The theorists of the culture and personality school argue that culture creates personality patterns. One’s culture helps shape people’s emotions, thought behavior, values and norms that fit their surroundings. Ruth Benedict focuses on the relationship between culture and individual personality and Mead describes the relationship between culture and human nature.
Question: Does personality create culture, or does culture create personality?
The Psychological types in the culture of the southwest
Ruth Benedict “attempts to demonstrate the difference between the ritual practice of the pueblo people and the other tribes around them in the article, “psychological types in culture of the southwest”. She categorizes the characteristics into two terms, Dionysian and Apollonian. She obtains these categories from the German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In his work, he compares the contrast between the two Greek gods by the name of Dionysus and Apollo. These characters represent the two central principles in Greek culture.
Benedict defines the two categories and affirms that the differences between them are the “way of arriving at the value of existence. The Dionysian pursues them through “the annihilation of the ordinary bounds and limits” (p. 201). These emotions can be emotion closely relate to drunkenness, self control or danger. The Apollonian is the opposite of this; they prefer the arrival to existence in a more controlled orderly manner.
Benedict uses these two points of views and applies it to the pueblo people and the other tribes in the area. She applies this to the ritual behavior that is done by the tribes. She notices that the Pueblo people are the only ones that live in sobriety; they do not produce alcohol, nor practice self-induced trance. The Pueblo people would be consider the Apollonian in this cast. Actually doing such things would be considered Dionysus behavior. (NOTE: In later evidence it is seen that Benedicts claim that the Pueblo people don’t indulge in “Dionysian behavior” was disproven. Smith and Roberts go to say that the most common crime in Zuni is drunkenness (p.202).
Introduction of coming of age in Samoa
Margret Mead was interested in the effect of early childhood influences on adult personality and behavior. Her investigations centered on the interplay of biological and cultural factors, based on Freud’s notion that childrearing practices had profound effects on adult personality. Her attempts to separate the biological and cultural factors that control human behavior and personality development led to establishing the cultural configuration and national character approaches in American anthropology. (197)
Due to her academic relationship studying with Boas. He influenced her to answer the debate of whether adolescence was a universally traumatic and stressful time due to biological factors or whether the experience of adolescence depended on one’s cultural upbringing. She chose to specifically study female adolescences in Samoa and based her study on 68 girls in three villages of Ta’u island. In her findings, Mead reported that adolescence was not a stressful time, compared with the expectation of adolescent “stress” in Western societies. She attributed this difference to cultural factors. She argued that, living in a small culture where people shared a similar value system, Samoan adolescent girls did not face numerous conflicting personal choices and demands. (214) This conclusion was based on the observations that Samoan cultural patterns were very different from those in the United States.
The Never ending Nature verses Nurture debate: To what extent are human personality and behavior the products of biological factors and to what extent are they products of cultural forces?