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Asked by ImaAdams | Mar 13, 2008 | KS1 Level > Sociology > Homework
ImaAdams asks:

What influence does culture have on personality?

etutor answers:

Question was categorised as KS1 Level Sociology but is actually Psychology (A level or beyond).

Traits. What influence does culture have on personality?
The following brief notes on what is a very large topic may prove useful:

There are several reasons why psychologists believe it is useful to explore personality across cultures:

  • To discover whether concepts of personality that are prevalent in one culture are also applicable in other cultures
  • To discover whether cultures differ in the levels of particular personality traits
  • To discover whether the factor structure of personality traits varies across cultures
  • To discover whether certain features of personality are universal.

Culture is defined as local within-group similarities and between-group differences of any sort—physical, psychological, behavioral, attitudinal. Cultural differences are also called cultural variations.

Cultural personality psychology has three goals:

  • To discover principles underlying cultural diversity
  • To discover how human psychology shapes culture
  • To discover how cultural understandings shape psychology.

There are three key approaches to the interface of culture and personality: Evoked culture, transmitted culture, cultural universals.

Evoked Culture refers to a way of considering culture that concentrates on phenomena that are triggered in different ways by different environmental conditions. Two ingredients are needed to explain evoked culture:
a universal underlying mechanism and nvironmental differences in activation of underlying mechanisms.
Evoked Cooperation (Food Sharing)
Cultural differences in degree to which groups share food depend, in part, on external environmental conditions, notably the variance in the food supply. When variance in food supply is high, more sharing.
Early Experience and Evoked Mating Strategies
According to Belsky and colleagues, harsh, rejecting, inconsistent child-rearing practices, erratically provided resources, and marital discord evoke short-term sexual strategy in children. Sensitivity of personality and mating strategies to early experience may explain cultural differences in the value placed on chastity or virginity in a potential mate In China, marriages are lasting, divorces are rare, and parents invest heavily in children—high value on chastity, virginity. In Sweden, divorce is more common, more children are born outside of marriage, fewer investing fathers—low value on chastity, virginity. Mating strategies might be differentially evoked in different cultures, resulting in enduring cultural differences in mating strategies.
Honours, Insults, and Evoked Aggression
In cultures of honour, insults are viewed as highly offensive public challenges that must be met with direct confrontation and physical aggression. One theory attributes the development of culture of honour to the history of herding economy, where resources are subject to mass stealing. Thus, the assumption that all humans have the capacity to develop high sensitivity to public insults and the capacity to respond with violence. These capacities are evoked only in certain cultures, however, and lie dormant in others (non-herding economies).

Transmitted Culture i.e. representations (ideas, values, beliefs, attitudes) that exist originally in at least one person's mind that are transmitted to other minds through observation or interaction with the original person. Many moral values are specific to particular cultures and are likely to be examples of transmitted culture
The Psychology of Cross-Cultural Marriages - two lines of inquiry of interest to personality psychologists:
Who is most likely to marry outside of his or her own culture? What happens in cross-cultural marriages that might make them different from mono-cultural marriages?
Cultural Differences in Self-Concept
According to Markus and Kitayama, each person has two fundamental "cultural tasks" that have to be confronted - communion/interdependence - i.e. how you are affiliated with, attached to, or engaged in the large group of which you are a member; and Agency?independence - i.e. how you differentiate yourself from the larger group
Cultures appear to differ in how they balance these two tasks. Non-Western, Asian cultures focused more on interdependence. Western cultures focused more on independence. Independence is similar to "individualism" and interdependence similar to "collectivism" (Triandis). Triandis adds dimension of vertical-horizontal, which refers to whether cultures emphasise status hierarchies (vertical) or equality (horizontal).
The combination of individualism-collectivism and vertical-horizontal dimensions yields four types of cultures
Cultural Differences in Self-Enhancement - the tendency to describe and present oneself using positive or socially valued attributes. Research indicates that North Americans, relative to Asians, maintain positive evaluation of self. Two explanations are offered for cultural differences in self-enhancement: Asians are engaging in impression management (difference is not real). Cultural differences are accurate and reflect participants' different self-concept - this explanation has received some support.
Personality Variation Within Culture. Social class may have an effect on personality. as may historical era.

Cultural Universals
This approach to culture and personality attempts to identify features of personality that appear to be universal, or present in most or all cultures.
Beliefs About the Personality Characteristics of Men and Women
Worldwide, people tend to regard men as having personalities that are more active, loud, adventurous, obnoxious, aggressive, opinionated, arrogant, course, and conceited. Women, in contrast, are regarded as having personalities that are more affectionate, modest, nervous, appreciative, patient, changeable, charming, and fearful
Apparent cultural universals describe experience and expression of specific emotional states, such as fear, anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, and surprise. People worldwide can recognise and describe these emotions when presented photographs of others expressing them, even if photographs are of people from other cultures.
Personality Evaluation
Dimensions used for personality evaluation show some cultural universality. Strong evidence suggests two key dimensions (dominance and warmth) are used for describing and evaluating personality traits of others.
Also, evidence that structure of personality traits, as represented by five-factor model of personality, may be universal for four of five traits - surgency, agreeableness, emotional stability, and conscientiousness.

I hope this is helpful.

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