It might sound deterministic (and essentialising - maybe one should replace "cultures" with "societies"), but Juan Dominguez, a PhD student at the University of Melbourne, believes "different cultures" produce "different brains" and that cultural differences reflect different neurological functioning. He discussed the effects of 'enculturation' on the human brain at a recent anthropology conference in Cairns, according to ABC Australia. He said:
In certain societies and cultures there are certain patterns of behaviour, people may make certain evaluations, have certain opinions, there are certain tasks that are culturally specific. We should be able to find that ... the brain would have some sort of bias acquired through exposure to culture.
Douglas Lewis, a senior lecturer at anthropology who is supervising the work, acknowledges this is a controversial area. He explains that the emerging science of neuroanthropology suggests that brains within a group can be 'wired' by common experience, just as individual brains become 'wired' by individual experiences. "What we're looking for are correlates in the brain that anthropologists have in the past thought of as being cultural or culturally mediated," he says.
John Walter, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at Saint Louis University comments:
This kind of work makes some of us in the liberal arts really nervous, but that’s because we don’t understand cognitive studies and neuroscience well enough. (...)
My sense is that there’s a fear that if we accept or find that difference is part of our neurological wiring we’ll be taking a step back to past racist practices of essentializing and differentiating groups. This fear is, I think, rooted in the assumption that there’s some kind of culture-biology duality, that if something is wired into us it is unchangeable, because (...) wiring doesn’t change. Those familiar with cognitive science, however, know that brains are adaptive.