Culture and Personality

LINK: Culture and Personality presentation Slides

Mead argues social conditioning is what forms individuals in society:

“Only to the impact of the whole of the integrated culture upon the growing child can we lay the formation of the contrasting types.”
“We are forced to conclude that human nature is almost unbelievably malleable, responding accurately and contrastingly to contrasting cultural conditions.”
“The differences between individuals who are members of different cultures, like the differences between individuals within a culture, are almost entirely to be laid to differences in conditioning, especially during early childhood, and the form of this conditioning is culturally determined.”

Think of an example of cultural morality and explain how it can be viewed as relative.

In discussing differences in ethical morality we can clearly see that what is taboo for one culture is honorable for another. In her paper, ” A Defense of Ethical Relativism” Benedict gives the example of homosexuality as a cultural aspect one of these taboo/honor complexes; state, in your opinion, why or why not you think this form of relativism is important to anthropology today.
Think of an instance when you have experienced ethnocentrism toward some aspect of your culture or sub-culture.
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • CB  On February 22, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    This reminding me when I was in Thailand for six weeks this last summer. My friends and I would go out to bars or to see live music and there would be a good amount of people but no one was dancing. My “crazy” American friends and I would go out and start dancing but then we would get a whole lot of stares. Something as simple as something that we find normal and others don’t. When I asked my Thai girlfriend why no one dances, she just said that they don’t and that its weird if they do. She just simply said that it is something they do not do, if they did dance, it’d be kind of out of place.

  • K  On February 23, 2014 at 9:47 am

    When I traveled to Peru I was constantly facing the judgement of the locals. Every place I traveled, ate or visited the locals immediately pegged me as a “tourist” despite the fact that I was actually a student abroad. I also noticed changes in their behaviors towards me or while I was around, which actually had a difference on my “prime directive” to observe their natural behaviors and culture. When I would go to the open market to barter and trade for goods or walking through downtown Cusco people would try and take advantage of me. After immersing myself in the culture and society it got a little better and easier to communicate with those who saw me regularly, but to others I was merely a “stupid tourist”. Since I looked like I didn’t belong, I was treated like I didn’t belong. People would speak in Spanish about me thinking I didn’t understand them when I understood every word, and that behavior has continued since I have returned to the US. If I am in any area that is primarily Spanish speaking people either think I’m a white girl who wandered into the wrong neighborhood or I am a baby mama of someone in the area.

    I understand their distinction in wanting to associate and identify certain people with a group, but the problems that exist and will continue to do so are ethnocentrism and stereotypes. By people believing they are in any way superior to one another, we are actually disadvantaging ourselves and each other.

    ‘It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.’ – Audre Lorde

  • jumpinhare  On February 23, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Years ago when I traveled to Rwanda Africa I was often confused for being a man or at least many were confused with my gender because of my extremely short hair. Often the females would cover their mouths and laugh while reaching out and touching my hair. Through our translator they would tell me that women were not suppose to cut off their hair and if I had short hair I was not a real women. They would ask my husband if he married a man? There were even a few times when I was served first with the men who always ate before the women.

  • Jenise  On February 23, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    1. This type of relativism is important to understand because we may see something as very important in our culture but the same thing is menial in another, we have to truly understand the differences to really know the culture.
    2. When it comes up in conversation that I have my fiancee is a female there is always that one person in the group who asks “oh when did you switch over?” I honestly don’t understand the question, I don’t ask straight people that.

  • kimico  On February 24, 2014 at 9:31 am

    As a vegetarian I will occasionally get questions or comments from non-vegetarians about my diet. When I studied in Prague last spring I got a whole new sense of culturally acceptable foods and how other cultures, specifically Czech, view what I choose to eat. According to the Czech staff members with my study abroad program vegetarianism did not make its way into the Czech Republic until about ten years ago. Servers in restaurants could not conceive of a meal without meat so if someone did request a vegetarian dish there was a possibility that it would still be served with meat.

    The history of the Czech Republic dictates why eating meat is a central part of the Czech diet. After enduring World War II and then Soviet occupation meat was scarce for many families so it was unheard of to refuse to eat it. When vegetarianism became an option for Czechs those who adhered to the diet were viewed as unhealthy, sickly or “brats.”

    My personal experience as a vegetarian in Prague went smoothly because the population tends to be young (thus my diet was not a foreign concept) and there are a handful of chain restaurants with vegetarian options. When travelling outside of Prague into more rural areas, however, there were almost no vegetarian options. There were also some people who didn’t understand what I meant by “vegetarian” and it took a few minutes for us to understand each other.

    Although it was difficult towards the end (there is only so much cheese pizza one person can take), it was great to learn about Czech values regarding food and the history that has shaped Czech culinary traditions.

  • Reyna Alvarenga  On February 24, 2014 at 10:19 am

    This past summer I went to Madrid, Spain and learned a lot about the Spanish culture. I figured it was similar to my own culture since my country, El Salvador, was colonized by Spaniards back in the colonization period. But I learned that some customs are very different from my own culture. As a Salvadoran I was taught bulls were meant to be eaten, and also served as entertainment when the town held rodeos. What I learned while visiting Spain was that not only do they also share eating bulls meat but they also practice bullfighting where a man dress in traditional clothes waves a colorful red and yellow cape trying to get the bull’s attention. While, in Madrid, I had the opportunity of attending an event where I saw Spanish fanatics going wild when the matador (what they call the man waving the cape to the bull) placed a spear into the bull’s back. In my culture, bullfighting is looked as harsh. But for Spaniards, bullfighting has been part of their own culture for many years. They do not see placing spears into the bull as animal cruelty and instead find seeing such event like a sport or art. I learned that while my culture sees bulls as riding them for entertainment when hosting rodeos, Spaniards sees bullfighting as their own entertainment that serves the purpose in practicing a tradition that they have practiced for many years.

  • Momo  On February 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I think one good example that I have experienced was when I went to Hong Kong for the International Business Program 2 summers ago. Here in the United States we are accustomed to forming and waiting in lines to purchase items or whatever it may be. It’s common knowledge and courtesy to get in line and wait your turn (something we are very used to in the US), but in other places like Hong Kong, it is not the same. The time I experienced this ethnocentric attitude was actually in Macau for one weekend with the entire crew in the program. Macau is probably one of the fastest growing cities in China and known for it’s Vegas style casinos. I remember waiting in line with a group of friends late at night for a taxi and an asian lady just walked up the line and cut us as if a line didn’t exist! I remember I was furious and what made me even more furious was that we were standing waiting in line for a taxi for almost 2 hours and for her single self to cut us was not acceptable. I couldn’t communicate with her because she obviously didn’t understand English when I was speaking to her (or at least she looked like she didn’t), so I decided to cut her and gave her the “oh no you didn’t” look. Now thinking back on it, I laugh because I realize it’s just culture differences. It didn’t make sense to me that she couldn’t wait in line, but she was probably thinking why I was making such a big fuss and weird. It was something I wasn’t used to and then I come to find out later that there is no such thing as waiting in line in China! Hah! Definitely couldn’t relate there at the time. 🙂

  • J  On February 24, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Just recently I went to a Fresno State Talks event that featured Professor Rosemary Diaz on the topic of cultural deaf studies and intercommunication between the deaf and hearing cultures. I am also a student of Professor Diaz’s Cultural deaf studies class, and prior to her event lecture, she had distinguished the differences between collectivists and individualistic cultures, and that the deaf culture belonged to the collectivist group, and most hearing Americans would belong to the individualistic group. Before and after the lecture, I observed that individuals who were hard of hearing or deaf, would openly walk around the aisles and communicate with each other openly. In contrast to that, I observed hearing individuals all seated down, quietly passing small talk and looking at their smartphones to pass away the time before the lecture started. Surprisingly enough the deaf individuals were louder than the hearing individuals and having a good time communicating. It was an interesting first time experience for me witnessing the two different ways of communications between a collectivist and individualistic cultures in a small environment, in a very short time frame.

  • Kaleb Greer  On February 25, 2014 at 9:29 am

    This form of relativism is very important to anthropology today. It allows for anthropologist to study each thing within culture context. It also prevents anthropologist from turning away from an aspect of a different culture that might be different or strange to their culture.
    When I traveled Southern Thailand you could see the difference in the noise level on public transportation. Thais are generally silent or speak softly while Americans are generally loud and noisy.

  • yolandaherrera  On February 25, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    1. An example of a cultural morality is killing someone. Head Hunting is considered culturally amoral to those in the United States, but within a specific tribe in Africa it is a right of passage to kill a member of a neighboring tribe.

    Concerning the discussions in class, it seems that there is in overall assumption that globalization is bad. People, cultures and nationalities have and are changing drastically.
    It seems we are allowing ourselves to force other societies and culture to stop their natural evolutionary process (referring to the reality of change, rather than the idea of Social Darwinism). Yes we would like to study these ‘other ‘ cultures and societies, and different norms and ideas, but we cannot use that as an excuse to refuse them the right to be a part of the world, and the current age of globalism.
    Furthermore is we live with complete moral relativity than we have t ask ourselves if things like human rights exist or it is relative with societies. Can moral and cultural relativity exist without one another? Won’t one lead to the other?

  • PT  On February 25, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Some examples of my experiences on ethnocentrism would be when I attend events here in Fresno. Me and my girlfriend attended a live concert at Fig Garden and in front of the stage, there were couples dancing to the music and my girlfriend wanted to go and dance up front as well, but I did not feel comfortable dancing. They were dancing and it was awkward for me to dance in front of a crowd. It is something that I don’t usually do. I think culture has a lot to do with how people do things. Such as when offering food, it could be disrespectful to not accept what is being given.

  • Peter  On March 4, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    We live in America where most part of the country is culturally and ethnically diverse. We are the melting pot of the world for all who wants to become something comes and strive to become. That being said, we are quick to judge other’s who isn’t assimilated to the American culture or not one of us. I see it on a daily basis, and I just accept the things people do unless it’s wrongful or physically hurting someone.
    My experience with ethnocentrism and cultural morality is by far an experience of thee EXPERIENCE! A few months ago, December, Hmong New Year, and I being Hmong person living within proxemic to other’s from different culture background saw me and my family practice the typical “new year celebration of walking around a stick with a rooster”. The ritual was held at my uncle house in Clovis, where they are surrounded by majority of caucasian. However, as the preparation took off, noise or commotion, and people were noticeable that caught the eye of the neighbors. Some looked with faces of disturbance, disgust and annoyed. Just their facial expression gave me a impression that they did not like what they saw. No need for exchange of words, just body language can make you feel uncomfortable or unease.

  • meche  On March 6, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    I have come to appreciate that there are certain steps of service that make you a good server or a bad server, especially since the steakhouse I work at has secret shops (which are anonymous guests who rate their experience and give us points for each step of service we provided, we then receive a score between 0-100%). While in Germany I realized that being served in a restaurant is completely the opposite to what it is like here in the states. One day I went out to eat with my girlfriend and when we got a table we were greeted by a woman who took our drink order. Then another different woman took our food order and didnt visit us again until we were done with our food and we made it clear we were ready to pay. Not that we’re high maintenence or anything but I was wondering why we werent visited more often by our server. While we were eating I realized my girlfriends drink was low and it bothered me that the server hadn’t noticed and come back to refill it for her. When I told my gf about it she kind of laughed (she’d been living in Germany for several months now) and said that they dont refill your drinks here unless you ask for another one because you’d be paying the price for the amount of refills you requested. Most places here in the US provide free soft drink refills and part of being a good server would be to provide these refills in a timely manner. We went out several more times after that it didn’t bother me as much that we were left alone for the most part. It doesn’t seem like that much of a difference, but to me it did because I had my own ideas of what restaurant service should be like and it was not at all similar to the ideas of service of the Germans.

  • mirrferr  On May 1, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    I have similar experience as someone else mentioned, with the non meat diet. My husband and I are both vegans and I have been a vegetarian for years before that, and all of a sudden when i made the switch to veganism, people began to care a great deal about what I ate and didn’t eat, criticizing my diet and always asking me “where I got my protein”, when they did not care in the slightest bit before when I ate meat. Not only that, but people became extremely judgmental, even getting angry when I told them I didn’t eat any animal products because it is not “socially acceptable”. (Of course, how could I survive without bacon, for God’s sake?) I do not judge people for eating meat even though I view it as socially unacceptable and morally wrong, I just let people do what they are going to do and not try and change anyone. It’s interesting how people do not view this similarly, and always find something to question and find morally opposing.

  • JannetC  On May 17, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    I recently experienced ethnocentrism when I went to a dollar store trying to buy my mom balloons. There was a sign outside saying that hispanic mothers day was on a different day that american mothers day. I had to talk to the manager and asked them to take it off because being hispanic does not mean that we are not american. I felt that they tried to segregate people.

  • Grumpy Giraffe  On March 9, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I think an example of cultural relativism is with food and what animals are acceptable to eat. Japan kills and eats Dolphins which Americans tend to find morally apprehensible because they are intelligent creatures. Another example is that some countries such as China will eat cats or dogs. Americans find that in humane since we have those animals as pets and they are domesticated. I think this is showing ethnocentrism because who is to say that cows and chickens are acceptable to eat but not dogs. We view dogs and cats as pets but others view them as food or maybe both. Himduism, which is dominant in India, views cows as sacred so Americans eating them is probably unacceptable in their eyes. While I would not eat a dog or cat because I view them as pets, I can’t condemn someone else for eating them outside the U.S. because the culture is different there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: