Culture and Human Behavior

The Mental Process

Culture's influence on Our behavior

How can we understand the influence of culture on human behaviors and mental

processes? Clearly, with the distinctions we have drawn here, cultures are learned

phenomena. Newborns have no culture (although they may very well have

biological and temperamental dispositions to learning certain cultural tendencies;

see Chapters 3 and 4). As children grow older, they learn specific behaviors and

patterns of activities appropriate and inappropriate for their culture, and they

either adopt or reject those cultural values and mores. In fact, many psychologists

agree that many psychological processes—attitudes, values, beliefs, personality,

cognition—are inherently constructed by culture, that is, that they are so intertwined

and infused with cultural influences that it doesn’t make sense to understand

them outside of a cultural context.

We believe that culture influences psychological processes—behaviors and mental

processes—through the process outlined in Figure 1.6. First, as we described above,

culture is an adaptational response to three factors—ecology, resources, and people.

These three factors combine to produce ways of living, and culture is an abstract concept that explains and describes those ways. Individuals are first welcomed into theirworlds at birth and begin a process of learning about their culture through a process known as enculturation, which we will discuss in Chapter 3. The enculturation process gradually shapes and molds individuals’ psychological characteristics, including how individuals perceive their worlds, think about the reasons underlying their and other people’s action, have and express emotions, and interact with others.

Diversity creates an avenue for learning!