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In cultural anthropology, ethnographic film is useful for documenting diverse cultural practices and presenting research. Film’s ability to capture behavior in its holistic context is a key contribution to interests of cultural neuroscience, which has been challenged to better illustrate the impact of its findings outside the laboratory. Still, ethnographic film might go further by accounting for the interaction of culture, mind, and brain in the embodied aspects of the film experience. Neuroscientific inquiry into various storytelling genres reveals the embodied effects of storytelling, which activates neural mechanisms putatively evolved to strengthen social and cultural bonds. In this, storytelling strategy and structure are important; effective stories both engage sustained attention and elicit empathetic response. Character-driven emotional stories following a dramatic arc have greater impact than dispassionate ones. This translates directly to film, which also affords opportunities for emotional attunement and sensory-motor resonance with characters onscreen. Ethnographic film conventions have not adequately developed a methodology responsive to this nuanced understanding, despite anthropology’s long-standing investment in the power of storytelling. A “visual psychological anthropology” approach produces emotionally resonant, character-driven film stories in a dramatic narrative structure. Such films can convey cultural information and impart key concepts in a more immersive way.
Recent neuroscience research makes it clear that human biology is cultural biology - we develop and live our lives in socially constructed worlds that vary widely in their structure values, and institutions. This integrative volume brings together interdisciplinary perspectives from the human, social, and biological sciences to explore culture, mind, and brain interactions and their impact on personal and societal issues. Contributors provide a fresh look at emerging concepts, models, and applications of the co-constitution of culture, mind, and brain. Chapters survey the latest theoretical and methodological insights alongside the challenges in this area, and describe how these new ideas are being applied in the sciences, humanities, arts, mental health, and everyday life. Readers will gain new appreciation of the ways in which our unique biology and cultural diversity shape behavior and experience, and our ongoing adaptation to a constantly changing world.