Week 1 - Introduction.docx

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2 Feb 2013
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Week 1: Introduction
The Sambia Tribe
- Tribe in New Guinea
- Culturally ingrained initiation for boys to transform into men
- Believe that femaleness is innate natural essence and that maleness must be
- Boys are seen as existing in a female world and are contaminated by mothers’
- Initiation practices are used to transform boys into men
o Piercing septum of nose
o Thrashing boys with sticks
- Initiation also includes older men giving jerungdu to boys
o Achieved through boys performing oral sex
o Semen seen as physical basis of jerungdu
- Throughout one’s life, a male engages in:
o Ingestion of semen from around ages 7 to 15
o Receiving fellatio to impart semen at age 15
o Heterosexual contact with wife after age 17 (and some homosexual
contact still)
- Females expected to be heterosexual throughout lifespan
- Sambian males thus go through homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual phases
throughout their lives
- Sexuality is dynamic in Sambian society, whereas it is seen as a core identity in
Western cultures
Overriding Themes in Cultural Psychology
- Psychological processes are shaped by experiences
o Culture and mind “make each other up”
- Universal brains vs. Cultural experiences
o How are humans similar, and how are they different?
Culturally Universal vs. Culturally Variable
- Mathematical reasoning
o Universal 2
o Variable numbers beyond 3
- Colour words
o Universal black
o Variable green
- Norms
o Universal smiling when happy
o Variable biting tongue when embarrassed
Defining Culture
- Information acquired from other members of a species
- A group of people who have a shared context (geographical, historical, linguistic,
Challenges to Defining Culture
- “Cultural” boundaries are not distinct and are often unclear
- “Cultures” are dynamic and change over time
- Much within-culture variation exits just as much between-culture variation exists
General Psychology vs. Cultural Psychology
General Psychology
- Focus on universals
- Human brain = CPU
- The goal of psychology is to understand how the CPU works and how the natural
laws govern human thought
- Context and content of thought is largely just noise
o Obscures our ability to understand CPU
Cultural Psychology
- Focus on cultural variation
- Thoughts are shaped by contexts contexts inform the content of our thoughts
- Minds and culture are entangled with each other
The Cultural Brain
- Even activation of brain structures can be subject to cultural influences
- These processes show that the mind is enmeshed with culture
Figure-Line Task
- East Asians show more activation of the left inferior parietal lobe and the right
pre-central gyrus on the absolute task
- Americans showed more activation on the relative task
- Both regions of activation are associated with attentional control
- When people performed the culturally “less familiar” task, they showed more
evidence for attentional control
What Do We Know About Human Psychology?
- If we observe a psychological phenomenon, how culture specific or general is it?
- We lack the data to assess such claims about generalizability
Psychology is WEIRD
- Most research can make sense of and originate from WEIRD societies:
o W Western
o E Educated
o I Industrialized
o R Rich
o D Democratic
- Evidence for WEIRD thinking has been shown by contrasting:
o Industrialized vs. non-industrialized societies
o Western vs. non-Western societies
o Americans vs. other Westerners
o University-educated Americans vs. other Americans
- 96% of psychology participants are from Western, industrialized countries