History of Anthropological Interest in Human Psychology
•Culture & Personality School
–Students of Franz Boas -- Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead
–Second phase of N. American ethnographic research
•Psychological Anthropology
–Cognitive anthropology

Culture and the Self
•Focus on individuals in cultural settings
•phenomenon of culture as it is reflected in the thoughts, feelings and acts of individuals
•individual versus society
Culture & Personality School
•the Historical Particularism of Franz Boas
–response to evolutionary tradition
–all societies could be understood only in light of their particular past
–focus on culture with a small c, not universal C
–opposed to biological explanations
–cultural relativism
Influence of Sigmund Freud
•use of Freudian psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic theory to understand the
development and formation of individual behavior in different cultural settings
–Basic instincts – Oedipus complex
–Early childhood experiences & personality development
–Modal personality projected in social & cultural institutions (from Freud’s interests in
•personality - refers to an individual's socially standardized patterns of action, thought &
•culture denotes the socially standardized patterns of activity, thought & feeling of some
enduring group
•concentrate the study and description of culture in the locus of the person
•attention to the process of growing up in particular communities
–important for the development/formation of individual personality
•child rearing practices, toilet training, parent acceptance & rejection, task assignment,
•link process of growing up with adult personality and then finally with culture and
social institutions
Modal Personality
•Personality typical of a culturally bounded population
•In contrast to an individual personality
–The distinctive way a person thinks, feels, and behaves
Mead’s Culture & Personality
•Importance of enculturation process
•Problems of adolescence, pre-adol, preschool
•Human character molded in early years by society through child rearing
•Traits found in western cultures not universal (her relativism)
•Diverse cultures produce diverse character traits
•Acculturation studies
Growing Up in Samoa
•observations of and interviews with Samoan adolescent girls
•showed adolescence is not a universally stormy and stressful period because of
psychological changes at puberty
•used cross-cultural research to illustrate western bias of psychoanalytical theories of
psycho development
•psychological development in adolescence not the same for all societies
Focus on Enculturation
•Dependence Training
–Childrearing practices that foster compliance in the performance of assigned tasks and
dependence on the domestic group, rather than reliance on oneself
•Independence Training
–Childrearing practices that promote the child’s independence, self-reliance, and personal
Enculturation, Training, and the Self
•Dependence training and the predominance of the contingent, socio-centric self
• Independence training and the predominance of the transcendent, ego-centric self
• produces different motifs of self
–socio-centric & ego-centric societies
Combined Dependence/Independence Training
• represent extremes along a continuum
• actual situations may partake of elements of both
National Character Studies
•Product of the culture & personality approach
•World War and anthropological research
–mobilizing the idea of culture for battle against totalitarianism
•Culture & personality approaches as a way of predicting national behavior
•The study of culture at a distance
the case of the Japanese sphincter
•toilet training hypothesis to explain the contrast between the gentleness of Japanese life
in Japan and the overwhelming brutality and sadism of the Japanese at war
the case of the swaddled Russians

•swaddling associated with manic-depressive personality -- alternating constraint and
freedom of Russian swaddling
–rage gives rise to guilt
Anthropology at a Distance
•national character studies made without field research
•return to arm chair anthropology during war
A Contemporary Personality Study:
N. Chagnon and the Yanomamo
•Yanomamo of Brazil (Amazon Basin) and aggression
“the fierce people” according to N. Chagnon
•boys are encouraged to be fierce & rarely punished for hitting either their parents or
girls in the village
•fathers often goad boys into hitting them, and rewarded with cheers from mother and
other adults in the household
•homicide and warfare common
• most violent men wind up with most wives and children
Yanomamo Violence (according to Chagnon)
• the Yanomamo fight not because fighting is essential to survival but because ALL
HUMANS are programmed for violence
• Social Darwinism and survival of the fittest
• Sociobiological explanation
–Role of innate biological urges in human behavior
Culture &Personality versus Sociobiology
• competing ideas about human nature
–Sociobiologists tend to follow Hobbes -- innate human self interest and maximizing
•Nature – genetically programmed behavior
–Psychological anthropologists tend to follow Locke, the blank slate, and the role of
•Nurture – enculturation
•children learn about the relationships between interpersonal encounters, ascetic
practices, potency & language in the workings of Javanese families
• historical particularism
• relativism
•maternal practices & sentiments in a hostile environment to the survival & well-being of
mothers & infants
–notions of universal womanly ethic
–ethos of maternal responsiveness
–bonding as universal maternal script
•mother love is not natural (innate)
Culture & Personality and the psychology of culture change
•common theme for North America & for acculturation studies in colonial societies
•residual & continuing influences of contact & change on the psyche
•projections of personality features indicate relations to particular ethos (the disposition,
character, or fundamental values particular to a specific people, culture, or movement)
•expressive forms of culture as material artifacts of psychocultural processes
–dreams, folklore, ritual, the arts, all cultural productions

Javanese Shadows, Javanese Selves
•personality patterns/archetypes & characters of shadow puppet play
•alus & kasar
Ruth Benedict on Normality and Abnormality across Cultures
•Normality and abnormality culturally defined
–Behavior closet to that behavior which characterizes a society vs. behavior not favored
by a culture
–Abnormality defined in one culture may not be defined as such in another
•Based on shared beliefs as to what constitutes the ideal proper way for individuals to
conduct their life in relation to others
•How to be normal
•How to be abnormal — temporary, permanent
Abnormals and Deviance
•abnormal types in the social structure are culturally selected by all groups from every
part of the world
•different degrees of ease with which abnormals function per each culture
•many abnormals function with ease and even honor without danger to the society
From Culture & Personality to Psychological Anthropology
•Cognitive anthropology
Psychology vs. Psychological Anthropology
•psychologists concentrate on the idiosyncratic, or unique, personality of the individual
•anthropologists tend to deal with specific characteristics of the individual's mind that are
shared as a part of a wider fabric of human minds
Psychology vs. Psychological Anthropology
•anthropologists sometimes use Euro-American psychological theory in cross-cultural
psychological studies
–but also are interested in ethnopsychology, psychological models from the native's point
of view - indigenous psychologies
•psychologists conduct studies in clinical or lab setting
•psychological anthropologists conduct studies in the field
cognition and culture

•cognition – the act or process of knowing including both awareness and judgment
•Ethnoscience, ethnosemantics, cognitive anthropology
–systematic attempt to discover the knowledge of a group of people are using to organize
their behaviors
•Use of language data – Sapir/Whorf hypothesis
•Folk theories and classification systems (C. Frake, N. Quinn)
•To understand and describe the cultural significance of social and psychological events
as they are actively interpreted in social context (A. Hallowell, A. Wallace, R. Levy, R.
•Local knowledge of self (M. Spiro, C. Geertz)
•Local knowledge of emotion (M. Rosaldo, C. Lutz)
Psych Anthro and the Study of Emotion
•patterns of affect – how people feel about themselves and others
•Emotion as cultural construct
•U. Wikan and Balinese managing turbulent hearts
Cross-Cultural Studies of Emotion
•emotional feeling is structured by particular cultural systems and particular social and
material environments
•emotions are appraisals, judgments based on cultural beliefs and values
•emotions involve the self in relationships to others
•emotions are learned or acquired rather than naturally given
•mental health and culture bound syndromes (A. Klienman, B. Good)
•trance and altered states
•Relationship of culture to mental illness
•Culture defines normality & abnormality in a particular society
•Culture defines etiology
•Culture influences clinical presentations, and distribution of mental illness
•Culture determines the ways that mental illness is recognized, labeled, explained and
treated by other members of that society
Culture bound syndromes
•pronounced mental conditions in particular cultural settings
•vernacular labels
–Anorexia nervosa

western psychiatric model
•Psychopathology has a biological basis
•Doesn’t account for:
–society constructs illness labels & social practices
–the same mental illness may play different roles in different societies
Possession, Trance, Witchcraft
•Culturally specific way of presenting, and explaining a range of physical and
psychological disorders in certain circumstances
•belief in possession & witchcraft defined as ―normal‖
•across cultural translations could be seen as abnormal — as mental illness

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