different ways. People focus on different things. It is important to know cultural peculiarities when addressing people of some cultures. Otherwise, the major idea of the work (be it an advertisement poster or work of art) will not be understood by the viewers.
Gutchess, Angela H., Welsh, Robert C., Bodurogˇlu, Aysecan, Park, Denise C. “Cultural Differences in Neural Function Associated with Object Processing.” Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience 6.2 (2006): 102-109.
Lee, Monle, Johnson, Carla. Principles of Advertising: a Global Perspective. New York: The Haworth Press, Inc., 1999.
Masuda, Takahiko, Gonzalez, Richard, Kwan, Letty, Nisbett, Richard E. “Culture and Aesthetic Preference: Comparing the Attention to Context of East Asians and Americans.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 34.9 (2008): 1260-1275.
Peng, Kaiping, and Knowles, Eric D. “Culture, Education, and the Attribution of Physical Causality.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 29.10 (2003): 1272-1284.
Richards, Barry, MacRury, Iain, Botterill, Jackie. The Dynamics of Advertising. New York: Routledge, 2000.
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Russel, James A. “Culture and the Categorization of Emotions.” Psychological Bulletin 110.3 (1991): 426-450.