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cultural psych lecture - chapters 1-5

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PSYC 3350
Richard N Lalonde

Cultural psych Challenges to defining Culture • Cultures are dynamic; they change with time • Cultural boundaries are not clear cut and often unclear Origins of cultural psychology • 1921-wilhelm wundt’s volkerpsychologie • Cultural products (ex. Language & customs) have an effect on mental processes • 1921’s Russian cultural historical school • Luria, vygotsky, and others recognized that people environment interactions are done using tools or cultural ideas that accumulate over the span of history • Interest in cultural influences on mental processes waxed and waned after 1930s • 1960s-fueld gains momentum • 1980s to 90s Berry, Shweder, Markus, Kitayama, Triandis and others : monumental contributions to the field • Cultural psychology established itself as separate discipline within mainstream psychology General vs Cultural • A key goal of general psych is to reveal the underlying and universal CPU o Isolate beh. From its content and context to reduce the noise and allow us to detect a clear signal. o Avoid studying multiple cultures as this increases the amount of noise. • Cultural psych – the mind can’t be separated from content or context o Mind arises from participating in a culture o Culture arises from the participation of the minds within it Cultural Universal vs Variable • Mathematical reasoning o Universal: the number “2” o Variable: numbers beyond “3” Cultural psych • Color words o Universal: black o Variable: green • Norms o Universal: smiling when happy o Variable: biting tongue when embarrassed Universals & cultural relativism • Accessibility universal: accessible to same degree across cultures (ex. Social facilitation) • Functional universal: more accessible in some cultures than in others (ex. Marked negative affect in depression) • Existential universal: not necessarily use to solve the same problem, nor is it I equally accessible across cultures ( eg. Persistence in the face of failure) • Non universal: do not exist in all cultures (ex. Abacus reasoning) Non-universal behaviours • Acquisition of jerungdu in oyoung males in the samba people of papua new guinea • Umhlanga (reed dance): annual tradition in Swaziland • Day of Ashura in some Shia’s religions of Muslim contries • Such behaviours should not be regarded as exotic or weird but through their own cultureal lens Is culture uniquely human? Humans vs other apes • Humans could win in a fight against ape species • Common ancestors 5 to 7 million years ago • How did we lose the muscle mass, and what did we gain in exchange? • If culture = learning through social transmission then culture not unique to humans • Cultural learning found in other species o Chimps use tools to extract termites Cultural psych o Killer whales in different regions speak different dialects Human cultural learning • Two key characteristics of human cultural learning that make it unique: o Speed: humans tend to be quicker o Prestige: heuristic cue used to determine whom to learn from and copy  Maximizes changes of learning  Can lead to transmission of irrelevant/ inefficient behaviour • Humans have unique cognitive abilities that sets their cultural learning apart from other animals • 2 key cognitive abilities: o Language: allows for communication of complex ideas o Theory of mind (ToM): ability to understand that others have minds, intentions, and perspectives different from one’s own Humans are distinctive in that they engage in so much social learning. Being able to learn skills from observing others is a key reason behind the evolution of our big brains. Herrmann et al. (2007) • Contrasted the learning abilities of 3 primates: chimp, orang-utans, and 2.5 year old human child • Some tasks involved general problem solving skills about the physical world • Some tasks involved social learning Humans learn from eachother in ways that are diff from other primates • Human social learning appears to be imitative. They internalize the modles goals and behavioural strategies o Requires ToM • Chimps social learning appears to be emulative, focus on environment evens and not models goals and behavioural strats. How kids and a chimp learn from a model Cultural psych • Children used the rake in the same way the target did • Chimpz used the rake in the more effective theeth up position—regardless of the way the target used it • We are smarter in using and copying the model but not necessarily more effective • That is the children demonstrated imitative learning and the chimpz demonstrated emulative learning Humans aren’t just social, they are ultra-social • Humans live in larger groups than other primates. • Humans appear more interested in each other’s activities than other primates • Humans engage in more cultural learning than other primates. • Humans use language to facilitate cultural learning Group size and social brain hypothesis • Many species of primates live in large social networks which require one to keep track of social relationships, and to learn from each other • Has the greater cognitive demand of social living led to the evolution of larger brains? (robin dunbar) • Larger brain  upper level of brain, cortex, high cognitive functions o Neocortex ration: volume of the neocortex controlling for volume of the rest of the brain o Group size for humans are 150 according to dunbar and that’s pretty large compared to other primates o This could be 1 of the reasons why we have such a large cortex, keeping track of 150 people cognitively Conclusion: primate brain evolution appears to be related to the highly social lifestyle Key benefit of imitative learning • Imitative learning allows for a high fidelity reproduction of the target behaviour. Cultural psych o Replicate same idea, over and over again  fidelity • New cultural info can be accurately reproduced and it can also be improved. • This allows for cultural accumulation o Ratchet effect – cultural info accumulates without slipping back Humans live in cultrural worlds • In addition to living in a physical and social environment, humans live in an environment that consists of shared cultural ideas. • It is adaptive for humans to rely on cultural ideas to scceed and survive – we have evolved to depend on such info • But what cultural worlds have psychologists been looking at? • Psychological date is largely comprised of date from western college students, especially American Psychology samples are weird • The social psych journal JPSP – 99% of authors and 94% of samples from western countries. • Chemistry is more of an international science compared to psych where it is mainly in USA • WEORD = Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic societies. • People from these societies are exceptional (outliers) in many aspects of their psychology • 68% of psycho participants are Americans • 96% of psycho participants are from western, industrialized countries • Even more problematic: 70% of participants are psych undergrads • Weird countries make up only 16% of the worlds population and the rest of the world is being ignored Industrialized vs. non industrialized societies • Domains in which industrialized societies occupy an extreme position o Visual illusions Cultural psych o Perceptions of fairness o Egocentric spatial reasoning Muller-lyer illusion Western vs non western societies • Domains in which western societies occupy an extreme position o More analytic reasoning o More independent self-concepts o More motivations for self enhancement o Less conforming o More desire for choice The culture of psychology • Why are westerners, especially NA, so much more interested in psych and psychological research than the rest of the world? o Inglehart(2006) – looking at global values Cultural psych Jan 16 Less genetic variability among different populations of humans than there is among different populations of chimpanzees.4 After the ice age • Different societies emerged: o Some literate  Industrial o Some illiterate  Agricultural o Some hunter gaterers  Retaining stone tools Where does culture come from? • To survive, people had to meet biological needs ex reproduction and social moticves ex affliation and negotiating hierarchies. • Universally need to come up with solutions on how to adapt to environment to address needs and motives • Solutions dependant on their physical environment (context) Movie notes Cultural psych • Shape of the continents had a major role in helping some cultures floursh and others not, the geography. • Agriculture first developed in part of the middle east th • By 16 century the European agri culture was dominated by animals Fertile crescent • Plants: wheat, barley, peas, lentils • Animals: sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, cows • People in Eurasia had a geographical advantage • Best plants for domestication o 5000 yeas earlier • Best animals for domestication • East west orientation o Climate similar o Crops spread easily o Cultural ideas spread more easily o More time for inventiveness o Eurasians easily conquered other continents Advantages of agricultural societies • More food so more people o Technology development  Metallurgy (tools, weapons)  Writing o Labour  Agriculture  Public works Cultural psych o Warriors  Conquest • Land, slaves resources o Exposure to disease leads to immunities  Very important in understanding how a group of people can just get wiped out such as the first nations people  When the Europeans came here that’s what happened, the Europeans were living with animals for 1000s of years and when they came over they spread it out to people who didn’t have the immunity and died out Asian rice paddy • Rice • Small acreage • Skill oriented th • 18 century hours: 3000 years • Strong effort reward link • Complex work European farm • Corn and wheat • Large acreage • Mechanically oriented • 18 century hours: 1200 years • Feudalism: little control • Simpler work How different geographies affect cultural norms • Evoked culture: we all have pre wired behavioural repertories that are potentially accessible, and these will be evoked when ecology calls for them o Harsher environment call for greater masculinity Cultural psych o More parasites in a culture the greater the value of physical attractiveness (sign of health) How different geographies affect cultural norms • Transmitted culture: people learn cultural practices through social learning o Ideas that begin in one geographic area can spread to adjacent areas o Yet, although geography leads to cultural variation, much cultural variation is independent of ecology Biological vs. cultural evolution • Biological evolution (vertical transmission) o 1. Natural selection: survival of the fittest  Different traits have different survival rates o 2. Sexual section: fecundity of the sexist  Which traits desired by sexual partners o Genes: replications in bio. Evolution  Genes have good longevity, high fidelity, and potential for fecundity • Cultural evolution (horizontal transmission) o 1. Persistent ideasL become social norms o 2. Reproductive ideas: some ideas more likely to attract attention • Memes ( dawkins): replicators in cult. Evolution Ideas as rplicators • Memes: smallest unit of cultural info that can be faithfully transmitted (ex. Catchphrases like “whatsup”) • Genes stored in chromosomes, memes stored in brains (or computers) and replicated through communication. Memes and gens: differences • Biological evolution: roots in random mutations that cause genetic variability. • Cultural evolution: based on consciously planned innovations, not random variation. Cultural psych • Cultural transmission does not always have high fidelity; gist of message may survive, but peripheral details lost • Adaptive gens become prominent and maladaptive ones are less likely to survive; memes are not constrained by adaptability How do ideas catch on • Ideas usually need to be communicated in order to spread. They spread within social networks, so some ideas vary across different groups. • Ideas that convey useful information are widely discussed and spread Epidemiology of ideas • Proposed mechanism for how ideas are spread o Inventor comes up with mental representation of an idea  imitator 1 learns idea from inventor. Creates own mental representation  imitator 2 imitates imitator 1 in similar fashion • imitators representations likely coloured with own idiosyncratic biased • people are more likely to prefer, remember and discuss ideas/ narratives that contain a minimal number of counterintuitive statements. • Over time, narratives that include a few, but not too many, counterintuitive items are recalled better • Such narratives are found in most religions, myths, and successful folk tales. • Ideas that elicit a strong emotional reaction are more likely to be communicated; people connect better with others when experiencing similar feelings. Recent cultural changes • Cultures have been changing and evolving in recent decades in several ways o Increasingly interconnected o Increasingly individualist Increasingly interconnected cultures
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