Dualism: Culture & Personality

Topics: Culture, Anthropology, Ruth Benedict Pages: 5 (2075 words) Published: May 1, 2013
Dualism of Culture and Personality
In the modern age, many anthropological studies of personality in primitive cultures have shown intimate relation of personality and culture. These studies have shown that man is far more cultural being than imagined by the psychologists. In this connection, the discoveries by Ruth Benedict, Ralph Linton, and Abram Kardiner are notable. The anthropologists found that in every culture, there is a basic personality type which is an outcome of culture influences on the individual. As these cultural influences change so also change the basic personality types. For example, in the Alorese of Indonesia, Kardiner has written that in their society, the basic personality type is a doubtful, quarreling, cowardly, and parasitic person, whereas in our society, such a person will be considered as psychopathic and abnormal. One other example is that according to Ralph Linton, in certain islands of the Pacific, the same anxiety, rituals, customs and taboos are found about as about sexual behavior in our society. These studies prove that every society has a particular culture which profoundly influences the personality of its members. What is culture? The British anthropologist Malinowski has presented functional approach to culture. According to him, culture should be studied with a view to find out what it does to him. Culture is an instrument which enables man to secure his bio-psychic survival and subsequently a higher mental-intellectual survival. Since each aspect of culture, whether it is an economic organization or social organization or religion or language is rooted in the needs of the human being, they are all inter-related to each other through the common ground in which they are rooted, i.e., the human being with his needs. There is nothing loose within a culture; it is all inter-connected and no single trait has any meaning by itself unless it is seen in the context of the whole. Malinowski emphasized the self-sufficiency and the holistic character of a culture. He believed in cultural pluralism where every culture grows in response to localized versions of the bio-psychic needs of a people and that is to be judged in terms of these and not in terms of any absolute values. Adequacy in terms of local needs is the characteristics of a well- integrated culture in the light of prevailing knowledge. What is personality? According to Ralph Linton, personality embraces the total organized aggregate of psychological processes and status pertaining to the individual. It’s the personal beliefs, expectations, desires, values, and behaviors that derive from the interaction between culture and the individual. Personality is the behaviors and techniques for solving problems that are used by an individual. Personality is to the individual as culture is to the group. Now according to Kardiner, he developed a concept called “basic personality structure.” It is a set of trends entering into the characters of all individuals reared in the same culture. This structure was the product of “primary institutions” such as child training methods in dealing with aggressions and sex and the family organization. The basic personality expressed itself unconsciously in secondary institutions such as folklore, art, and religion. It was from these cultural institutions, therefore, that the basic personality expected in the culture could be inferred. Both Kardiner and Linton worked together to developed a common idea of “personality mediation.” It defines as “That group of psychic and behavioral characteristics derived from contacts with the same institutions, such as language, specific connotations, etc” (Kardiner and Linton) It theorizes that the environment affects the primary institutions, like the subsistence and settlement patterns, of a society. This affects the basic personality structure which then affects the secondary institutions, such as religion. Personality becomes an intervening variable. This view...
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