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Consequences of Cultural Fluency

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Cultural expertise implies knowing how things are done in everyday life (“pink on Valentine's Day,” “obituaries celebrate and are mournful”) such that one's conscious or nonconscious culture-based expectations typically match situations as they unfold. We synthesize cultural, neural prediction, and social cognition models to predict that a hallmark of this culture-based expectation-to-situation match is the experience of cultural fluency (and its opposite, cultural disfluency). Cultural disfluency arises as a result of a mismatch between culture-based conscious or nonconscious expectation and situation, cuing a switch in processing style from associative to rule-based systematic processing. Eight experiments demonstrate that these effects are cultural, found only among people who know the culture, and only if the cultural situation is cued. People are influenced by plate design on holidays they know, not ones they do not know. Effects are found during, but not after, cultural events and generalize beyond holidays to everyday events.