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Chapter 11

Cultural psyc chapter 11 Physical Health.docx

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York University
PSYC 3350
Francois Lalonde

Cultural psyc chapter 11 Physical Health  Early humans feet: less bipedal than modern humans, wider, with larger gap between first 2 toes and higher arch  Difference due to not wearing shoes: people who habitually wear shoes tend to have narrower feet, 2 first toes closer together and lower arch.  Shape of feet can be seen as a cultural product: wearing shoes changes shape of feet, and way we run  Running has been central enough to human history that some researchers proposed humans have evolved to be endurance runners, enabling them to outrun prey  Running in barefeet: more likely to land on fore-feet or midfeet  Running in shoes: tend to land rear feet  Anecdotal reports indicate that barefooted running leads to reduced injury rates; also children take longer steps when wearing shoes BIOLOGICAL VARIABILITY OF HUMANS  Two categories of explanation for human biology variation 1. Humans in different parts of the world were subject to different selection pressures over many generations, and this resulted in the human genome diverging across different populations (innate biological differences) 2. People living in different cultures have experiences within their own lifetimes that have an impact on their biology (acquired biological differences) Genetic Variation Across Populations  Selection pressures vary across different geographical and cultural environments, so humans have been evolving some particular traits that differ across regions of the world  Humans all first lived in Africa  Small population of humans quickly expanded in Africa before some left, and as a result of this quick expansion, there’s far less genetic variability across the difference races of humans than in populations of chimpanzees  Most obvious genetic variability of humans across populations is skin color. o Difference due to body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D o Skin must allow UVR to penetrate skin layer to synthesize, but too much can cause a breakdown of folic acid o Humans first emerged in Africa, where UVR is high, they evolved to have enough melanin(darker color) in their skin to allow enough UVR, but not enough to break down folic acid o When humans moved to places with less UVR, they needed to absorb more; evolved to have less melanin(whiter)  Skin color is an adaptive response to climate differences among populations  Strong selective forces: o Climate: ex. individuals who better adapt to local climate will have more surviving offspring, different genetic variations associated with heat stress o Presence of certain kinds of local pathogens: those more genetically resistant to pathogens, more likely to survive/reproduce  Genetic adaptation to local climate and pathogens are were geographical factors have shaped the genotype  Cultural factors also can shape genotype: ex. Most adults who drink milk will develop symptoms of lactose intolerance because they do not have the lactase enzyme o Lactase nonpersistence has been seen in ancestral population before they left Africa o Some populations(particularly northern Europe) then developed a mutation for lactase persistence: developed in areas where cows have been domesticated for the longest period o Cultural practice of dairy farming led to the selection of lactase persistence among cattle raising populations  Culture has strong selective role on human genome: commonly seen in cultural differences in dietary practices o Humans vary in amount of starch they eat and people whose cultures consume a lot of starch likely to have a mutation that increases the amount of amylase protein in their saliva, which helps digest starch o Asians less likely than Euro to have an enzyme which sufficiently detoxifies alcohol; half Asians react to alcohol with a rapid increase in heart rate and temperature (causes Asian flush)  Probably because of cultural difference in how they solved contaminated water supply: Euro solved problem by creating a cultural practice of drinking more wine/beer, whereas Asians boiled their water and drank tea.  Ways culture can influence genome sometimes indirect o Cultural practice of yam farming led to more pools of water, which led to more malaria carrying mosquitoes o Malaria spread to these regions and lead to evolution of genetic variant for hemoglobin that is associated with sickle cell anemia, which has the benefit of making one more resistant to developing malaria  Number of international research projects have identified several gene variants associated with psychological variables that differ in their frequencies around the world o Alleles associated with at least 3 different genes predict enhanced social sensitivity, and each one is more common in Asian samples than in euro. (collectivism may have genetic foundation)  Some studies which explore the relations between genes and psychological variables across cultures commonly find opposite effects of western data o Ex. Genetic variant that is associated with increased emotional support seeking in times of distress for euro-Americans is associated with decreased emotional support seeking among Koreans o Variant associated with increased attention to foreground objects among Euro-AM shows the opposite effect among Koreans o Variant that leads to better responses to antidepressants among Caucasians leads to worse responses among jp and kr  Studies which included a sample of kr Americans, who were genetically more similar to krs but culturally more similar to euro, showed results that were more similar to euro, demonstrating that cultural experiences can actually shape how genes are expressed in body o Shows that even if gene frequencies may vary across cultures, it does not mean associated psychological traits will also vary  Controversial whether psychological differences across cultures might be related to population level genetic differences Acquired Physical Variation across cultures  There is evidence which suggests physical variation of people that exists independently of genetics  Moken children (tribe of sea nomads who spend 6-8 months on small boats) have more than twice the underwater visual acuity of euro children through controlled accommodation. This ability is not a genetic adaptation; acquired through practice and euro children can also be trained  Obesity and diet o People from diff cultures differ from each other in weight o Variability in obesity rates; rates have increased esp in US and UK (not explained by genetics, more on cultural changes) o French paradox: diet rich in fats yet lower rates of heart rates in France (US obesity rates 5x more than France)  One explanation is that fr drink more wine than Americans which serves to inhibit platelet reactivity, and thereby reducing risk of coronary heart disease  Another explanation is that fr eat less calories per day than Americans, and they do so because they live in different cultural environments that affect the sizes of their portions and their attitudes toward food  Study: yogurt containers in US are 80% bigger than in France and a variety of food sold in individual servings are larger; fruit also larger  More fries in US McDonalds than in France o Larger portions in US and elsewhere are the product of a recent cultural evolution o Ex. Starbucks coffee sizes keep getting larger o There is also differences in fr and amer attitudes toward food  Fr view eating more as a leisurely and enjoyable activity than Americans.  Fr spend more time eating their food  Americans have conflicted attitudes toward food, esp women  They make more efforts to consume products that appear to have been altered to make then healthier; however despite efforts to eat “healthier” food, only about 35% amer claim to be healthy eats….French 75%  In study of food across cultures, women>men showed more negative attitudes, with American women having the most negative attitudes  Culture and height o Instead of genes, dietary factors likely more responsible for height o While Americans have largely stopped growing taller, people in the rest of the world have continued growing as their incomes have improved (wealth=more better diet) o Two explanations:  Eating habits of American teenagers, lots of fast food, are depriving them of growth related nutrients resulting in American growth spurt shifting from its vertical axis to a horizontal one  The greater income inequality in the US, compared with that of the taller Dutch, means there are more people who d not get appropriate diets, thereby pulling down the national height average CULTURE AND HEALTH Socioeconomic status and health  SES on average, plays an enormous role in people’s health  Study of mortality of civil servants in England: compared with top administrators, members of executive class were 60% more likely to die over the 10 year period, clerical staff 120%, and unskilled laborers 170%  Status differences in health not only limited to industrialized societies. o Three groups in west Africa living in a region with malaria. Fulani group have not yet developed a genetic resistance to malaria unlike Mossi and Rimaibe, however, it shows that Fulani is less likely to develop malaria. This is due to higher status (Fulani group conquered and enslaved)  No single answer why SES is related to health. Several explanations: a) No money= no money for health care  This explanation lacks…because social classes differ more in those diseases that are least amenable to treatment b) People lower in SES more likely to have jobs that place them in hazardous situations or that make them more vulnerable to workplace accidents  Explanation does not explain findings such as those of the civil servants where all had office jobs c) Poorer people more likely to participant in cultural contexts that are more encouraging of unhealthy habits (smoking, eating fast food, less exercise etc.)  Evidence that poor people do engage more in these activities  But when these are controlled for, differences still emerge  Strong relation between SES and health still mystery o Range of variables likely behind this relation o Psychosocial variables seem to underlie relation  Personality characteristics such as hos
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