Chapter 5- Development and Socialization
- Culture shapes many of the norms that govern our behaviour. For instance
when we talk to someone there is always a certain distance between you and
the person. Within a culture there is usually an implicitly understood
“appropriate” conversation distance that people unconsciously adopt.
- However these appropriate distances vary across cultures. For Venzuela is it
32 inches, USA is 35 inches and Japan is 40 inches. Japanese prefer wider
conversational distances compared with Americans.
- How did Venezuelan come to prefer closer interpersonal spaces and Japanese
prefer more distant interpersonal spaces?
- There seems to be two distinct possibilities for the origins of these cultural
- Firstly, there is a possibility that genes may be responsible for the inherited
psychological traits. However there is no good evidence for such kinds of
population difference in genes underlying the differences in the way we
- The second possitbility for such cultural difference is the different
environments that we grow up in. According to this, it is the early
experiences with environment that leads Venzuelans to prefer closer
interpersonal spaces, Japanese to prefer further personal space and
Americans to prefer moderated interpersonal space. People acquire their
culture through socialization.
- The field of cultural psychology hinges on this second explanation
- This chapter addresses the two guiding themes of this book: first, how
universal predisposition become shaped in culturally specific ways and
second how people’s experiences, particularly when they are infants and
children, come to influence the way they think.
Universal Brains Develop Into Cuturally Variable Minds
- One key adaptation that was able to distinguish humans from chimpanzee
ancestors was their ability to learn and accumulate cultural information so
- This adaptation is what allowed humans to learn the requisite technologies
and skills to stake out a successful existence in such a diverse environment as
the ice encased Artic winterland, the thick Amazonian jungle the parched
Kalahari desert etc.
- Without this ability to learn cultural information, we might still be competing
with our distant chimpanzee relatives over territorial rights to some termite
- The key point about cultural knowledge and skills is that they are not in our
heads from the beginning. We must learn these skills, and we have certain
biological potentials that enable us to learn them well.
- The fact that people from different cultures come into this world so similarly
yet end up having such different life experiences attests to the powerful role
that socialization occupies in influencing who we become. - Clifford Geertz famously asserted “we all begin with natural equipment to
live thousand kinds of life but in the end having lived only one” This suggests
that fundamentally our nature is that of a cultural being.
- Our universal biological foundation is shaped by our experiences such that
we are able to thrive in an extremely broad array of cultural environments.
Who we are is greatly influenced by the cultural world in which we are
Sensitive Periods for Cultural Socialization
- it would seem that if humans evolved as cultural beings we should see
evidence that our brains are preprogrammed to learn cultural meaning
- One such source of evidence would be an indicaton that there is a period of
- A Sensitive period is a period of time in an organisms development that
allows for relatively easy acquisition of a set of skills. Most species go
through a critical development transition from emphasizing the acquisition
of new skills to emphasizing the specialization and the exploitation of the
skilss that have already been acquired. These developmental transitions
indicate the existence of a sensitive period.
- Sensitive Period of Language Acquisition
- How people go about acquiring languages is the question that has attracted
majority of research on sensitive periods in humans.
- No other species is dependent on language, or has as complex a language
system as humans. Those humans who are able to communicate most
effectively were more likely to produce offspring that those who were not
(communicate in the sense of being able to describe to others where there is
danger coordinate each others behaviour for successive hunt etc)
- Because language skills confer such an obvious evolutionary advantage, there
should be evidence for a sensitive period among language acquisition .
- One source if evidence for a sensitive period of language acquisition is with
respect to humans ability to discriminate different sounds.
- Humans are capable of producing and recognizing 150 phoneme but no
language uses more than 70 of them.
- Interestingly people are not able to discriminate easily between some
phonemes that are not in their own language. For instance the Japanese
language does not have separate phonemes for the sounds la and ra and
don’t have phonemes at all for va. So native Japanese who never learn
English would instead of saying rubber say lover.
- Researchers with young infants state that infants can discriminate within all
the phonemes that humans are able to produce. We come in this world being
able to recognize all kinds of different sounds. However when we learn
language it is easier to understand sounds categorically. That is its easier to
understand an utterance if we can recognize that it falls under la and that any
sound with a slightly different range is a ra. If we didn’t categorize sounds we
would have a difficult time understanding the sounds we hear. - Within the first year of life children already begin to lose the ability to
distinguish between closely related sounds that are not part of their own
- Humans appear to come into this world ready to attend to the sounds they
hear communicated in language and to separate this and to separate this
from all other noises they encounter. The universal human ability of being
able to distinguish all possible phonemes gets whittled down to the ability to
perceive and categorize only phonemes of during critical window of language
- Study shows that, although very young infants in English speaking
households can distinguish between two Hindi phonemes, older infants being
raised by English speakers no longer do so.
- Early in life (before puberty) our brains are especially flexible for organizing
themselves in response to language input. Later on however our brains is
not as flexible therefore it is better to master a language early in life. For
example, deaf children who learn sign language late in childhood do not learn
it as well as those who learn it earlier in childhood.
- Another example, a German family moved to the USA. There were two
brothers, one was 15 and one was 14. The 14 year old speaks perfect English
with no accent, while to older brother always preserved a thick German
accent. This is because he started learning English after his sensitive period
for acquiring languages was for the most part closed.
- Another study using an fMRI (magnetic resonance imaging) put bilingual
individuals who learned their second language later in life and those who
learned their second language earlier in life under scanners. Then they have
to listen to both their language. Those individuals who had learned their
second language later on in life, had two different parts of their brain being
active (both however in Broca’s area). However those individuals who
learned their second language earlier in life, had the same area be active.
- This is evidence that early in life the language centre of the brain is quite
flexible in attuning itself to various kinds of linguistic input.
- After the sensitive period starts to close and those regions of the brain are
no longer capable of being restructured to accommodate the new language.
- The most compelling type of evidence to show that a sensitive period for
language acquisition exists, is to do an experiment. However this would
require raising children with no language up until they are 15 and then try to
teach them a language and measure their performance. This is referred to as
the “forbidden experiment”.
- However there are some real life instances that have mirrored this forbidden
experiment. In 1800 in France someone found a 12 year old boy who had
lived in the wild for most of his life. This Wild Boy of Averyron, was coached
to speak for several years by a teacher, but was only able to learn two words
“milk” and “ohmyGod”
- Another instance was a girl name Genie was raised alone in silence either
tethered to a potty chair or confined to a cagelike crib until she was 13. The
only words she knew were “stopit” and “nomore”. She never developed any mastery over grammer or syntax (but did develop a good size vocabulary).
One of her sentences as an adult would be “Think about Mama love Genie”.
Although many years of teaching she ws not able to attain the grammatical
competence of a 4 year old
- Likewise recently a Cambodian woman, Rochom P’ngieng lived in the jungle
from the ages 8-26. Her attempts to reintegrate into society ws also difficult.
- These cases are very much in line with what you would expect from efforts to
learn first language after the sensitive period has ended.
- We are all born biologically prepared to learn language, and our early
experiences determine how our minds process the different kinds of speech
we later encounter. We are socialized to understand different languages. We
differ in our experiences especially early experience, and this lead to the
minds to process linguistic input in different ways.
Sensitive Periods for Acquiring Culture
- Language and culture are both meaning systems that acquire though our
social interactions and they greatly depend on each other.
- Some would say language is part of culture, as it is the communicating
function of culture.
- Because culture and language are so intertwined we should expect some
similarities between the acquisition of language cultural aquisiton
- However language is easier to measure because there are concrete ways to
measure it such as grammar, accent, syntax, morphology, and vocabulary.
Culture as far less tangible. It is easy to determine when someone has
mastered a language, but it is not easy to determine when someone has
mastered a culture.
- How then can we investigate whether people have a sensitive period for
- Benjamin Cheung and Maciej Chudek thought of studying immigrants. They
reasoned that immigrants who move to a new clture after a sensitive window
would have a difficult time adjusting to their new culture.
- To investigate this they got a group of immigrants from Hong Kong of
different ages who moved to Vancouver Canada.
- They asked the participants about their identification with Hong Kong, such
that if it was important for them to maintain or develop Chinese cultural
practices and then they asked how much they have identifies with Canada
and if they enjoyed Canadian jokes and humour.
- What they found was that whether people moved to Canada at a young age or
old age, or whether they had been here for a short or long time, did not
influence their Chinese identification. (this could be because they are still
referred to as Chinese in Canada, or because of the large local Chinese
community in Vancouver.
- However Canadian culture yielded a different effect. Those who arrived in
Canada before the age of 15 strongly identified with the Canadian culture the
longer they lived there. Those who have been libing in Canada for 20 years
had a stronger Canadian identification than those who have been living there
for 5 years. In addition those who have move to Canada between the ages of 16-30 didn’t identify more with the Canadian culture the longer they were in
Canada. They did not seem to acquire more Canadian culture over time.
- In sum they found that people had a difficult time acquiring new cultural
information after the age of 15 providing evidence for a sensitive window for
- It seems that people who learn a second culture later on often preserve an
echo of emotional repertoire of their mother culture.
Cultural Differences in Psychological Processes Emerge with Age.
- because humans are born cultureless and acquire culture as they socialize,
then cultural differences in psychological processes should become more
pronounced with age. Younger children should be more similar, and adults
should be more different across cultures, because their minds have much
more time to be shaped by cultural experiences.
- Some researchers reveals that East Asians and North Americans differ in how
they expect the future will unfold. North Americans, are more likely to expect
that trends will continue in the same direction, while East Asians are more
likely to expect change to be nonlinear. This cultural difference has been
explained in terms of cultural difference in dialectical ways of thinking.
- When are these cultural differences in perception of trends evident between
Chinese and Canadians.
- Chinese children ages 7,9, and 11 were brought in a lab, and they were asked
to predict how a child would feel the next day if they were sad today. The 7
year old said that they would feel the same but the 9 and 11 year old said that
the would feel different. Therefore Chinese and Canadian 7 year olds are
more similar in terms of their thoughts about the future than are 9 and 11
year olds. Therefore with age, peole from different cultures diverge in their
How Do Early Childhood Experience Differ Across Cultures?
- Acquiring a culture is thus a developmental process and people are socialize
into their respective cultural worlds by participating in their specific
cultural practices and institutions.
- One key source of cultural practice that guide children’s development is their
interaction with their parents, the way their parents structure their early
- How do parents and children around the world differ in their interactions
- Infant’s personal space
- There are many different ways in which infants are raised around the workd.
Perhaps the most influential source of cultural influence is actual personal
space within which we exist.
- Heidi Keller, studied parenting interactions with 3-month old infants in five
diverse cultural contexts: urban middle- class German, urban middle class
Greeks, urban lower class Costa Ricans, rural Indian Gujarati, rural
- They video taped each mothers with their child, and found that European
mothers spend most of their time not in contact with their infants, while
infants from other cultures were being help by their mothers. They also measure mothers and their face to face time contact with the child, and found
that Europeans spent a lot of face to face time, but this was much for other
cultures, especially Gujaratis.
- In sum, the first experience vary quite dramatically around the world. Urban
Europeans are able to interact with their mothers as separate beings. While
other culture’s infants are in the same physical space as their mothers and
don’t have any face-to-face interactions.
- Children’s early physical experience differs in other ways. For instance in
some regions of Africa, Caribbean, and India, infants receive a faily massage
and an exercise regime such as stretching their limbs and putting them in
sitting situations. This helps the infants to sit on their own and walk at earlier
ages than those who do not receive the massage.
- Some cultures put their children to sleep on their backs instead of their
stomach, this prevents the child from being able to crawl and instead have to
scoot on their bums, or proceed directly to walking. These different cultural
experiences can affect the rate of children’s physical development
- An important determinant of personal space of infants is the parents first
decision “where do we put the baby”. This simple decision can tell us a lot
about one’s cultural values and it largely influence the kind of environment in
which the baby starts its life.
- North Americans believe that the right way to bring up children is to provide
them with their own private rooms to grow up in, often starting the day that
they return from the hospital.
- However many different cultures have very different views. In a study of 136
societies, infants in 2/3 of these groups slept in the same bed as their
mothers, in majority of other cases, they sleep in the same room as the
mother but in a different bed.
- This practice of “co-sleeping is also quite common in subcultures in the
united states such as African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics
- The practice of sleeping separately in their own bed has not yet been
identified in a single subsistence society in the world.
- Parents decisions are often moralized by others, being judged on whether it
is good or bad. One of the decision that is moralized is whether parents
should let their child co- sleep with them. Dr, Richard Ferber, America’s most
famous sleep expert states that even if your child is happy about sharing a
bed or room with the you, this habit will not be good in the long run.
- Co sleeping with parents is not seen as a matter of personal choice, rather it
is seen as behaviours that reflect the moral value of parents.
- Making the “wrong” choice in where you let your child sleep is something
that suggests that you need professional guidance or is something that will
cause the child “immeasurable emotional turmoil” indicated reaching of a
“sexpiration date” and necessitate divorce.
- Why is it that European decent North Americans are more likely than others
to feel that co-sleeping is morally bad parenting dedcision?
- One reason could be, that co sleeping is something you only do if you don’t
have enough space in your house to give each children their own space. Other countries cant afford the luxury of having that much real estate given
higher population densities and their houses might just not be big enough.
- However this is not the only reason why they co sleep. A study was done,
where researchers approached people living in Chicago, and in Orissa India
and asked them how they would arrange sleeping arrangements for a
hypothetical family that consisted of a mother, father, three sons
(age:15,11,8) and two daughters (14,3) if they only had three rooms
- The Indians preferred to have the three year old daughter with the parents,
and the 8 year old son with the 14 year old daughter, and the 15 year old son
with the 11 year old son. Americans didn’t agree with this arrangement, and
thought the best arrangement would be for the mother and father to have
their own room, and the sons in one room and the daughters in the other
- The sleeping arrangements that were preferred by the two cultures tells us
much about the underlying values of the cultures
- The Indians were guided by four moral principles when deciding which
sleeping arrangement were appropriate. 1. Incest Avoidance: post-
pubescent members of the opposite sex should not sleep in the same room. 2.
Protection of the Vulnerable: young children who are needy and
vulnerable should not be left alone at night. 3. Female Chastity Anxiety:
unmarried post-pubescent women should always be chaperoned to protect
them from engaging in sexual activity that would be viewed as shameful.
4.Respecte for Hierarchy: post pubescent boys are conferred social status
by allowed them not to have to sleep with their parents or young children.
- The decision made by Americans were governed by different set of
principles. The Americans were similar to the Indians, in that they viewed
incest avoidance as the most important principle in deciding about sleeping
arrangements. The second most important principle for them was the
sacred couple: married couples should be given their own space for
emotional intimacy and sexual privacy. The third most important
principle was auto