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Chapter 5

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Sisi Tran

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 differences. - 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 think. - 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 well. - 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 mound. - 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 socialized. 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 systems. - One such source of evidence would be an indicaton that there is a period of being enculturated. - 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 language. - 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 development. - 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 acquiring culture? - 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 cultural acquisition. - 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 psychological experiences. 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 lives. - 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 Cameroonian Nso. - 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 room. - 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
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