Ruth Benedict

June 5, 1887 - September 17, 1948

Brief History

Ruth Benedicts work emphasizes the concepts of cultural configuration, national characterization, and the role of culture in individual personality formation. She was an American anthropologist whose theories had an influence on cultural anthropology, especially in the area of culture and personality.

HER LIFE

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Anthropology

  • Study of past and present human cultures
  • Examine how we think, live, communicate, produce and interact with social and physical environment

  • Study differences and similarities between cultures

  • How people’s behaviour changes from past to present

  • Examine the origins of human (physical/evolution) and human culture

Ruth Benedict and Anthropology

  • She ignited the work of culture and personality movement within anthropology

  • Deepened public understanding of the impact of culture on human behaviour and personality
  • Her books strengthened this understanding to the public

Patterns of Culture, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Zuni Mythology and more

CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE SOCIAL SCIENCES

Through Benedict's many published works she was able to deepen the bonds between the Social Sciences (Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology).


Theory 1:

  • Benedict stated that the ways the Pueblo Indians of the South Western United States thought and reasoned was completely different to their immediate neighbours. Benedict proposed that culture affects an individual's personality.

  • According to Ruth Benedict, although two people may share the same geographical environment they will still develop differently due to their culture.

  • Culture influences people's behavior.

CONCLUSION: Each culture gives it's members a unique “psychological set” toward reality. This set determines how the members see and process information from the environment. Culture affects, in ways, how the mind works. As a result of Ruth Benedict's work, studies in culture and personality have developed in many directions thus furthering the study of anthropology.


Theory 2:

  • What binds people together is their culture – the ideas and standards they have in common.

  • A culture is like an individual person, it’s a consistent pattern of thought and action.

  • Every culture has a system of beliefs – the ideas and standards, the institutionalized motives, emotions, and values that enables internal function.

CONCLUSION: Due to Benedict’s theory of culture being like people and the idea of them having the same culture because of what they have in common, allows this theory to link individuals into the general shape of their particular culture. Each person within a culture can be understood in relation to the pattern, traits, or types which characterize their particular culture. Using Ruth Benedict's second theory, we can imagine that people can be defined as a system of beliefs with different standards and ideas, just like how culture is defined in this theory. People also share basic attitudes and values giving uniformity to cultures and cultures have a specific attitude and value that the people give it. In summary, people are just like cultures.