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As a final note, although this section has highlighted the influence of anthropologists and sociologists on cross-cultural research in the study of personality, there has also been an influence from psychology on these investigators. As noted above, both Abram Kardiner and Robert LeVine were psychoanalysts. In addition, Kardiner acknowledges having learned a great deal from a professor named John Dollard. Dollard was a sociologist who had studied psychoanalysis and who collaborated with Neal Miller (a psychologist trained in learning theory) in an effort to apply classical learning theory to psychodynamic theory (see Chapter 10). Dollard contributed a chapter to one of Linton’s books, and was cited by both LeVine and Sorokin (who was, again, also a colleague of Allport). Given such an interesting interaction between the fields of psychology, anthropology, and sociology over half a century ago, it seems surprising that psychology is only now emphasizing the value of focusing on cultural influences on personality development.

Discussion Question: Have you ever had an interest in ethnography? When you begin to learn something about another culture, how much does it interest you? How influential do you think your culture has been in your own personal development?

Different Cultural Factors Affecting Personality

Since culture pervades every aspect of our lives, the number of cultural factors that we might examine in the study of personality is quite large. However, there are a few major factors that stand out, and that have been the subject of significant research in the field of psychology. Thus, we will take a brief look at four major factors that will come up repeatedly throughout this book: religion , race , gender , and age .

Religion as a Cultural Influence

…religion in its turn exerts the most decisive influence upon all groups and systems of culture, from science and the fine arts to politics and economics. Without knowing the religion of a given culture or group - their systems of ultimate values - one cannot understand their basic traits and social movements. (pg. 228; Sorokin, 1947)

The essential importance of religion was also recognized by Abram Kardiner and Robert LeVine, both of whom, as noted above, studied anthropology and psychoanalysis (see Kardiner, et al., 1945; LeVine, 1973). As we will see in the next chapter, the recognized founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, also placed great emphasis on the influence of religion and religious symbolism (though he did not believe in God).

Despite the importance of religion, as perhaps the most significant cultural factor, there is variation in the extent to which formal religious beliefs and practices are a part of the routine life of people in different cultures (see Matsumoto&Juang, 2004). Since most psychologists were not emphasizing cultural factors as an essential aspect of the early development of the field (leaving that to anthropologists and sociologists), and given Freud’s powerful and convincing arguments against religion (see Chapter 3), it is not surprising that psychology has not focused on the influence of religion on personality. But that is changing, and despite the role that religion has played in many political battles and outright war (as has been the case in the Middle East for thousands of years!), religion and spirituality are also recognized as potentially favorable aspects of psychological development in general, and personality development in particular, in the field of positive psychology (Compton, 2005; Peterson, 2006; Peterson&Seligman, 2004; Snyder&Lopez, 2005). Given the importance of religion as a cultural determinant, and the emphasis on culture in this book, we will examine the influence of religion on personality development throughout this textbook.

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Source:  OpenStax, Personality theory in a cultural context. OpenStax CNX. Nov 04, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11901/1.1
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