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.