Loughborough University
Accepted Version Revised Doc with author details-D&RAT_GT23Aug2022.pdf (2.48 MB)

Cultural bias: a comparison of semantic responses by 126 students from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to a wheelchair when viewed against a congruent and incongruent background

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-16, 12:46 authored by Salman Asghar, George TorrensGeorge Torrens, Mamuna Iqbal, Hassan Iftikhar, MA Mujtaba
Purpose: Converging visual behavioural and attentional allocation studies within neuroscience have shown culture influences the processing of visual information obtained from the visual field. While attending (reviewing) a visual scene, individuals from a collectivist culture attend more to the context (background) compared to those from an individualist culture who view more the focal object. This highlights the effect of cultural conditioning in terms of holistic and analytical processing of visual information. This study aimed to demonstrate these principles in the context of an assistive product, a wheelchair, highlighting the key visual elements of the form; and, how a congruent background (hospital room) or incongruent (athletics track) influenced cultural bias during visual processing and assigned meaning. Material and methods: A combination of research methods (Semantic Differential Scale and eye-tracking) was used to triangulate the results. A total of 126 adult student participants, (Pakistani/collectivist, n = 57) and the (UK/individualist, n = 69), viewed a visual presentation of a wheelchair with semantically congruent and then an incongruent background and responded via an online questionnaire. A sub-sample completed the survey whilst monitored via eye-tracking. Results: Pakistani respondents used shorter and less frequent fixations on the foreground compared to the responses of their counterparts (UK respondents). The wheel of the wheelchair was highlighted as the prominent form by both groups. Conclusion: Results demonstrate a culture-influenced pattern of visual processing even when the product was displayed against a semantically incongruent background. The findings from this study also validate and extend the outcomes of similar studies revealing a more specific, yet consistent, cultural effect on individuals’ visual perception. Finally, the efficacy of triangulated research methods in their relationship to exploring the AT product’s semantics was discussed.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION The knowledge of AT products’ semantics will be significant to investigate, for their improved social acceptance, particularly when considered from a diverse cultural standpoint. A model of best practice, focussing on semantics manipulation, will provide AT product designers, practitioners, and those involved in their marketing, Internationally, with a suitable process/tool to positively reframe the perception of these devices. Finally, this research will help product and industrial designers to consider cultural cognitive styles in the design of products for the better adoption of products within the global marketplace.


Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan, and the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, Pakistan, under the Faculty Development Program (FDP) Scholarship Scheme



  • Design and Creative Arts


  • Design

Published in

Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology






127 - 139


Taylor & Francis


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology. Salman Asghar, George Edward Torrens, Mamuna Iqbal, Hassan Iftikhar & M. A. Mujtaba (2023) Cultural bias: a comparison of semantic responses by 126 students from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to a wheelchair when viewed against a congruent and incongruent background, Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 18:2, 127-139, DOI: 10.1080/17483107.2022.2126903. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Dr George Torrens. Deposit date: 16 February 2023

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