Dualism: Culture & Personality

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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?

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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 reconciled sociological and cultural approached with that of psychological reductionism.

Ruth Benedict’s anthropological book, “Patterns of Culture,” explores the dualism of culture and personality. Benedict has presented important discoveries regarding national character. Benedict studies different cultures such as the Zuni Indians of New Mexico and the Dobu tribe of Melanesia. These studies showed many such motives to be acquired which were formerly considered to be hereditary. Each culture she finds is so different and distinctive in relation to the norm of our society. Each difference is what makes it unique.

Benedict compares the likenesses of culture and individuality, “A culture, like an individual, is a more or less consistent pattern of thought or action” (Benedict 1934:46), but note, they are not the same by use of the word, “like. ” Benedict is saying that figuratively, cultures are like personalities. Culture and individuality are intertwined and dependent upon each other for survival. The Zuni’s, according to Benedict, are a culture that is very consumed with ceremony and ritual. The Zuni’s value the absence f excess, moderation, ceremony and tradition, “He keeps the middle of the road, stays within the known map, and does not meddle with disruptive psychological states. Even in the exaltation of the dance he ‘remains what he is, and retains his civic name” (Benedict 1934:79). This quote symbolizes the extreme devotion and belief infested in the Zuni culture. A strong sense of restraint and composure is found in the end of the quote, “even in the exaltation of the dance he remains what he is. ” The Zunis prize the unity of the community as a functioning whole.

It is necessary in this culture to adapt to the norm of the community in order to be a successful member of society The members of Zuni tribe use rituals and magic to fulfill their aims and purposes. Their religious practices show complex traits. Ritualistic activities take a major part of their time. They have a keen memory regarding the details of the rituals. Ruth Benedict found imitative magic among them. For example, they rolled big stones down the slopes in order to bring ranis on the faith that the thunderous sound made by the stones will make the clouds thunder and rain.

Thus among them, religion was mixed with magic. Competition and conflict is comparatively rarer. They are non-violent and do not like change in daily routines. Their example shows that man is not aggressive by nature. Competitions, conflicts and aggressions are results of cultural influences. The Zuni’s are considered to be an Apollonian society. They are group centered, a humble, modest and ritualistic society. In a culture such as the Zuni’s the individual voice can have a tendency to not be heard. The Dobu tribe of Melanesia is exactly a contrast to Zuni temperament and personality.

In them, one finds abundance of conflict, competition, combat, and violence. In Dobus, religion is also mixed with magic but this magic is used to bring harm to other or to defend oneself against others. Most of the individuals in this tribe are deceivers. They scarcely care for promises and compromises. In their society, the promises are normally broken. They do not think it to be wrong as it is in other cultures. Unlike the Zuni, the Dobu value excess, imbalance, and immoderation. The Dobu are self-sufficient and self-reliant. They live in a hostile environment and wear fake smiles and only care about their own personal gain.

Dobus will kill, cheat, and steal to get the things they want, “Behind a show of friendship, behind the evidences of co-operation, in every field of life, the Dobuan believes that he has only treachery to expect” (Benedict 1934:171). The most treacherous, deceitful, and dishonest people are the leaders in this society. This difference in the personality traits of Dobu and Zuni individuals is due to difference in their culture. In the very different Zuni and Dobu tribes there is a common theme. The Zuni culture concentrates on the well-being of community as a whole.

This idea seems to exclude the impact an individual may have on society. The Dobuan society is more self-concerned. When an entire people only care about himself or herself, what becomes of the whole? Perhaps what Benedict is trying to assert is that culture and personality are not the same, nor are they different. A personality is shaped by the culture in which it is born into. A culture is shaped by the repeated ceremonies, traditions, beliefs, and ideals performed by the individuals in the community over time: No individual can arrive at the threshold of his potentialities without a culture in which he participates.

Conversely, no civilization has in it any element that the last analysis is not the contribution of an individual. “Where else could any trait come from except from the behaviour of a man or a woman or a child? ” (Benedict 1934:253) What Benedict is saying here is that an individual can never discover the depths of himself or herself without the scrutiny of a culture as a guideline. For if he has no culture, he has no way of measurement! Likewise, culture cannot exist if it does not reap from the actions and behavior of human beings.

In other words, individual personality and culture cannot exist solely without another. Culture and personality work together in unison in a process of giving-and-taking. According to Benedict, it is not important to stress what sets culture and individual apart. It is important to concentrate on what it is that brings them together, “It is always a give-and-take. The problem of the individual is not clarified by stressing the antagonism between culture and the individual, but by stressing their mutual reinforcement” (Benedict 1934:253).

It is the differences between culture and individuality that allow for a healthy friction to occur. In the process of give-and-take, culture is fed into the individual at a very early age and as the child grows he is able to have feedback into culture (either by adapting or rebelling). When Benedict says that cultures are like personalities she means this figuratively. Benedict seems to blend individuality and culture in “The Individual and Culture. ” Perhaps what Benedict means is that individuality and culture work so closely that they can be confused as the same. His culture provides the raw material of which the individual makes his life. If it is meagre, the individual suffers; if it is rich, the individual has a chance to rise to his opportunity” (Benedict 1934:252). Benedict clarifies perfectly in this statement. Culture acts as the starting point for an individual. If an individual is blessed with the riches of a particular culture, then they are that much better off. However, if a person is not blessed with the riches of their culture, they are at a disadvantage and must work harder to obtain them. Culture and personality work as a function of one another.

They are separate but still very much alike. In order to function properly the elements do not have to be identical; instead, they must use their differences to their advantage: “…The cultures of Zuni, Dobu… differ from one another not only because one trait is present here and absent there… They differ still more because they are oriented as wholes in different directions. They are traveling along different roads in pursuit of different ends…”(Benedict 1934:223). Each society finds the right amount of individuality and culture that works for them.

In the Zuni society, a focus on community was more prevalent. In the Dobu society, the emphasis was more self-centered. Each culture is focused on a different end; therefore their method for going about it is different in each setting. All the above mentioned studies of personality types in primitive culture show how personality traits differ in different cultures. Culture determines methods of child rearing, form of social control, mores, customs, rituals, myths, legends and ways of thinking and living. All these influence personality.

Culture determines the standard of normality in a society. Thus what appears normal personality in a culture may appear abnormal in other. Thus culture determines personality. Benedict believes that cultures are like personalities in the sense that both can individually be shaped, created, and changed. An individual takes on the values of a culture, uniting them but not joining them. To say personality is culture would take away from the distinctive character of the individual. Benedict is saying that the distinctive character exists in the culture in which they are born

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