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PSY100H1 Lecture Notes - Naoko Takahashi, Misty Hyman, Viktor Frankl

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Dan Dolderman

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Cultures Provide Frameworks for Meaning
e.g., a college student goes out for a cappuccino. What does this mean?
does it matter if the student is male or female?
a chance to quench her thirst,
a demonstration she’s quitting her diet,
an effort to wake herself up to study,
an opportunity to pursue a romantic interest
BUT in another culture it may not be appropriate for women to go to coffee shops on their
it may not be desirable to pursue a body weight less than what one currently has
it may be sinful to use artificial stimulants to wake yourself up
romantic relationships may be arranged, and so, women shouldn’t be out there pursuing
them on their own....
Therefore, cultures provide general frameworks of meaning, shared understandings,
myths, stories, etc., all of which guide our thinking and provide an interpretive frame to
help us ‘make sense’ of our experience.
It is not that different from a collective mind. And just like “mind” is an adaptive organism,
seeking to “fit” the organism to its circumstances, cultural trends arise for good reason, and
much can be learned by taking a functionalist approach to the study of culture.
Cultures as Adaptation
Dov Cohen “Different economies and ecologies lead to different cultural adaptations.
Important work has been done to show this, and any consideration of cultural differences
must take this as a starting point. Just as different ecological niches have led to different
adaptations in animal species, so have different environmental niches led to differences in
cultural adaptations.”
The Culture of Honour
Archival data:
more argument-related murders in South (esp. in hills & dry plains, compared to moist
“hawkish” international policy, right to bear arms, capital punishment
Survey data:
e.g., killing in defense of your home, or to avenge an attacked family member (23% vs.
47%); hiring a murderer if related to honour
The Culture of Honour
“asshole study”: %change in testosterone: control vs. exp.
North: 4% --> 5%
South: 4% --> 12%
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Chicken study: control vs. exp.
North: 6.5 --> 5
South: 9.5 --> 3!!!
why would this culture of honour have evolved?
The not-so-terrible Twos
But in the Pygmy tribes of Africa, in Mexico, Japan, etc., this stage is remarkably less
pronounced and in some cases, virtually non-existent
The same struggle for individuation doesn’t occur to the same degree, so culture is being
transmitted even as early as 2, and reflected through parenting practices, and children’s
A Dominant Theme (so far)
the individualist collectivistic distinction:
some cultures (e.g., US, Australia, Canada) emphasize personal distinctiveness, pride, self-
reliance, freedom, competitiveness
other cultures (e.g., China, Japan, S. American cultures, SE Asian cultures, African cultures,
indigenous people everywhere, etc.) emphasize personal effacement, humility, social roles, group
harmony, cooperation
Note: Indiv’s only account for about 20% of the world, but the VAST majority of psychology
studies have been done on the most extreme Indiv’s (young, urban, educated, North Americans)
The Twenty Statements Test
this broad difference in cultures can be found at the individual level, in terms of the self-
concept (i.e., how people tend to think about themselves)
I am ...
Individualists vs. Collectivists
The relative proportion of personal vs. interpersonal descriptors is a window into the degree to
which people think of themselves as individualists and as collectivists.
And as it turns out, I & C people differ on many important psychological processes.
Individualists vs. Collectivists
For example, in I cultures, people tend to take credit for their successes, and externalize their
failures. Indeed, this is seen as healthy! (remember CBT?)
- Misty Hyman & Naoko Takahashi
We’re blends of individualism & collectivism
Even hard-core Individualists have Collectivist components to their self-concepts. And in fact,
these are extremely important!
E.g., social inclusion & depression, suicide, schizophrenia etc....
Our identities depend, to a large degree, on our associations with others.
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