Culture and Personality

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Cultural Violations: An Illustration What Is Cultural Personality Psychology? Three Major Approaches to Culture

Evoked Culture Transmitted Culture Cultural Universals

Summary and Evaluation Key Terms


Last Surviving Tribes Earth

The Yanomamo Indian tribes are among the last truly traditional societies on earth, living a hunter-gatherer existence in the isolated jungles of Venezuela.

he Yanomamo Indians of Venezuela set up temporary shelters, from which they forage for food and hunt for game. When these shelters become depleted of food, they push on and settle elsewhere. On one particular day , the men gather at early dawn, preparing to raid a neighboring village. The group is tense. The men in the raiding party risk injury , and a fearful man might turn back, excusing himself from the raid by telling the others that he has a thorn in his foot. Men who do this too often, though, risk damaging their reputations. To a

Yanomamo, few things can damage a reputation more than acts of cowardice (Chagnon, 1983).

But not all Yanomamo men are the same. There are at least two discernible groups that dif fer profoundly in personality . The lowland Yanomamo men are highly aggressive. They do not hesitate to hit their wives with sticks for "infractions" as minor as serving tea too slowly . They often challenge other men to club fights or ax fights And they sometimes declare war on neighboring villages, attempting to kill the enemy men and capture their wives. These Yanomamo men shave the tops of their heads to reveal proudly the scars from club fights sometimes painting the scars red to display them as symbols of courage and endurance. Indeed, one is not regarded as a true man until one has killed another man—acquiring the honor of being called an unokai. The men who are unokai have the most wives (Chagnon, 1988).

The Yanomamo Indian tribes are among the last truly traditional societies on earth, living a hunter-gatherer existence in the isolated jungles of Venezuela.

In the highlands reside a dif ferent group of Yanomamo. These people are more peaceful and dislike fighting. The high levels of agreeableness can be seen on their faces. These Yanomamo do not raid neighboring villages, do not engage in ax fights and rarely engage in club fights. They stress the virtues of cooperation. Unfortunately, though, food resources are more plentiful in the lowlands, where the aggressive Yanomamo dominate.

How can we understand cultural dif ferences in personality between the highland and lowland Yanomamo? Did those who were temperamentally more disposed to aggression drive those who were more agreeable up to the highlands and away from the food resources? Or did the two groups start out the same, and only subsequently did different cultural values take hold in one group, dif ferent from those that took hold in the other? These questions form the subject matter of this chapter . What is the effect of culture on personality? What is the ef fect of personality on culture? And, more generally, how can we understand patterns of cultural variation amid patterns of human universals?

There are several important reasons that personality psychologists explore personality across cultures (Church, 2000; Paunonen & Ashton, 1998). One reason is to discover whether concepts of personality in one culture, such as American culture, are also applicable in other cultures. A second reason is to find out whether culture differ, on average, in the levels of particular personality traits. Are Japanese, for example, really more agreeable than Americans, or is this merely a stereotype? A third reason is to discover whether the factor structure of personality traits varies across cultures or is universal. Will the five-factor model of personality discovered in American samples, for example, be replicated in Holland, Germany , and the Philippines? A fourth reason is to discover whether certain features of personality are universal, corresponding to the human nature level of personality analysis (see Chapter 1).

In this chapter , we will explore which features of personality are common to everyone but dif ferentially elicited only in some cultures; which features of personality are transmitted so that they become characteristic of some local groups but not others; and which features of personality are common to everyone in all cultures. We will start by examining just how dif ferent cultures can be.

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  • bucca twofoot
    What is cultural personality psychology?
    3 years ago

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