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Chapter 2

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McGill University
PSYC 215
Michael Sullivan

Textbook Chapter 2 Culture and Nature Story of BrendaDavid see pages 2627 These stories are important because they suggest limits to the power of socialization In the 1970s and 1980s psychologists accepted that the differences between men and women were due to parental care and upbringing The problems that erupted later with Brenda suggested that the differences between male and female are partly innate Social psychology is aimed at exploring how people think feel and act The ultimate explanations for human behaviour lie in nature and culture and there have been many long bitter debates over which of those is more important Nature and Social BehaviourExplaining the PsycheOne approach to understanding how people think feel and act is to try and understand what the human psyche is designed for o Psyche broader term for mind encompassing emotions desires perceptions and all psychological processesWe want to understand the psyche and to do that we need to understand what it was designed for eg you would not understand a can opener if you didnt understand what its purpose was To understand what it was designed for we turn to nature and culture since these are the things that have made the psyche the way it is o Most explanations for human behaviour ultimately lead back to two basic things nature and culture The nature explanations say that people are born a certain way their genes hormones brain structure and other processes dictate how they will choose and act In contrast the culture explanations focus on what people learn from their parents from society and from their own experiences o The most common resolution to natureculture debates tend to favour nature since it is indispensible without nature you have nothingFrans de Waal said that because without nature you have nothing this is not a fair fight Therefore he proposed that the arguments should be waged between whether a particular behaviour is the direct result of nature of stems from a combination of nature and culture His view basically is that nature comes first and culture builds on what nature has furnishedThis book however favours the view that nature and culture have shaped each other specifically nature has prepared human beings specifically for culture That is the characteristics that set humans apart from other animals including language a flexible self that can hold multiple roles and an advanced ability to understand each others mental states are mainly there to enable people to create and sustain cultureThis interaction between nature and culture is the key to understanding how people think act and feelNature DefinedNature is the physical world around us including its laws and processes it includes the entire world that would be there even if humans did not existThose who use nature to explain human behaviour invoke the sorts of processes that natural scientists have shown Above all the advocates of nature in psychology turn to evolutionary theory to understand behaviour patternsEvolution and doing whats naturalOver the past two decades social scientists have been looking at the theory of evolution in order to help explain social behaviour The theory of evolution focuses on how change occurs in natureHumans are animals we have many of the same wants needs and problems as animals An important feature of most living things is the drive to prolong life Another is reproduction since we are not immortal reproduction allows species to continue Another common trait of living things is change people change during their lives and more importantly change occurs between generations Nature produces change that is random eg genes from mother and father As a result some random changes will disappear and others will endureo The process of natural selection decides which traits will disappear and which will continueNatural selection operates on the basis of two criteria survival and reproduction also the two ways of prolonging life The biological success of any trait is measured in terms of how common it is due to natural selection Traits such as having a weird sense of humor etc will not necessarily be passed down unless they translate into better survival or better reproduction o Survival living longer Survival depends in part on the circumstances in your environment eg fish often have light coloured bellies and dark coloured tops this is for survival in the waterGradually biologists have shifted their emphasis from survival to reproduction as the single most important factor in natural selection Survival is important mainly as a means to achieve reproduction o Reproduction producing babies Reproductive success consists of creating many offspring who will in turn create many offspring ie nature judges you by how many grandchildren you haveMutation a new gene or combination of genes o Example if a women developed a mutation to live to 150 instead of 75 this probably would not be a trait that survived because this has nothing to do with reproduction However if the mutation meant that the woman had
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