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Lecture 1

PSYC14H3 Lecture 1: PSYC14 - Lec 1. Intro to Culture & Psychology

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Nicholas Hobson

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PSYC14: Lecture 1 – Introduction to Culture & Psychology May 1, 2017 • Bi-culture = identifying yourself with two cultures (i.e., Canadian student, with Muslim background) What Do We Mean by “Culture”? • Is Toronto a culture? UTSC? How about UTSC compared to UTSG? Is this class a culture? What are the parameters that define culture? • Language, so advanced, greatest achievement of human species, but culture is such an ambiguous word, which hard to define. Petri Dish of Culture: • You got to love language. At times it can be so remarkable and its one of our species greatest triumphs. And yet we come up with words to describe things in the world or concepts that appear entirely different, to the point where the word or term is used so freely that it loses all meaning. • Image of bacteria culture, we use the same word culture in biology, but it has nothing to do with the term culture in psychology Cicero “Cultura Animi”: • Roman philosopher Cicero coined the term culture in “cultura animi” – a teleological metaphor in which a person became the highest living achievement as a human. • Over a lifetime, a person took great care to reach this state, to CULTIVATE themselves. • Actually, when somebody is referred to as “cultured” they’re thought to be refined, learned, successful, knowledgeable. • Origin of the word culture comes from the philosopher Cicero, in 100 BCE, he referred to it as “cultura amini” he saw it as cultivation, meaning that someone would cultivate and grow themselves (i.e., be farmers and grow crops) and become the best rational human – closer to a god than human o When someone says they are “cultured” they are referring to being “cultivated”, as well as being well refined and well-educated, knowledge (been exposed to different idea), reached a sense of self improvement over their lives. • Origins of the word has gone through changes over the centuries 1 A few definitions of Cultures: • Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving. • Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behaviour; that is the totality of a person's learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted. • A culture is a way of life of a group of people--the behaviours, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. • Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its symbols include a group's skills, knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions. • Culture is the sum of the learned behaviour of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation. • Culture is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another. o Psychological definition of culture • The term culture is extremely convoluted, like most things that seem obvious to us or omnipresent or ubiquitous Is Culture Unique to Humans? • Are humans the only species that have culture? Bees, primates, insects, ants, fish, Crows – use tools to get insects. • In most species, fixed action patterns and evolved instincts guide all the repertoire of behaviors. o Genetically they are programed what to do, but when we see this animals using tools, this isn’t an evolved fixed pattern it is something that they have learned, and then animals share that tool among the group. Then that knowledge is shared between groups, and intergroups and then you will get subtle differences • “Learning” is rarely done in species … but evidence in the past few years is coming out to suggest that there are certain non-human species that have the capacity to transmit new knowledge horizontally and vertically, both within groups and between groups. o This is evidence of cultural learning and evidence of “culture” in the broadest sense. Video: • how chimps transit information to each other • chimps use sponges, leaves to get more water • other chimps watch each other and learn from others behaviour • Chimps can learn culture 2 Common Features in these Different Definitions: 1. Humans Interact with Environments • Ecocultural Components: culture is both constrained and shaped by a group’s habitat (i.e., people in warmer climates wear lighter material clothes) o One research anthropologists in the 60’s called it “lagging emulation”, like the monkeys, where if you didn’t have to worry so much about food, getting the shit to survive, they have more time for leisure activities and to interact with others o Lagging emulation is where a group of lower status people, as they move from lower status to higher status, they have less worry about resources (i.e., food, shelter, safety) they have engage in more leisure activities and they emulate higher status folk • Culture is adaptive to the environment pressures • People develop language, writing, tools, skills, abstract ideas, moral & aesthetic standards, social patterns, norms… all in response to adapting to their ecosystem • Our cultures and differences among our cultures are a direct result with how we interact with the environment and any environmental pressures put infront of us • There are different environmental pressures depending on where you live in the world • In the last 10 years, there has been a huge push to be more eco-friendly – not just a hot social topic, it is the basis for humanity and world culture • You can interact with the natural environment, i.e., water, forests, but then you build an environment now that is more digital and technology focused • Yes we still interact in the natural world, but now we are interacting more with the technology focused world – and that world like the natural world still has its environmental pressures. • Differences among groups in their worlds, creates culture View of culture as adaptive to environment: • Culture is both constrained and shaped by a group’s habitat: “ecocultural” • People develop language, writing, tools, skills, abstract ideas, moral & aesthetic standards, social patterns, norms… in adapting to their ecosystem • Cultural evolution • Elements of culture that were effective became shared and transmitted to others (e.g., next generations), becoming aspects of culture • (e.g., a hot climate leads to light clothing) 3 • However, circumstances keep changing – what was functional in one historical period (e.g., having six children when infant mortality was high) may not be so functional now. - Friedl (1964) describes a phenomenon called “lagging emulation” – as lower status people acquire enough wealth, they emulate the obsolete customs of higher status people (may not be functional, but people derive a great deal of satisfaction from it) • Human’s interaction with nature and with the environment is not just an important socio- political movement; it is the basis of culture; it is the basis of the definition of humanity - of what makes us human. But the misunderstanding is that environment means the “natural” environment; I don’t think this is the case any more - For Ancestral groups and pre-industrial groups, the environment is the “natural environment” - For modern high-tech groups, majority of world’s population, the environment is more and more the digital environment and technological environment • “After ten years of preaching environmental conservation, what had we as an environmental organization achieved?”. • To answer this question we decided to ask the communities we had been working with in the various regions of the country. The response was a resounding critique of modern “quick fix” environmentalism. The question remained: What happened to nature and people? Where are people, cultures, resources and livelihoods in the environmental lexicon? • In one instance in the Lake region, men and women in the Lake Victoria region asked: “How come since time immemorial, using our indigenous methods and systems—this lake was well taken care of and had plenty of fish—BUT YOU PEOPLE (the modern post independence generation) despite having all these fancy vehicles and running around talking about environment have succeeded in destroying the lake environment within three decades of Kenya’s independence?”. 2. Culture Consists of Shared Elements: • Shared Practices and Shared Meanings : In specifying the
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