I refer to this article all the time, so even though it’s a few years old, I thought I’d post it. It says that East Asian culture puts more emphasis on context- and therefore a person of this culture is more likely look around and consider the environment.
In the research study, experimenters had people look at photographs of single focal objects against complex backgrounds- such as a fighter jet flying over a mountainous landscape or a tiger by a stream in a forest. They found that the Chinese students (psychology subjects are always broke students) moved their eyes more between the object and its background. The U.S. students looked more immediately and mostly at the object of the photo.
Basically I use this article to explain why I look around the room when I’m in a café instead of at the person opposite me. It’s because I’m Asian! I am of an Asian culture and it makes me contextual.
On a related note, I pay better attention when I’m not looking at the person. This is cultural as well- whether or not you look at the person when you speak to them or listen to them. Some people will think you’re not paying attention to them if you don’t look at them- they’ll actually tell you to look at them, or they’ll wait until you look at them. But ironically that may be when you are least capable of listening.