In the 1930â€™s, the need to study culture and personality together as a scientific school of thought commenced in the United States. It aimed at studying the relationship between the development of a child and its link to the common human traits of different social groups. This school of thought combines anthropology, psychology and sociology, and the principles were formed as an alternative to Freudâ€™s ideology on repressed material in childhood and other psychoanalytic concepts of personality. Franz Boas & Kroeber were the pioneers in structuring this school of thought. As both the concepts lack uniformity when studied together, LeVine noted five different approaches that researchers use in shaping the culture and personality school of thought.
â€¢ Configuration approach- It is a combination of psychological ideas and its relativism to culture that was developed by Boas. This approach posits that the two concepts are interconnected which is difficult to be viewed separately. This approach is criticized for its exaggerated idea given to the link between the two and that it was too humanistic compared to being measurable.
â€¢ Anti-culture personality relationship- it posits that the room for discussing the individualâ€™s is least necessary as personality is an adaptive trait to environmental conditions that ads in survival of the person. They are said to be reflecting back as human group or society.
â€¢ Psychological reductionism- refers to the outcome of social behavior as the result of each individualâ€™s psychology. Researchers show least interest in using this approach as it reduces the significance of one concept over the other.
â€¢ Personality mediation- This approach uses personality as a mediating factor between the primary institutions such as the settlement patterns of a society for survival and the secondary institutions such that are passed on to the next generations such as religion etc. The primary institution affects the basic personality structure which in turn affects the secondary institutions. This approach used widely in research.
â€¢ The two systems approach- it posits that both culture and personality share equal spaces by balancing each other through means of interaction. They are not viewed as separate systems but concepts or aspects of a total field i.e., they are interdependent. Due to the variations in the formation and its uniqueness of different cultures, studying culture and personality by assumption of universal laws are least encouraged by culture and personality school of thought.
Impact of culture on personality
Development of personality based on cultural factors is highly subjective in nature as the perceptions of cultural norms differ. Some researchers argue that acquiring personality and culture is almost the same as they consider personality to be an individual component of culture. However, this thought is not widely accepted. Culture is seen as a strong influencer as the fundamentals of virtues, value system, beliefs incepted or rooted is passed down as learning from the older generations. Researchers tried to correlate personality patterns with cultural patterns. They believed that personality pattern emerges due to the continuous contact with the cultural pattern. Linton and Kardiner worked on establishing basic personality that correlates with different predominant culture. They noted that there are three types of culture namely, real, ideal and culture construct. Real refers to actual cultural practices shaped by present environmental conditions; ideal refers to the traditional culture and cultural constructs refers to the recorded or written cultural elements. Based on situational factors and internal motivation such as beliefs etc., people try to reform their personality to match any of the three types of culture. At a broader or social level, as individuals are accustomed to follow similar socialization and traditional patterns, they develop a common or basic personality structure. Additional traits are formed based on their social status, power, kind of work people do, interactions with specific social groups etc.
Contributions that shaped culture and personality
Sigmund Freud- marked the initiation of personality and culture in the early 20th century. His concepts of Oedipus complex reflected various aspects to personality. Along with his contributions to psychology, his most notable work on anthropology was his book called as the â€˜Totem and Tabooâ€™ that related personality and culture.
Erik Erikson- Eriksonâ€™s theory on personality development is based on social and cultural factors in which he expanded Freudâ€™s personality development further with the basis of socio-cultural aspects. His main contributions include the frustrations of an infant and a growing child reflected and shaped by religion and other cultural rituals that structure the formation of personality.
Edward Sapir- was the first to study how language shaped culture. He saw language as a part of cognitive processing that directly impacts personality as it is used as a communication device for human relations in a broad and social group. Hence, his work is appreciated for connecting personality, social behavior and language as a promoting factor to understand that culture as an analogous factor to personality.
Ruth Benedict- is well known for the formulation of configuration approach to studying culture and personality. Culture as an end product of human behavior, traits and choices, was her core belief. Popular books on culture and personality published by Benedict are Patterns of Culture and the Chrysanthemum and the Sword; and Patterns of Culture is an all time best seller among anthropological books.
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