International Journal of Art & Design Education

When a Culture Takes a Trip: Evidence of Heritage and Enculturation in Early Conceptions of Art

Volume 19.1   2000



This study in social cognition has been focused on exploration of ways in which cultural contexts shape formation of knowledge about art in early childhood years. Focusing on the connotative rather than denotative meanings of the term art, this study was designed to examine how this concept functions in a variety of cultural contexts. This method of structured interviews was used to elicit answers of four- and five-year-old children in Canada, France and Taiwan to questions regarding the nature of art and its salient characteristics. In particular, this study addressed questions about portability of culture and the effects of heritage and enculturation in the formation of social knowledge among individuals whose cultural identity is negotiated the context of a ‘transplanted’ culture. Responses of francophone children in the Canadian province of Quebec were contrasted with those of their French counterparts, as well as their Canadian peers from European ancestry other than French, living in the province of British Columbia. Similarly responses of interviewees in Taiwan, ROC were compared to the reported beliefs about art of young Chinese-Canadians. The results of this study bring support to the theory of modified cultural pluralism that emphasises the interplay between the original cultural beliefs and values and those prevalent in the societies that become new home for a transplanted culture. Implications of the study findings to art education are discussed.