Culture and Personality
Culture and personality is the name of a broad unrecognized movement which brings cultural anthropology, psychology and psychiatry together from about 1928 to 1955. After 1960s the field becomes known as psychological anthropology. The primary aim is to study human experience, facts and artifacts from a dual socio-cultural as well as psychological point of view. Its founders are Margaret Mead, Edward Sapir, are all students of Franz Boas.
The study of culture and personality seeks to understand the growth and development of personal or social identity as it relates to the surrounding social environment (Barnouw 1963). More specifically Mead argues that culture plays role in the development of individual psychology. For Benedict emotional status are typical of particular culture. Sapir shows that people of the same society recognizes its culture differently. In other words, through the examination of individual personalities, broader correlations and generalizations can be made about the specific culture of those members. This has led to examinations of national character, modal personality types and configurations of personality.
The approaches range from positivism to various hermeneutic humanism. The approaches can be broadly categorized into the following:
A. Anti culture personality position.
B. Personality is culture view or configurationalist approach.
C. Reductionist position
D. Personality mediation view
A. Anti culture personality position:
Despite of the psychological inclination of major contemporary theorists such as Lasswell (1930, 1948, 1968) the institutional social science did not accept the assumptions on which culture and personality theoretical position is based. The influence of Durkheim and positivistic philosophy left little space to bring subjective perspective.
B. Personality is Culture or Configurationalist approach (Special emphasis on Margaret Mead)
The approach of Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict and some of their co-workers is known as Configurationalist approach or personality is culture view. They applied the relativist approach to the study of Personality.
For them Culture and personality are both configurations of behaviour that are manifested and carried by individuals as characteristic of a group. These two are also psychologically interpreted in individual behaviour or in collective products such as myth, ritual, art, recreation, politics etc.
They argue that personality represents an aspect of culture, in which emotional responses and cognitive capacities of an indivifual are programmed in accordance with the overall design or configuration of his culture, i.e., the cultural patterning of personality (Mead 1928, 1932, 1935 Benedict 1934a, 1934b, 1938, 1939).
Margaret Mead was a distinguished anthropologist, an intellectual and a scientist. She is the author of numerous books on primitive societies and she also wrote about many contemporary issues. Some of the areas in which she was prominent were education, ecology, the women's movement, the bomb, and student uprisings.
She was a student of Ruth
Benedict. Her monograph Coming of Age in
And so, as Mead herself described the goal of her research:
"I have tried to answer the question which sent me to
Starting as a
configurationalist, Mead wrote about national character. Hired in World War II by the Office of
Strategic Services (OSS), Mead researched the national character of
She continued to write on topics which focused on women's roles, childrearing, and other issues which clarify gender roles in primitive cultures and aspects of American society. These works include "Male and Female," "Balinese Character: A Photo Analysis," "Cooperation and Competition Among Primitive Peoples," "Continuities in Cultural Evolution," and "New Life for Old." She remained an active writer all of her life and her bibliography from 1925-1975 runs more than 100 pages.
Photography was not as
common in Mead's lifetime as it is now. However, she did a tremendous job of
integrating her photography with her writing skills. In doing this she was able
to study CULTURE at a distance. This had never been done before in this manner
and served to be an advantage during World War ll in helping to understand the
C. Reductionist position:
Mostly influenced by Geza Roheim (1950), it is an approach that gave exhaustive emphasis of mind over other factors of cultural and social behavior.
D. The personality mediation view:
Abraham Cardiner (1939) a psychoanalyst in collaboration with anthropologist Ralph Linton (1936, 1945), have formulated this idea. This view splits culture in to two halves. First, maintenance system, i.e., the determinants of personality. Second, projective system, i.e., the outcome of personality. Therefore, personality acts as an intervening factor.
Levine and Levine (1966). Culture Behaviour and Personality.
Thomas Barfield (1996) Dictionary of Anthropology.
Philip Bock (1999). Rethinking Psychological Anthropology.
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