Fellow: Awarded 2010
Field of Study: Psychology
Competition: US & Canada
Educated at Kyoto University (B.A., 1979, M.A., 1981) and the University of Michigan (Ph.D., 1987), Shinobu Kitayama is currently a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Culture and Cognition Program at the University of Michigan.
On coming to the United States for his doctoral studies, Mr. Kitayama was struck by the number of choices confronting Americans at every turn, something alien to his upbringing. The contrast intrigued him and greatly influenced the course of his subsequent researches, focusing on why American and Western European cultures valued independence so highly, while Asian cultures emphasized and nurtured interdependence.
After his Ph.D., while he was an assistant professor at the University of Oregon, he started collaborating with Guggenheim Fellow Hazel Markus at Michigan on a project showing that different cultures have differing views of the self, and exploring the implications of that finding on cognition, emotion, and motivation. The resulting paper, “Cultural variation in the self-concept,” published in Psychological Review in 1991, is still among the most frequently cited articles in the social and behavioral sciences.
Having shown that these cultural variations exist and their impact on individuals, Mr. Kitayama has more recently focused his work on discovering why the differences arose and how and why they change. He and Richard Nisbett, a colleague at the University of Michigan, have launched an ongoing study of people varying in age, social class, and gender to examine cultural variations within a given population. In addition, he is leading research to determine if culture influences the development of pathways in the brain, using such brain-measurement techniques as functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalograms. During his Guggenheim Fellowship term, he will be further developing his studies in cultural neuroscience.
The author of scores of book chapters and journal articles, Shinobu Kitayama is also the editor of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, one of the most important journals in his field, and is on the editorial boards of several others. He has earned numerous honors during his career, including being elected a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science, and twice named a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. In addition, his work has been consistently and generously supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Aging.