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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Cultural Psyc.docx

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York University
PSYC 3350
Francois Lalonde

Chapter 1: Cultural Psychology 1 Chapter 1Cultural Psychology What is culture? 2 meanings:  any kind of idea, belief, technology, habit, or practice that is acquired through learning from others  a particular group of individuals that share a similar context, are exposed to many similar cultural messages, and contain a broad range of different individuals who are affected by those cultural messages in divergent ways At a global level, culture may also refer to a broad number of people ex. “Western culture” Challenges to thinking about groups of people as constituting cultures:  boundaries of cultures not distinct  cultures change over time; some cultural info disappears as new habits replace the old  a lot of variability among individuals who belong to the same culture Psychological Processes can vary across cultures  Sense of humor: what's funny in one culture is not funny in another  psychological processes such as......vary: o ways we perceive the world o value a sense of right and wrong o things that motivate us Is the Mind Independent from, or intertwined with Culture?  Richard Shweder(viewed by many as father of the modern incarnation of culture psychology), argues that much of the field of psychology inherently assumes the mind operates separate from content and context o seen in Paul McCartney/Stevie Wonder's song “People are the same where you go” o general psychologists think of the mind as a highly abstract processing unit (CPU) that operates independently of the content or context  The same in all cultures: o speak a language using between 10 and 70 phonemes o smiles when they are happy o have word for “black” o disgusted by idea of incest between parents and children o understand the number 2  According to the perspective of general psychology, important cultural variation in ways of thinking cannot exist because cultures merely provide variations in context and content OUTSIDE the operations of the underlying CPU  Contrast to this view, cultural psychologists argue that mind and culture are inseparable; thinking is not merely an operation of the CPU  Examples of evidence that mind is enmeshed with cultural influences: o figure line task: participants shown a box that has a line drawn inside of it and then shown two smaller boxes (called relative and absolute task). In the absolute box, they are to draw a line identical in length to the first box. In the relative box, they are to draw a line that is identical in length to the first box, but proportional to this smaller box o Study shows that different areas of the brain activated in different cultures Chapter 1: Cultural Psychology 2 o European-American had more trouble with the relative length judgement whereas East Asians made found absolute length more difficult  How is our brain shaped by cultural experiences? o regularly encountered experiences can ultimately change the structure of the brain o example: as taxi drivers in London(one of the most busiest/complex street grids in the world) gain experiences over the years, they create detailed mental maps which aid them in figuring out best way from point Ato B o their experience in navigating through these mental maps actually changes the structure of their brains o posterior region of the hippocampus -> spatial memory in navigation o the taxi drivers developed larger volumes of the posterior region of their hippocampi relative to other humans  Cultural psychologists tend to explain cultural differences in psychological processes as follows: o to the extent that people in one culture are often faced with a particular cultural idea(ex. Belief it is good for children to become independent from their parents at a young age), they will think a great deal about that idea, creating a rich network of thoughts, behaviours, and feelings that surround it.  These networks of information will be activated whenever people encounter something that reminds them of this idea (ex. Conversation, memory of it in the past etc.)  If these networks are thought about enough, they become chronically activated, and these network of information will be prioritized ahead of other networks of information  Humans are so embedded in their cultural worlds that they are always behaving as cultural actors, and their thoughts are always sustained by meanings that are derived from their cultures  Cultures emerge from the interaction of the various minds of the people that live within them  Cultures then, in turn shape the ways that those minds operate Case Study: The Sambia  discussions of cultural differences in psychological processes are controversial  controversy due to the contrasting views of the mind inherent in the perspective of general psychology(mind operates independent of context and content), and cultural psychology(mind is shaped by content and context)  The Sabia represents a dramatic instance of a cultural difference with regards to their initiation practices to transform young boys to men  The Sambia live in the mountain range- Papua New Guinea; environment is one of the least accessible places on the planet  The Sambia believe that femaleness is an innate natural essence, whereas maleness is a tenuous essence that must be explicitly cultivated  Much of the initiation rituals involves painful practices such as piercing the septum/ thrashing the boys with sticks  Goal of initiation is to give boys a sense of power (called jerungdu)  Boys are believed to be born without jerungdu; they must get it through semen  It is acquired by boys through years of ritualized homosexuality; boys around the age of 7 regularly ingest semen by performing daily oral sex on adolescent boys and men  Around 15 they stop, and they themselves provide the semen to other boys  These ma
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