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Chapter 8

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PSYC 215
Donald Taylor

PSYC215 Chapter 8 Notes Definitions: Natural Selection: The evolutionary process by which nature selects traits that best enable organisms to survive and reproduce in particular environmental niches Evolutionary Psychology: The study of the evolution of behaviour using principles of natural selection Culture: The enduring behaviours, ideas, attitudes, and traditions shared by a large group of people and transmitted from one generation to the next Norms: Rules for accepted and expected behaviour. Norms prescribe “proper” behaviour (In a different sense of the word, norms also describe what most others do – what is normal) Individualism: The concept of giving priority to one’s own goals over group goals and defining one’s identity in terms of personal attributes rather than group identification Collectivism: Giving priority to the goals of one’s groups (often one’s extended family or work group) and defining one’s identity accordingly Holistic Reasoning: Reasoning that emphasizes considering all possible influences and balancing competing forces Analytical Reasoning: Reasoning that emphasizes the proper use of rules and that contradictory statements cannot be true Superordinate Goal: A shared goal that necessitates cooperative effort; a goal that overrides people’s differences from one another Interaction: The effect of one factor (such as biology) depends on another factor (such as environment) Chapter Notes:  In viewing human similarities and differences, two perspectives dominate current thinking: an evolutionary perspective, emphasizing human kinship, and a cultural perspective, emphasizing human diversity. Nearly everyone agrees that we need both  We are all social creatures. We join groups, conform, and recognize distinctions of social status. We return favours, punish offences, and grieve a child’s death. As children, beginning at about eight months old, we fear strangers, and as adults we favour members of our own groups  The universal behaviours that define human nature arise from our biological similarity. Some 100,000 to 200,000 years ago, we were all Africans. As we dispersed to different habitats and adapted to our new environments, humans developed differences that, measured on anthropological scales  To explain the traits of our species, and of all species, recall Charles Darwin’s proposed evolutionary process. As organisms vary, nature selects those best equipped to survive and reproduce in particular environments. Genes that produced traits that increased the odds of leaving descendants became more abundant  The process of natural selection, long an organizing principle of biology, has recently become an important principle for psychology as well. Evolutionary psychology studies how natural selection predisposes not just adaptive physical traits suited to particular contexts, but also psychological traits and social behaviours that enhance the preservation and spread of one’s genes  As mobile gene machines, we carry the legacy of our ancestors’ adaptive preferences. We long for whatever helped them survive, reproduce, and nurture their offspring to survive and reproduce  Evolutionary psychologists highlight these universal characteristics that are handed down from our ancestors. Cultures, however, provide the specific rules for working out the elements of social life  The hallmark of our species is our capacity to learn and adapt. Ironically, it is our shared human biology that enables our cultural diversity  Evolutionary psychology incorporates environmental influences. It recognizes the nature and nurture interact in forming us. Genes are not fixed blueprints; their expression depends on the environment  We humans have been selected not only for big brains and biceps but also for social competence. We come prepared to learn language and to cooperate in securing good, caring for young, and protecting ourselves. Nature therefore predisposes us to learn whatever culture we are born into  The cultural perspective, while acknowledging that all behaviour requires our evolved genes, highlights human adaptability. People’s “natures are alike”, “it is their habits that carry them far apart.”  The diversity of our languages, customs, and expressive behaviours suggests that much of our behaviour is socially programmed, not hardwired. The genetic leash is indeed long  If we all lived as homogeneous ethnic groups in separate regions of the world, as some people still do, cultural diversity would be less relevant. Example: 126 million of 127 million residents of Japan are Japanese, therefore, minimal internal cultural differences. On the contrary, Toronto is composed of dozens of ethnic groups  Cultural conflicts have been described as “the AIDS of international politics – lying dormant for years, then flaring up to destroy countries”  Princess Diana’s death typifies globalization in the sense of the variety of cultures and cultural production involved in her death  In a world divided by wars, genuine peace requires respect for both differences and similarities  As etiquette rules illustrate, all cultures have their accepted ideas about appropriate behaviours. We often view these social expectations, or norms, as a negative force that imprisons people in a blind effort to perpetuate tradition  Norms do restrain and control us – so successfully and so subtly that we hardly sense their existence  Norms can be arbitrary and confining. In unfamiliar situations, when the norms may be unclear, we monitor others’ behaviour and adjust our own accordingly. In familiar situations, our words and acts come effortlessly  Thanks to human adaptability, cultures differ. Yet, beneath the veneer of cultural differences, there lies an essential universality. AS members of one species, the processes that underlie our differing behaviours are much the same everywhere  Around the world, people tend to describe others as more or less stable, outgoing, open, agreeable, and conscientious. If a test specifies where you stand on these “Big Five” personality dimensions, it pretty well describes your personality, no matter where you live  Kwok Leung and Michael Bond says there are five universal dimensions of social beliefs: cynicism (powerful people tend to exploit others), social complexity (one has to deal with matters according to the specific circumstances), reward for application (one will succeed if he/she really tries), spirituality (religious faith contributes to good mental health), and fate control (fate determines one’s success and failures). People’s adherence to these social beliefs appears to guide their living. Those who espouse cynicism express lower life satisfaction and favour assertive influence tactics and right-wing politics while those who espouse reward for application are inclined to invest themselves in studying, planning, and competing  Roger Brown noticed another universal norm of people forming status hierarchies, and speaking to individuals in higher-status in the respectful way they often talk to strangers while speaking to lower-status people on first name, like a friend basis  The first aspect of Brown’s universal norm – that forms of address communicate not only social distance but also social status – correlates with a second aspect: advances in intimacy are usually suggested by the higher-status person  In general then, the higher-status person is the pacesetter in the progression toward intimacy  Social theorists assume that social life is like acting on a theatrical stage, with all its scene, masks and scripts. Social roles, such as parent, student, and friend, outlast those who play them  When only a few norms are associated with a social category, we do not regard the position as a social role. It takes a whole cluster of norms to define a role. We could generate a long list of norms prescribing our activities as professors or as fathers. Although we may acquire our particular images by violating the least important norms, violating our role’s most important norms (i.e. failing to meet our classes, abusing our children) could lead to our being fired or divorced  Roles have a powerful effect. We tend to absorb our roles. On a first date or on a new job, we may act the role self-consciously. As we internalize the role, self-consciousness subsides. What felt awkward now feels genuine  Our actions depend not only on the social situation but also on our dispositions. Some social situations can move most “normal” people to behave in “abnormal” ways. Experiments have shown that putting well-intentioned people in a bad situation to see whether good or evil prevails. To a dismaying extent, evil wins. Nice guys often don’t finish nice  One of the most profound ways that culture influences us is by shaping the way we think about ourselves and our world. The very way that we see or do not see inconsistencies in ourselves, in our world, and between our thoughts and actions are powerfully shaped by culture  Wherever we go, whomever we are with, we are also with ourselves. The self is a constant in our social experience. There are times when the self takes center stage or times when its influence fades, but there is little question that the self powerfully shapes our thinking. Thus, one of the important ways that cultures influence our thinking is through the self-concept  For some people, especially those in industrialized Western cultures, individualism prevails. Identity is pretty much self-contained. The psychology of Western cultures assumes that your life will be enriched by defining your possible selves and believing in your power of personal control  Individualism flourishes when people experience affluence, mobility, urbanism, and mass media  Most cultures native to Asia, Africa, and Central and South America place a greater value on collectivism. They nurture interdependent self. People are more self-critical and have less need for positive self-regard. Identity is defined more in relation to others  When speaking, people using the languages of collectivist countries say “I” less often. A person might say “went to the movie” rather than “I went to the movie” with the subject made clear by the grammar or context  Pigeonholing cultures as solely individualist or collectivist oversimplifies, because with any culture individualism varies from person to person. Individualism-collectivism also varies across a country’s regions and political views. o Conservatives tend to be economic individualist and moral collectivists o Liberals tend to be economic collectivists and moral individualists  Despite individual and subcultural variations, researchers continue to regard individualism and collectivism as genuine cultural variables  Social psychologist Richard Nisbett contends that collectivism results not only in social relations that differ from the more individualist West but also in differing ways of thinking  Nisbett concluded from his studies that East Asians think more holistically – perceiving and thinking about objects and people in relationship to one another and to their environment  With an interdependent self, one has a greater sense of belonging. Uprooted and cut off from family, colleagues, and loyal friends, interdependent people would lose the social connections that define who they are. They have not one selves, but many selves  The interdependent self is embedded in social memberships. Conversations are less direct and more polite. The goal of social life is not so much to enhance one’s individual self as to harmonize with and support one’s communities  Self-esteem in collectivist cultures correlates closely with “what others think of me and my group.” Self-concept is malleable (context-specific) rather than stable (enduring across situations)  For those in individualistic cultures, self-esteem is more personal and less relational. Threaten our personal identity and we’ll feel angrier and gloomier than when someone threatens our collective identity  Japanese will persist more on tasks when they are failing (not wanting to fall short of others’ expectations), people in individualistic countries persist more when succeeding, because success elevates self-esteem. Western individualists like to make comparisons with others to boost their self-esteem. Asian collectivists make comparisons (often upward, with those doing better) in ways that facilitate self-improvement  Chinese students’ self-evaluations are not negative but rather characterized by both positive and negative views that are not necessarily resolved. In contrast, North American students’ self- evaluations are more neatly resolved to reflect positive views of the self  Collectivist Japanese individuals believe happiness comes with positive social engagement – with feeling close, friendly, and respectful. For American individualists, happiness comes more with disengaged emotions – with feeling effective, superior, and proud  Conflict in collectivist cultures often is between groups while individualist cultures breed more crime and divorce between individuals  It seems that personal self-esteem increased among Japanese exchange students after spending seven months at UofBC. Individual self-esteem is also higher among long-term Asian immigrants to Canada than among more recent immigrants  Culture shapes not only the way we think about ourselves, but also th
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