EDU PSYCH LAB

Educación, Psicología & Ciencia

The culture´s role in the mental life

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  • Recently I was pleased to be invited to participate in a training at “Danish United Nations Association” in Denmark. The subject of the lecture revolves around “the culture concept” and all phenomena related (as immigration, language develop, heritage of humanity, economy issues, learning programs, educational patterns, human rights and diversity). So, I just started to joint some ideas that I would like to speak about, and this (look below) is the result. Please, English is not my mother tongue, neither my second language… so I apologize beforehand for the expression flaws and others.

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Today I would like to write about Culture,

 In Spain, It is common to use the expression “to have culture or not” according to the level of education. Well… everybody has a culture.

It´s something inherent of humankind -. We are social animals.

It´s a fact that I am speaking and writing about culture so often. One reason is explained by my good feeling with “anthropology research” , however there´re lots of reasons why a psychologist can make references or reflexions about the “culture influence“. The culture is somehow a predictor of behaviour (between a multitude). There are lots of thrilling researches about the influence of the culture in a humankind, analyzing the human behaviour from different standpoints; as a member of a group, society, or individually. How important is the language acquisition, the broadcast of values, symbols or rituals? How important are the behaviour patters? What about religion?

Psychology understood as a cultural-historical science, has studied deeply the interpretation of “psychosis” of animals, savages and infants (Michael´s Coles terminology) At 20s were published lots of articles about “Developmental Psychology”; analyzing mental phenomena as constructions built out of sensations, ideas, reflexes and a higher level mental phenomena as identities gives from by language, myths and social practices in which individual lives. Those higher mental processes are formed by culture. They differ from a society to other.

The lineage of cultural Psychologists, formed by Price Williams, Boesch, Schneider, Bruner, Humbold,… left us an incredible legacy of this subject .The precept: -.Minds emerges in the joint activity of people. The Significance of the culture´s role in the mental life of human begins.

But.. What does mean the “Concept of Culture”? There is not a standard definition of culture, there´re lots of alternatives. All anthropologists share a reliance upon the culture concept, which They take a starting point for understanding human experience regardless of subdiscipline, specialization, or theoretical orientation. “Culture is the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviours and artifacts that members of society use to cope with their world and with other, and that are transmitted from generation though learning”

We’re going to mark out four basic features from Culture. First, the “Symbolic composition”; Culture traits assume many forms, varying from material artifacts (as works of art) behavioural regularities (family relationships, economic changes, legal issues) to abstract concepts and beliefs. All this manifestations share one feature in common, They are symbols and as such express meaning.

The most representative symbol is the language and the capability to communicate between us. A symbol always represents something else, usually a real world condition. Through the words, We can stand for perceived entities and states. The displacement in language lets us, to use the words in the absence of the objects represented and thus can be reproduced in any time or space (words can be manipulated to produce, to invent, to broadcast…) . The second characteristic , the “systematic patterning”  – the interrelatedness of elements and the presence of unifying principles that connect symbols to form larger patterns and cultural wholes. For example,  the question – What does mean warfare for you? – I can get  a diversity of answers, It depends of the place, the moment, religion, the person…  All the combatants in a same team share the same culture and language and hold common beliefs and understandings about how and why warfare is conducted.

I should to suspend my own concepts and theories of warefare to understand others. It´s a fact (but It´s not easy). This perspective is termed Holism, maintains that culture can not be understood in isolation.

 The third feature, “Learned Transmission”  The acculturation phenomena has replaced the role of biologically based genetic transmission of instincts dominant (the influence of biological development in the behaviour exist, for example the brain anatomy or vocal structures). The learning and his transmition has had a clear effect on our biological heritage.  And the last feature, “the Social grounding” We´re going to focus on the common denominator of collective identity and symbols, subtracting the importance of a individual responsibility  (We can´t forget the individual actions and rights). For example, a dress code- What would happen if I appear naked at my office tomorrow? Or the academic gowns in behalf of our status.

It assumes that individuals are active agents in their own development, but do not act in settings entirely of their own choosing. To understand how mind and culture define and consititute each other in specific context. So mind emerges in the joint mediated activity of people.

This is the content of my foreword, a small introduction about Psychology and Culture. From here, I hope to start a diversity of themes related, with different approaches that make richer the information. For myself, I see the culture as a cooperative human enterprise – Psychology came to life only when there are research procedures throught wich people can experience an know the world together.

Other questions…

  • How is influencing the language in the thought development?
  • What is more powerful (in terms of behaviour)  the cultural influence or the individualism?
  • What is identity?
  • The real influence of the symbolism – religion
  • The interpretation of Social Phenomena (nowadays) and preservation of human rights
  • Immigration as a common heritage

Psychology, Anthropology, Biology, History… How is the culture´s role in the mental life of human begins?

 [To be Continued]

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Autor: Lorena Álvarez

Psicóloga, activista, trotamundos y una apasionada por la ciencia y las letras.

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