Mental activity and culture: The elusive real world

Gert Jan Hofstede*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


How does culture affect mental activity? That question, applied to the design of social agents, is tackled in this chapter. Mental activity acts on the perceived outside world. It does so in three steps: perceive, interpret, select action. We see that when culture is taken into account, objective reality disappears to a large extent. Instead, perception, interpretation and action selection can differ in many ways between agents from different cultures. This complicates the design of artificially intelligent systems. On the other hand, theory exists that can help us deal with these complications. All people have a shared set of drives and capacities, on which cultures are built. Good knowledge exists on how culture affects perception, interpretation, and action. Empirical research has uncovered major distinctions in social life across cultures. One could say that intelligent agents with different cultures live in the same social world, but in systematically different social landscapes. This social world—in the form of generic sociological theory—and these differences—in the form of cross-cultural theory—can be used for designing these agents. The state of the art is still tentative. The chapter gives examples from recent literature that can serve as points of departure for further work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntelligent Systems Reference Library
ISBN (Electronic)9783319670249
ISBN (Print)9783319670225
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameIntelligent Systems Reference Library
ISSN (Print)1868-4394
ISSN (Electronic)1868-4408


  • Action selection
  • Cross-cultural theory
  • Culture
  • Drives
  • Generic sociological theory
  • Interpretation
  • Mental activity
  • Perception
  • Reality
  • Social agents
  • Social landscape


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