The School of Arts & Sciences

Department of Social Sciences

Samar Zebian

Dr. Samar Zebian’s research broadly concerns the influences of culture on cognitive processes, including the influences of artifacts, specific social practices and collectively held meaning systems. In one line of research, she examines how literacy practices affect numeric processing, quantification and mathematical thinking. The study of numerical magnitude processing in illiterate and literate individuals provides a unique opportunity to examine interactions between phylogenetically ancient systems of numerical representations and those that are the product of enculturation and one’s learning trajectory.

In another line of research, Zebian investigates how historical and political events, as well as internalized collective narratives, affect the structure of autobiographical memories.

In a third research program, we are examining children’s developing sense of possession (who ought to have what) and how this affects distributive justice decisions. The current focus in this project is on children’s sense of possession as it relates to land/space/place.

In addition to the cultural cognition work, Zebian is engaged in research on the development of modern psychology and its place in the Arab world.

She is the recipient of the 2002 International Triandis Dissertation Award, which is an international competition for culture and psychology scholars.

Zebian is an executive member of the Association for the Society of the Mind (ASOM-MENA) and a past executive of the Lebanese Psychological Association. She is a member of the following associations: Cognitive Science Society, International Society for Cultural and Activity Research (ISCAR), International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology (IACCP), and Society for the History of Psychology.

Selected publications

  1. Zebian, S. & Brown, N. (2013). Living in History in Lebanon: How the civil war and other historical events affect the organization of autobiographical memory. Memory.
  2. Zebian, S., & Rochat, P. (accepted, April 2012). Judgment of land ownership by young refugee Palestinian and US children. International Journal of Behavioural Development.
  3. Zebian, S. & Ansari, D (2011). The effects of literacy on symbolic and non-symbolic numerical magnitude processing. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 19, 93-100. 
  4. Alamuddin, A., & Zebian, S. (2010). An exploratory assessment of cultural sensitivity in the practices of Lebanese researchers in the field of psychology: Implications for national development efforts . International Journal of Psychology, 45, 1-9.
  5. Zebian, S. (2008). Business numeracy among Lebanese micro-business owners: An experimental cognitive ethnography of the influences of socially situated artifact use on numeric cognition. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 8, 359-385.
  6. Matsumoto, D., Yoo, S, Fontaine, J., ….Zebian, S…Grossi, E. (2008). Mapping expressive differences around the world: The relationship between emotional display rules and individualism versus collectivism. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 39, 55-74. DOI: 10.1177/0022022107311854
  7. Zebian, S., Alamuddin, R., Maalouf, M., & Chatila, Y. (2007). Developing an appropriate psychology through culturally sensitive research practices in the Arabic speaking world: A content analysis of psychological research published between 1950 and 2004. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.
  8. Zebian, S. (2005). Linkages between number concepts, spatial thinking, and
    directionality of writing: The SNARC effect and the REVERSE SNARC effect in English
    and Arabic monoliterates, biliterates, and illiterate Arabic speakers. Journal of
    Cognition and Culture
    , 5, 165-191.
  9. Zebian, S. (2005). Linkages between number concepts, spatial thinking, and directionality of writing: The SNARC effect and the REVERSE SNARC effect in Englishand Arabic monoliterates, biliterates, and illiterate Arabic speakers. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 5, 165-191. 
  10. Zebian, S. (2004).Influences of cultural artifacts and social practices on number conceptualisation: Ethnographic and experimental approaches to everyday numericm cognition. In B. Setiadi, A. Supratiknya, W. Lonner, Y. Poortinga (Eds.), Ongoing Themes in Psychology and Culture: Selected papers from the XVI International Congress of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology (pp. 311-325). Yogyakarta: Kanisius.
  11. Zebian, S., & Denny, J. P. (2001). Integrative cognitive style among Middle- Easterners and Euro-Canadians. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32, 58-75.

Papers in progress

  1. Zebian, S. Rochat, P., Spelke, E. Faigenbaum. G. (2013). Children’s sense of possession and attachment to land and place: an international study of child refugees and nomadic and urban children. .
  2. Zebian, S. Psychology is a science, Islam is a religion and the Lizard is in its hole: The narratives of Muslim psychologists in an emerging tradition.
  3. Zebian, S. The spatialisation of numbers and quantities: Object and Finger counting in Illiterate and monoliterate Arabic speakers: .

Selected workshops and paper presentations

  1. Zebian, S. & Rochat, P. Landownership and sense of possession in Palestinian refugee children. Fairness Conference, Atlanta, U.S.A. Oct 17-19 2012.
  2. Zebian, S. (Feb 2012). Theoretical Interventions in the Anthropology of Mathematics: Panel organsier and participant. Society for Anthropological Sciences 8th Annual Meeting, L.A., Nevada, February 22-25, 2012.
  3. Zebian, S. & Brown, N. (2011). Living in History: the enmeshment of personal and historical memories among Lebanese that lived the civil war. International Cognitive Science Society, Tehran, Iran.
  4. Zebian, S. (2011). Spatial numeric associations among literates and illiterates. Paper presented at the Society for Scientific Anthropology and Society for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conference. Charleston, Southern Carolina, U.S.A.
  5. Ansari, D.,  & Zebian, S. (2010). Effects of formal education on symbolic and non-symbolic numerical magnitude processing. Poster presented at the 24th Attention & Performance Meeting: Space, Time and Number:Cerebral Foundations of Mathematical Intuitions. Abbaye de Vaux de Cernay, France.
  6. Zebian, S. & Brown, N.(2010).Living in History in Lebanon: How the civil war and other historical events affect the organization of autobiographical memory. Theoretical Perspectives on Autobiographical Memory, June  2010, Aarhus University, Denmark.
  7. Zebian, S. & Ansari, D. (2010). Literacy and numeric cognition. Philosophy of Mathematics: Sociological Aspects and Mathematical Practice workshop (PhiMSAMP),Amsterdam & Utrecht, Netherlands. (cancelled due to weather conditions).
  8. Zebian, S. & Ansari, D. (March 2010). The Distance Effect in literate and illiterate Arabic speakers. The Thirty-Sixth Annual Convention of the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (AISB ‘10), March 29. De Montfort University, Leicester.
  9. Zebian, S. (February 2010). We have to start somewhere: The psychological and institutional contexts for parallelism, dualism and surrealistic isomorphism in the human sciences in Lebanese universities: Taking psychology in Lebanon as a case study. Workshop for Promotion, Publications, and Ranking Systems in Arab Universities, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
  10. Zebian, S. (July 2009). The directionality of the mental number line and its origins: Embodied and artifact mediated number concepts. Workshop for the Cultural Effects on the Mental Number Line. York, U.K.
  11. Zebian, S. (August 2009). Psychology is a Science, Islam is a Religion and the Lizard is in its Hole: The Narratives of Muslim Psychologists, 117th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada.
  12. Zebian, S. (July 2008). Historical, sociological and empirically grounded perspectives on the development of intellectual movements in psychology in Lebanon and the Arab world. International Congress of Psychology, Berlin, Germany.
  13. Zebian, S. (August 2008). Oral histories of psychologists in an emerging field: The voices of Lebanese psychologists. International Congress of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology, Bremen, Germany.
  14. Zebian, S., & Henningsen, M. (Aug 2005). A national video study of mathematics education in Lebanon:  Important lessons and first findings from the MAthematics instructional Reform for  All in Lebanon (MARAL) project. Keynote address at the Conference of the Sudanese Psychological Association, Khartoum, Sudan. 

Research consultancy

Médecins Sans Frontières, Epicentre & Zebian, S. Assessment of prevalence of mental health disorders among adults in Burj el-Barajneh, Lebanon. January 2010.
Funding: Médecins Sans Frontières, Switzerland
Timeline: March 2010-March 2011

Academic degrees


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