Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 15

American

SOCIOLOGICAL
October
I9S0 Review Volume IS
Number 5
The Official Joumal of the American Sociological Sodety

A CRITIQUE OF CULTURE-PERSONALITY WRITINGS


ALFRED R . LINDESMITH AND ANSELM L . STRAUSS
Indiana University

HIS paper is concerned with an anal- writer like Benedict, places the main empha-

T ysis and criticism of what have come


to be known as "culture and person-
ality" writings, including among others the
sis upon descriptions of cultural configura-
tions and personality types, but puts rela-
tively little emphasis upon genetic explana-
work of Benedict, Mead, Gorer, Kluckhohn, tions or on psychoanalytic concepts. Most of
DuBois, Linton, La Barre, Erikson, and the writers fall between the extremes, using
Kardiner. The scholars who have contributed a sprinkling of psychoanalytic terminology,
to this movement have a common general sometimes in combination with ideas derived
orientation although some differences of from other areas.
opinion and emphasis exist.^ One wing of The interdisciplinary nature of this ap-
the movement includes psychoanalytically proach is often stressed but it is, in actual
trained persons like Fromm, Erikson, and fact, sharply limited. For example, the theory
Kardiner. Another wing, represented by a and research of most psychologists, social
psychologists, and sociologists who are con-
* E.g., Linton questions the homogeneity assump- cerned with personality and psychological
tion as applied to non-literate cultures, wonders if
status roles may not have a basic influence on per- processes, are virtually unaffected by the cul-
sonality, and stresses the overlapping of personality ture-personality writings. Conversely, in the
types between cultures; Hsu repudiates Kardiner's latter there is rarely any reference to the
kind of psycho-analytic interpretation; Kardiner research of social psychologists or psycholo-
himself has some second thoughts about his own
scheme; Fromm sharply criticizes Kardiner and the gists other than clinicians and psychiatrists
whole infant discipline ideology; Beaglehole attacks of Freudian persuasion, and almost no refer-
Fromm's interpretation of Western man; Kluck- ences to the writings of foreign psychologists.
hohn attacks Mead's view of American character The major preoccupations of the culture-
and also raises a number of critical questions con-
cerning the culture-personality approach in general.
personality writers are: (a) the description
See: F. Hsu, Under the Ancestors Shadow, 1948, and psychological characterization of cultural
pp. 12-15; R. Linton in Culture and Personality configurations and the delineation of person-
(Viking Fund Publication), 1949, pp. 163-173; A. ality t5TDes associated with them, and (b)
Kardiner, ibid., pp. 59-73; E. Fromm, ibid., pp.
3-4; Kluckholm, ibid., pp. 75-92, and his review
the explanation of given personality types as
of Mead's Keep Your Powder Dry, American An- products of cultural influences and especially
thropologist, XLV (1943), 622-624; E. Beaglehole, of interpersonal relations in early childhood.
"Character Structure," Psychiatry, VU (1944), We shall discuss each of these major inter-
IS8-159.
ests in turn.
587
588 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

CULTURAL CONFIGURATION AND MODAL PER- tors rely upon conventional ethnological
SONALITY POINT OF VIEW techniques and data, but seek to go beyond
The traditional method of ethnology em- them by utilizing them in combination with
phasized the exhaustive description of primi- studies of individuals. Much attention is paid
tive societies with relatively little emphasis to interpersonal relations, childhood traning,
upon psychological characterization as such protective and objective tests, and sometimes
or upon the total configuration or gestalt. even to photographing people in specified
The emphasis was rather upon specific modes situations.
of behavior in definitely delineated situations The investigator immerses himself in a
and upon the "psychological" features given society as far as the barriers of lan-
mainly as exhibited in the overt behavior guage, time, available informants, and his
and verbalization of the natives. The change own personality permit. From the welter of
in viewpoint initiated by the culture-person- data he arrives at his characterizations
ality sdiool is well indicated by Kroeber's' through acts of abstraction, selection, and
comment: "As late as 1915 the very word synthesis. Some characterizations are made
'personality' still carried overtones chiefly vicariously, the writer utilizing materials col-
of piquancy, unpredictability, intellectual lected by others, supplemented usually by in-
daring. . . ." Influenced by conceptions terviews with emigrants.
borrowed from Gestalt psychology and psy- The investigators do not describe very
choanalysis, and by Sapir's early stress on clearly or in detail how given characteriza-
the need to study the individuals in a so- tions are arrived at.* Stress is placed upon
ciety, some ethnologists have attempted to offering the reader a mass of data concerning
characterize societies in psychological terms those aspects of behavior which are the
as functioning wholes or configurations. The focus of the characterizations.
observer seeks to characterize what may be It should be noted that anthropologists
called the "essence" of the culture in psycho- often view the culture-personality approach
logical terms, i. e., the p)eople's view of the as something in the nature of a fad, although
world and of human relations. Such char- it is generally conceded that it offers inter-
acterization of peoples and nations is not a esting and potentially significant knowledge.
totally new enterprise. Long before the rise In terms of total output, culture-personality
of modem anthropology, writers and scholars writings constitute only a small portion of
attempted the same sort of description of anthropological writings. Current popularity
what was called the "genius" or "ethos" of a of the point of view is attested by Kroeber'
people. As Kroeber* notes: "More than eight- who remarks: "Personality is the slogan of
een himdred years ago Tacitus gave to pos- the moment . . . the prospect may look dire
terity one of the masterpieces of this genre to those who are interested in culture as such.
in his analysis of German custom and char- But with experience one learns that these
acter." waves go much as they come."
Following logically from this emphasis on The works of the culture-personality
cultural configurations is the idea that given *Cf. Fromm's vagueness on this point when
cultural configurations have their coimter- pressed by Bateson {Culture and Personality, V'-
parts in the individuals of each society. king, pp. i o - i i , 1949). This vagueness is characteristic
Given cultures produce one or more types of the whole literature. Linton recognizes this when
he says "The Modal Personality' for any society can
of personality designated by such terms as he established directly and objectively by studying
"modal personality," "basic personality the frequencies of various personality configurations
structure," "character structure," and so on. among a society's members. The fact that, to the
In arriving at their characterization of best of my knowledge, it never has been so estab-
cultures and personality types the investiga- lished does not invalidate the concept." Ibid., P-
163.
*A. L. Kroeber, Anthropology, 1948, p. 414. •A. L. Kroeber, "White's View of Culture,
*Ibid., p. 317. American Anthropologist, L (1948), 413-414-
A CRITIQUE OF CULTURE-PERSONALITY WRITINGS 589
writers, widely read outside of academic raised whether many non-literate societies
circles, offer a valuable antidote to provincial- might not be characterized more profitably
ism and ethnocentrism. The implications of in terms of multiple patterns or "themes." A
the cultural relativity principle have not by similar point has been made with respect to
any means been fully taken into account the numbers of personality types within given
either by social scientists or by the general societies. The earlier culture-personality writ-
public. The point, no doubt, needs to be ings often understressed or ignored indi-
hammered home as these writers are doing. viduals who did not conform to the person-
Their works amply demonstrate the enor- ality type assumed as typical of the culture.
mous range of variation in the organization of This explaining-away or ignoring of negative
societies and human responses. The criticisms evidence has given way to
which follow are not intended in any way . . . the study of the range of personalities in
to detract from this substantial accomplish- a society. . . . Characteristic personality sub-
ment. types may develop from the differing situations
CRITICISM of the life of persons who play different roles
Oversimplification and the homogeneity in a given group.'
postulate. The attempt to make psychologi- This trend toward studying the "range of
cal characterizations of cultures "may be re- personalities" and of multiple themes within
garded as attempted short-hand translation a culture, if carried out to its logical limits,
of the more general patterns of a culture."" implies a radical revision of the original
This procedure raises questions having to do ideas, as we shall show later. It represents a
with selectivity, neglect of inconsistent data, healthy tendency to move toward more
proof of assertions, and the possibility of limited and specific problems which can be
corroboration by other investigators. No one, handled by the established techniques of
of course, questions the existence of gross analysis and proof, rather than dealing with
differences between cultures. The question is the impossible task of handling entire cul-
rather that of the scientific precision of spe- tures in one fell swoop, as "wholes." A good
cific characterizations and the methods of many of the questions now being raised will
obtaining them. no longer be pertinent when the tendency de-
Anthropologists have questioned the ac- scribed by Herskovits is carried further.
curacy of the boiling-down process when When this is done, however, stricter stand-
carried too far. Benedict, for example, was ards of proof will have to be met, and many
criticized for describing Zuni, Kwakiutl, and other theories besides the neo-Freudian will
Dobu peoples too simply. In short, one notes have to be taken into account. The dangers
that the number of questions that are raised inherent in gestalt descriptions of societies
concerning any characterization tends to in- are graphically brought out by culture-per-
crease with the number of investigators fa- sonality efforts to describe complex modem
miliar with the society.'' The question was societies. Any social scientist who seeks to
characterize a modem nation, even in a
'Kroeber, op. cit., p. 586. whole volume, to say nothing of a few pages,
'For examples of criticisms by specialists see:
P Nash, review of Gorer's Himalayan Village, has to handle a host of detailed problems
American Anthropologist, X L m (1941), 242; R. and meet a number of exacting requirements.
Thurnwald, review of Mead's Sex and Temperament These are so numerous and so complex that
w Three Primitive Societies, American Anthropolo- to one not imbued with the culture-person-
Sw^ X X X V n i (1936), 666; M. Titiev, review of
ality fervor the task looks impossible. These
Joseph and Thompson, The Hopi Way, American
Anthropologist, X L V i n (1946), 430-432; J. Whit-
'iJg, review of Mead's The Mountain Arapesh, W. La Barre, "Some Observations on Character
American Anthropologist, XLII (1940), 161-162. Structure in the Orient: the Japanese," Psychiatry,
See also Benedict who stresses "shame" in Japanese v i n (194s), 319-345-
•character and La Barre who does not mention it: •M, J. Herskovits, Man and His Works, 1948,
'^ Benedict, Chrysanthemum and the Sword, 1946; p. 56.
590 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

problems and requirements have to do with groupings of non-literate peoples. One sus-
such matters as sampling, statistical distri- pects, as Bemard^^ has said, that too much
butions, regional differences, migration, eth- attention is being paid to "the blond Swede."
nic differences, social classes, diverse group Psychic Entities vs. Behavior. The
affiliations, standards, social change, culture homogeneity-configuration postulates savor
conflict, and enormous bodies of literature strongly of Aristotelian conceptions of "es-
and historical materials.* One may admire sence" and "accident." The "essences"
the boldness of the attempts to make broad (configuration, basic personality stmctures)
general characterizations of such peoples as are given high status in the realm of "being,"
the Americans, Japanese, snd Germzms, but whereas the behaviors which "express" these
one must view the results and methods of essences are of an inferior status. Even
proof with a generous measure of skepticism. though the behavior may vary from one indi-
The same strictures apply with even greater vidual to the next, and from one generation
force to attempts to characterize Western to the next, it is thought of as an emanation
character and culture in general. or manifestation of the same essence. Cur-
The applications of culture-personality rent recognition of a range of personality
methods to modem societies—especially the types and of multiple configurations within
American, with which we are reasonably well a single society is an effort to deal with nega-
acquainted—^have fared so badly at the tive evidence and deviations often ignored by
hands of competent critics that one wonders earlier writers, but the accident-essence
along with Bierstedt^" whether the effect framework is still retained since the number
has not been "to stimulate the growth of of essences is merely increased. The range
skepticism concerning the information which idea also has the effect of making it doubly
anthropologists have given us about non- difficult, if not impossible, to prove that the
literate peoples." generalizations reached are either true or
Undoubtedly the heterogeneity of modem false.
nations, as many of the writers themselves There is a tendency in these investigations
have pointed out, offers a considerable ob- to deduce psychic entities from overt be-
stacle to the application of present configura- havior in specific situations, and then to ex-
tional methods. It is hoped, however, that plain the overt behavior in terms of these
after the techniques have been perfected in reifications. There is a search for something
the study of simpler, more "homogeneous" like the "real inner personality" or "au-
societies they may be extended successfully thentic individual" conceived as something
to more complex groups. A more fundamental apart from behavior. The inner reality thus
question must, however, be raised conceming becomes a force which manifests itself in the
the general validity of the homogeneity as- behavior from which it is inferred. Linton^^
sumption itself, even as applied to the larger explicitly states this position:
Tbe nature and even the presence of psychic
•Cf., Kroeber's criticism of Mead's a-historical needs are only to be deduced from the behavior
bias, as when she discusses American educational to which they give rise. . . .
practices of 1930 without reference to an American
and European past: A. Kroeber, review of Mead's Personality will be taken to mean 'the organ-
Growing Up in New Guinea, American Anthro- ized aggregate of psychological processes and
pologist, XXX (1931), 248-250, Bierstedt recently states pertaining to the individual' [This defini-
has pointed out the shortcomings of a non-histori-
cal approach in many anthropological writings " J. Bernard, "Sociological Mirrors for Cultural
when applied to the study of complex societies: R. Anthropologists," American Anthropologist, L^
Bierstedt, "The Limitations of Anthropological (1949), 675. See also R. Linton, op. dt., p. 172:
Methods in Sociology," American Joumal of So- "But I must say my own experience has made me
ciology, LIV (1948), 22-30. One might point out feel terribly doubtful about pictures of fairly con-
that non-literate societies also have important his- sistent cultures."
tories. " The Cultural Background of Personality, i94S.
" Bierstedt, ibid., p. 29. pp. 6, 84, and 26-27.
A CRITIQUE OF CULTURE-PERSONALITY WRITINGS 591
tion] rules out the overt behavior resulting from they are unconscious of their own instinctive
the operation of these processes and states, al- knowledge of procreation and that the concepts
though it is only from such behavior that their that enter consciousness are symbolic substitutes
nature and even existence can be deduced. . . . of a physiological account of the process of
In general, all the individuals who occupy a procreation.
given position in the structure of a particular
society will respond to many situations in very The above may be dismissed as an extreme
much the same way. . . . Until the psychologist psychoanalytic fantasy, but, with some differ-
knows what the norms of behavior imposed by ences, the same technique of calling on un-
a particular society are, and can discount them as conscious ideas when the evidence fails, or is
indicators of personality, he will be unable to
penetrate behind the facade of social conformity disputable, is widespread. Thus Benedict^"
and cultural conformity to reach the authentic in her book on the Japanese says that: "In
individual. this task of analysis the court of authority is
not necessarily Tanaka San, the Japanese
What is meant by "authentic individual"? 'anybody.' For Tanaka San does not make
Do not cultural roles and internalized norms his assumptions explicit, and interpretations
connected with them (e. g., sex roles) influ- written for Americans will undoubtedly seem
ence the "authentic individual"? to him unduly labored." Such a procedure
The search for the "real motives," the allows the interpretive framework of the in-
"deep inner core," the "authentic individ- vestigator to persist undisturbed in the face
ual," conceived as something separate from of negative evidence and criticisms, even
behavior leads to circularity of proof and from intelligent and trained members of the
immunity to negative evidence.^^ Thus, if group being characterized.
there is no available evidence that ascribed Trait psychology lends itself very readily
reactions actually take place, it can always to the use of reified psychic elements to ex-
be assumed that they are "unconscious" re- plain behavior of which these traits are, in
actions. If the persons seem to have no reality, merely names. Thus, when aggressive
knowledge of them, or deny the imputed behavior is explained in terms of a "fimd
motives, or give other interpretations of their of aggression,"^^ or of a "trait of aggressive-
behavior, these objections are easily disposed ness," this amounts to saying that behavior
of by calling them "rationalizations" or by is aggressive because it is aggressive. These
pointing out that, after all, the people are traits are often not self-evident, and at the
not usually aware of the premises of their beginning of his research the investigator
culture which as motivations underlie their often is uncertain of the "meaning" of spe-
daily conduct. cific acts. The "meanings" that are finally
A gross example of this procedure is pro- fotmd are thus the investigator's inferences
vided by G. Roheim,^* who argues with re- from behavioral data. The final psychological
gard to knowledge of procreation among characterizations often leave this behav-
primitives, that: ioral or situational basis of the inferred
If we see, on the one hand, that the Aninta psychic elements or traits out of considera-
deny knowing anything of the piatter, and on the tion.
other that they have beliefs and rites that are Confusion of Fact and Interpretation. The
only explicable on the assumption that such
knowledge exists somewhere and makes itself terms that are used in these characterizations
^elt in their psychic system, we shall say that are inevitably taken from Western psycho-
logical vocabularies, and inevitably lead the
The postulation of entities may be legitimate reader to think of the people according to
under certain conditions: (a) when existing knowl-
wge and evidence make it necessary and when the Western models with which he is famil-
empirical means of determining the existence of iar. A description of the psychological re-
tne entity are suggested, or (b) when the postula- sponses of people within the behavioral
tion of the entity leads to verifiable inferences
which cannot be made otherwise. '"Op. cH., p. 17.
^* Social Anthropology, 1936, p. 144. "Cf. W. La Bane, op. cH.
592 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

context of the society does not run into the pictures which raise questions about matters
same dangers of imchecked inference. In in the foregrounds. They add that "as a de-
this regard a remark of Titiev's,^^ a South- vice for cultural study this has very impor-
west specialist, is pertinent: tant advantages over one which presents
Dr. Thompson . . . exhibits an unfortunate data and interpretations so interwined that
tendency to distort various items taken from they are impossible to handle independently."
literature. A girlish pursuit game somewhat The necessity for presenting "data" and
comparable to foUow-the-leader, is magnified "interpretations" separately becomes greater
into a faithful portrayal of "the guidance role of the more remote and inaccessible the cul-
the mother and the diflScult and centripetal life ture." The closer a society is to us and the
course of the Hopi girl."
more that is known about it, the easier it be-
Titiev's criticism may be extended to many comes to dispute interpretations of it. One
culture-personality inferences. Thus, when- wonders what would happen to the various
ever it is postulated that a given people have characterizations of psychologically remote
a given trait such as "aggressiveness," "pas- societies if the natives, as well as the investi-
sivity," "withdrawness," "impulsiveness," gator's own colleagues who happen to have
as part of their "basic personality structure," some knowledge of the society, were able to
it is easy to take the unwarranted step of answer back! We know what happened when
regarding specific behavior as a manifesta- the "natives" read the Mead and Gorer ma-
tion or effect of the given trait. Conclusions terial on the United States.
of this type are buttressed not so much by Two interesting incidents that bear upon
evidential proof as by the piling up of illus- this point may be cited. Herskovits''" writes
trations which are unlikely to convince any- that "Li, a Chinese anthropologist, whose
one who is not already sold on the imder- own physical traits made him inconspicuous
l3dng ideology. among the Indians [Zuni], found them, as
No one is likely to quarrel seriously with people, to be quite different from the picture
characterizations of a people when these of themselves they had presented to white
descriptions are couched in objective be- students." Li spent a mere two and one-half
havioral terms, as in conventional ethnologi- months of moderately intimate participation
cal accounts. But when ethnologists inter- in Zuni life—the Zuni being among the most
pret the "meanings" of behavior in psycho- studied and most characterized non-literate
logical terms, it becomes exceedingly diffi- peoples in the world. Another relevant case
cult for the reader to separate facts from is that of the anthropologist Peter Buck, of
interpretations. An interesting comment Maori descent, who called into question some
bearing on this point was made by the of the fundamental interpretations of Maori
Murphys^^ in a review of Mead-Bateson's character and culture made by the Beagle-
Balinese Character. They conclude that "in holes.*^
spite of the photographic record, the study The recent tendencies to present more
still shows some lack of systematic frame- documentation of conclusions is certainly a
work, the lack of sharp distinction between step in the right direction since it allows
hypotheses and fact." the reader to form some opinions of his o\vn
The extensive use of photographs in the This documentation usually consists of auto-
Mead-Bateson book made it possible for the biographies and test results. The utilization
reviewers to question some of the authors'
" J. Bernard has also noted the ready confusion
interpretations. The reviewers go on to say of fact and interpretation in anthropological writ-
that the photographs allow the reader to ob- ings: "Observation and Generalization in Cultural
serve incidents in the backgrounds of the Anthropology," American Journal of Sociology, ^
(1945), p. 284-291.
" O A cit., p. 431. "Op. dt., p. 51.
" L. and G. Murphy, American Anthropologist, "See his "Foreword" in E. and P. Beaglehole,
XLV (1943), 61S-619. Some Modem Maoris, 1946.
A CRITIQUE OF CULTURE-PERSONALITY WRITINGS 593
of these materials has, however, raised addi- The use of tests may prove to be mislead-
tional questions. For example, there is the ing by suggesting an illusory precision and
question of sampling that arises when auto- definitiveness. This is especially true when
biographies are gathered. Du Bois' study of the usual statistical precautions are not fol-
the Alorese employs this method and illus- lowed. Thus, in a review of the Children of
trates the problem very well. H. Powder- the People, M. Kuhn" remarks:
maker" suggests that the autobiographies do . . . a defect is the failure of the researchers,
not represent Alorese modal character be- after espousing the use of quantitative methods,
cause Du Bois was apparently able to inter- to apply even the minimum sampling standards,
view only relatively unsuccessful Alorese, such as tests of representativeness, adequacy,
"those who did not approximate the goals and statistical significance of difference which
of their culture," She also raises the question are required by these methods.
of the influence of the investigator upon the An idea of the inadequacy of some of the
interview situation. "We know of no society interpretations of the tests may be obtained
where people will talk about their private from the fact that in The Hopi Way conclu-
inner feelings upon request [and for pay], sions about Hopi animism are based on the
and in response to questions from a relative answers to a single question l^^ And this is
stranger at regular periods each day." The done in spite of the extensive controversial
use of autobiographical documents is of literature on methods of testing animism in
course desirable but does not in itself prove children. As other examples, Powdermaker"
anything. The critical reader is not convinced notes that the thirty-seven Alorese who took
that the persons used in obtaining the docu- Du Bois' Rorschach test were unidentified
ments constitute a representative sample, or and probably unrepresentative, and Titiev^^
that the documents cannot be interpreted in questions how the Hopi way, "which is a
a variety of ways. subtle, complex, and mature outlook on life,
The claim that projectives and other tests can be properly interpreted or clarified on the
may be used to validate analyses made by basis of tests administered to 190 school
other ethnological methods must be qualified children, of whom no less than 45 per cent
by noting that test results are not self- were 10 years of age or younger."
explanatory, but must themselves be inter- The Operation of Western Biases. The use
preted like other data. The tests are certainly of projective tests points up one of the
useful, but they are not an open-sesame to fundamental and pervasive weaknesses of
the truth. All of them were devised and many of the interpretations of non-Western
validated by Western investigators operating peoples; namely, that Western biases must
within the confines of Western culture, and inevitably find expression in the inferences
even within that culture their significance is made about the psychological characteristics
a matter of controversy. This is especially of given peoples. As R. Benedict^^ has said:
true of the projectives.*' The discrepancies No man ever looks at the world with pristine
between Kardiner's^* interpretations of eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of cus-
Alorese character and Oveiiolzer's infer- toms and institutions and ways of thinking.
ences from Rorschach results raise some Even in his philosophical probings he cannot
doubts about the use of projectives in cul- go behind these stereotypes; his very concept
of the true and the false will still have reference
ture-personality research. to his particular traditional customs.
''Review of Du Bois' The People of Alor, *" American Sociological Review, XIII (1948),
American Anthropologist, XLVH (1945), 155-161. 118. These remarks apply equally well to such a
For simUar criticism of informants in general see study as The Hopi Way.
C- Kluckhohn in Culture and Personality (Viking), " L . Thompson and A. Joseph, The Hopi Way,
P 01, and O. Klineberg, ibid., p. 136. 1944, p. 92.
^Cf. Murphy, Personality, 1949, j ^ . 663-700. *'0p. cit.
'A. Kardiner, The Psychological Frontiers of "Op. cit.
Society, 1945, PP- 240-247. ^Patterns of Culture, 1934, p. 2.
594 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

Herskovits'° makes a similar point. "Judg- behind, it is certainly logical that lack of personal
ments are based on experience, and experi- acquisitiveness implies the denial of leadership.
ence is interpreted by each individual in
One of the aspects of anthropological
terms of his own enculturation." (Italics
thinking which tends to neutralize the whole-
his.)
some emphasis on cultural variability and
Anthropologists constantly wam their the dangers of ethnocentric bias, is the out-
readers against Westem biases, and quite of-hand dismissal of the hypothesis that in-
rightly. They are generally aware that these tellectual processes may vary in different so-
biases can, and perhaps must, unwittingly cieties and even within different groups
infiuence their own research. This waming within the same society. This is part of the
has not been taken into accoimt in anything reaction against the writings of some schol-
like its full implications by culture-person- ars like Levy-Bruhl, who have attempted to
ality writers. Admittedly the problem of de- give brief, simple characterizations of primi-
scribing non-Western peoples without includ- tive thought in general. Linton" perhaps
ing one's own biases in the accoimt is a summarizes a fairly usual position when he
difficult undertaking. One cannot help but feel asserts categorically:
that many conclusions reached about non-
Western character structures and their genesis As far as we can ascertain, the intellectual
should have been couched in much more ten- processes themselves are the same for all
tative and cautious terms. This is especially normal human beings in all times and places. At
relevant to characterizations which seek to least individuals who begin with the same
get at "inner psychic realities" and their premises always seem to arrive at the same con-
clusions.
origins.
A comment from Li,^^ whose short partici- has inconsistently assailed his own
pant-observer residence among the Zuni we view by elsewhere describing language as "a
have previously mentioned, portrays vividly tool for thinking" (note the characteristic
the culture-personality writer's difficulties: dualism which separates language behavior
We find another one-sided statement on . . . from thinking behavior by animistically des-
the problem of interpretation of Zuni life. ignating the former as a tool of the latter);
Avoidance of leadership in social life is a corol- and asserting that "concepts which are an
lary of the lack of personal feelings in religion. integral part of all linguistic forms have a
If one is not interested in vision quest . . . what subtle influence upon individuals' ways of
is more natural than the supposition that leader- thinking. The concepts are even more com-
ship among men is not desired. But here is just pulsive because they are totally uncon-
a case in which the premise is correct enough scious." His primary criticism of linguistics
while the conclusion does not necessarily follow. appears to be that it has ignored this problem
Dr. Benedict reports that a Zuni is afraid of be-
coming "a leader of his people" lest he should "Cultural Background of Personality, 1945, pp
"likely be persecuted for sorcery," and that he 101-102. This statement appears flatly contradictory
would be "only interested in a game that a num- to the earlier one by Benedict. Mead also confesses
ber can play with even chances" for "an out- that ". . . one serious difficulty confronts the an-
standing runner spoils the game." The basic thropologist. When writing about some strange
fallacy seems to lie in the tendency to reason South Sea culture, there b the persistent difficulty
with the logical implications of one's own culture.of translating strange native ideas into English,
[Our italics.] In the competitive Western world until one wishes passionately that it were possible
where one is brought up to assume that the to describe Samoa in Samoan and Arapesh in the
Arapesh language": Keep Your Powder Dry, p. lO'
world is made for his exploitation, and where For a convincing recent treatment of the great
if one does not push ahead, one is surely pushed significance of different languages for different modes
of reasoning, see D. D. Lee, "Being and Value in a
*• Op. dt., p. 63. Primitive Culture," Joumal of Philosophy, XLVI
" L i , An-che, "Zuni: Some Observations and (1949), 401-415.
Queries," American Anthropologist, XXXIX •* The Science of Man in the World Crisis, i945>
(1937), 67-68. pp. 7-8.
A CRITIQUE OF CULTURE-PERSONALITY WRITINGS 595
of how linguistic forms condition different applied to Asiatics." He suggests that com-
ways of thinking. parative studies of Western societies may be
Since virtually all readers of characteriza- a necessary preliminary to valid configura-
tions of non-literate peoples are themselves tional and personality studies of non-West-
Westerners, unacquainted with the peoples em peoples. D. Haring's^' caution on draw-
in question, there are few competent critics ing conclusions about Japanese character
to point out any but the most flagrant in- might well be extended to all works in this
stances of the influence of Western "pro- field:
jective systems" on the ethnologists' ac- . . . those who do such research should spend
counts. It is, for example, relatively easy years, not months, in Japan. The writer "learned
to detect La Barre's^* wartime pro-demo- all the answers" in his first year in Japan. The
cratic feeling in his unsjnnpathetic account next six years taught him that practically all of
of Japanese "compulsive" character, and it those answers were misleading or false. Perhaps
is easy to agree with J. Honigmann^** that another seven years would have indicated the
Kardiner has placed a rather gross evalua- wisdom of saying nothing at all.
tion upon Alorese "narrowness" and "unfit- DEVELOPMENT OF MODAL OR BASIC
ness for cooperation"; and one may readily PERSONALITY POINT OF VIEW
agree with Kroeber's^^ statement that Du
Bois' characterization of the Alorese: In culture-personality writings, person-
ality is conceived largely as the product of
. . . seems one-sidedly repellant. . . . The ap-
praising observer comes from a culture that interpersonal relationships in childhood.
values internalization, conscience, reliance, Various degrees of emphasis are placed upon
scruple, courage, consistency of feeling and rela- different types of experience. The more psy-
tions, dignity, and achievement, qualities that choanalytically-oriented writers, such as
are under-developed in Alor. Hence the picture Gorer, Roheim, Kardiner, La Barre, and
is black. Erikson, stress the earliest years as the most
The detection of more subtle biases awaits crucial; whereas others, like Thompson,
the scrutiny of other trained observers—es- Kluckhohn, Goldfrank, Mead, and Benedict
pecially natives and cultural hybrids—and place considerable emphasis upon later ex-
the development of more objective techniques periences. Some of the genetic explanations
of evaluation. Thomas and Znaniecki's Po- employ a straight neo-Freudian terminology,
lish Peasant might be taken as a suggested and most of them use at least a few psycho-
model in that one of the authors was a native analytic concepts. Virtually the only hypothe-
Pole. ses which are generally regarded as worthy of
checking are the modified Freudian ones. A. I.
Kroeber''^, having the Western bias in
HallowelP® gives the rationale for this tend-
mind, has suggested that although some of
ency:
the characterizations of non-Western peoples
are undoubtedly partially correct, there is This problem [personality] could not be ap-
not at present any way of distinguishing preciated by either anthropologists or students
what is valid from what reflects merely of human psychology until a working hypothesis
"personalized reactions." He even suggests about the nature of human personality as a struc-
that the basic assumptions of culture-person- tural whole had been developed. Neither aca-
demic psychologists nor psychiatrists of a genera-
ality studies may be imwarranted since "the tion ago had much to offer. It is here that psycho-
categories of psychological characterization analysis enters the picture.
developed among Occidentals for Occidentals
break down, tend to lose their meaning when There has been some recent attention paid
*'0p. dt. " D . Haring, Personal Character and Cultural
"Review of Kardiner's Psychological Frontiers Milieu, rev. ed., 1948, p. 406.
of Sodety, Psychiatry, VIII (i94S), 499- "A. I. Hallowell, "The Rorschach Technique
** Anthropology, pp. 588-589. in ihe Study of Personality and Culture," American
"Ibid., p. 591. Anthropologist, XLVII (1945), 196-197.
596 AMERICAN SOaOLOGICAL REVIEW
to the possible applicability of learning Yurok character a residue of potential nostalgia
theories in this field, but in general the work which consequently finds its institutionalized
of social psychologists and the mass of criti- form in the Yurok's ability to cry while he
cal material on Freudian concepts are ig- prays in order to gain influence over the food-
nored. sending powers behind the visible world. .
The Yurok, in order to be sure of his food
CRITICISM supply, feels it necessary to appear hallucinatory,
Effects of Injant Experience Are Un- helpless, and nostalgic, and . . . to deny that he
demonstrated. The lack of attention to al- has teeth or that bis teeth can hurt anybody.
temative h)T)otheses and the neglect of criti- The general unproved assumption lying
cism and negative evidence conceming vari- behind this type of interpretation is ex-
ous aspects of psychoanalytic theory give pressed as follows by Erikson:*'
the culture-personality writings the char-
acteristics of illustration and documentation We hold that a child absorbs through his
of a point of view already assumed to be needy senses the cultural modalities of what
happens in, to, and around him long before he
true. The principal problem merely seems to is provided with a vocabulary. . . . Adults . . .
be to show how the view may be extended selectively accelerate and inhibit the sensual
to other cultures and perhaps modified in maturation of body orifices and surfaces, and
minor ways in the process. they encourage and restrict the gradual expan-
A point of view that looms very large in sion of sensory, muscular, and intellectual
these writings is the one that emphasizes the mastery. In doing so, they systematically though
predominant character-forming efficacy of unconsciously establish in the infant's nervous
the infant disciplines: bowel and bladder system the basic grammar of their culture's pat-
terns.
training, nursing, weaning, mothering, re-
straint of motion, punishment, amount and H. Orlansky,** in an excellent recent paper,
kinds of fmstration, and so on. Thus, La has critically evaluated the data and asser-
Barre^° virtually ascribes the main features tions bearing on the question of the influ-
of Japanese personality to the rigid bowel ence of infant care on personality develop-
training of infants; C. Kluckhohn and O. ment. He has shown that there is no body
Mowrer^^ state that too precipitous training of evidence to support assertions like those
of the child in weaning, cleanliness, sex given above. Some of his main points may
taboos, and aggression control lays the be summarized as follows: (a) various
groundwork for "obsessive ambition" and writers attribute different and contradictory
"severe competitive behavior" in adults. E. effects to the same or similar childhood ex-
Erickson*'' carries this type of explanation to periences; (b) the alleged influences of given
an absurd limit: infant disciplines or types of experience on
The Yurok child . . . is weaned early and personality have not been proven within our
abruptly, before the full development of the own society, io say nothing of others; (c)
biting stage, and after having been discouraged the method of "proving" that early infancy
from feeling too comfortable with his mother. is of primary importance is shot through
This expulsion may well contribute to the with anthropomorphism and unsupported as-
*'0p. cU., especially pp. 328-329. See also for a sumptions; and (d) post-infantile childhood
similar view, G. Gorer, "Themes in Japanese Cul- experiences are probably of more vital im-
ture," Transactions of the New York Academy portance in shaping personality than the pre-
of Sciences, II (1943), 106-124. For suggestive nega- lingual ones.
tive evidence on this point see M. Sikkema, "Ob-
servations on Japanese Early Child Training," Most psychologists and social scientists
Psychiatry, X (1947), 423-432. agree that there is a special significance at-
^'In J. McV. Hunt (ed.). Personality and the tached to first or early learning. There is
Behavior Disorders, vol. I, 1944, p. 93.
^'In C, Kluckhohn and H. A. Murray (eds.) /Wd., p. 180.
Personality, In Nature, Sodety, and Culture, 1948, ** "Infant Care and Personality," Psychologicd
pp. 188-189. Bulletin, XL (1949), 1-48.
A CRITIQUE OF CULTURE-PERSONALITY WRITINGS 597
good evidence for this assumption. What we able theory is one which can be proved to be
do not know, and are imable to discover right, and this implies that conceivably it
from the culture-personality writings, is what might be proved wrong by exceptional cases.
precisely it is that is learned in early infancy The latter possibility is not allowed for in the
and what its exact significance may be for doctrine since, as Kluckhohn and Mowrer**
later training. As D. O. Hebb*'' tersely re- state:
marks: "In such matters, our ignorance is Substantially the same personality trait may be
virtually complete." caused by different patterns of childhood experi-
Ineffectual Attempts to Salvage Infantile ence. . . . The same basic discipline or event in
Determination. In an attempt to bring post- early life may result in quite different person-
infantile experiences into the picture and to ality trends, depending upon the juxtaposition
salvage remnants of the original doctrine it of various other disciplines, the problems which
individuals in each particular society have to
is commonly asserted (a) if post-infantile meet, and, always, the differing biological equiph
experiences tend to reinforce the personality ment of different individuals.
trends established in infancy, then the re-
sulting adult traits will conform to the Thus, whatever happens, the theory is con-
infantile pattern; however, (b) if later ex- firmed in a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose pro-
periences run counter to earlier ones the re- cedure. Orlansky^" has made a similar point
sulting adult character may be something not in speaking of infantile disciplines:
predictable from infantile experiences alone. . . . the same childhood experience is arbitrarily
Thus E. Beaglehole*^ distinguishes be- read as having one significance for personality
tween the "primary character structure" formation in one society and the opposite signifi-
cance in another.. . .
formed in infancy and "secondary character
structure" formed later if later experiences The concept of causation which we are
do not reinforce the earlier ones. Similarly, criticizing might be called "proof by juxta-
Kluckhohn and Mowrer*^ assert that: position." Using this method, culture-person-
It should be emphasized that, like biological ality writers describe two sets of phenomena
heredity, infant experiences, while placing certain widely separated in time, and assert a causal
constraints upon personality, give mainly po- relation. The post hoc nature of this reason-
tentialities. . . . Whether these potentialities be- ing is clearly exemplified by Kardiner's°^
come actualized or not, or the extent to which own account:
they become actualized, depends upon later
social and other conditions which structure the It is well nigh impossible to tell in advance
individual's experience. what particular elaborations will take place in a
given culture of such a basic pattern. However,
makes the same point when he once we are told by the Rorschach that certain
notes concerning the effects of infantile ex- end results can be identified, it is a relatively
periences: "The . . . question that arises is easy matter to reconcile them with the more
whether these attitudes need remain perma- basic traits.
nent. They need not, if other factors are This post hoc method apparently does some-
introduced into the child's life which would
tend to counteract them. However, if they **0/>. dt., p. 96.
"O/*. dt., p. 27. See also W. D. Wallis, review
are not counteracted, they tend to continue."
of Kardiner's Psychological Frontiers of Society,
These statements raise serious methodo- Annals of the American Academy of Political and
logical problems that are not dealt with ade- Social Science, CCXLII (1945), 200-201.
quately, if at all, in this literature. A verifi- '"Psychological Frontiers of Sodety, pp. 245,
250. See also G. Gorer in his Himalayan Village,
* Organization of Behavior, A Neuropsycholog}- 1948, who though he espouses the doctrine of in-
cd Theory, 1949, p. 265. fantile determination of personality says: "Owing
** "Character Structure," Psychiatry, VH (1944), to the very late psychological maturing of the
145-162. Lepchas it is difficult to speak with confidence of the
*^0p. cit., p. 95. character of most of the men under thirty and most
^Psychological Frontiers of Sodety, p. 28. of the women under twenty" (p. 367).
598 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

times have its difficulties, for, as Kardiner** To the white child, whose feedings and other
tells us: "I feel somewhat ashamed to con- routines are rigidly scheduled, the mother or
fess that some of the main points in Alorese nurse must appear incalculable. He finds that
personality did not become clear to me until there are rules of behavior which are above and
beyond his needs or wishes. No matter how
four years after I originally got to know the hard he cries, he does not get his bottle until
material." the clock says he should. He must develop a
Some writers stress not only that culture feeling that each individual is alone in life.
shapes personality, but also that personality To the Navaho baby, on the other hand,
affects culture. Though the latter assertion other persons must appear warmer and more
is not of concem in this paper, it may be dependable, for every time he cries, something
noted that the same sort of post hoc reason- is done for him. . . . [Our italics.]
ing is used. Thus Du Bois**^ suggests that What is "Basic*'? Everyone will agree that
institutions and child training techniques persons in adult life change occupations,
should be regarded as interdependent vari- learn new skills, change their status, and so
ables, and advances the thesis that institu- on. It will be admitted that such changes in-
tions should be altered indirectly through volve personality alterations of some kind.
changes in child-rearing practices. What objective grounds are there for stating
In an excess of enthusiasm, Gorer''* carries that such changes are or are not "basic"?
the post hoc method to an all-time high The idea that basic personality patterns
when he offers twentieth-century urban are established in the first couple of years of
middle-class fads in child training as the basis life or in pre-adolescent childhood involves
for the American form of government estab- the assumption that personality does not
lished in the eighteenth century. change, or changes only in minor ways, in
A nthropomorphism. Culture-personality response to later experiences and cultural in-
explanations of the development and fixation fluences. This view of the matter involves a
of personality in early infancy and childhood considerable commitment on an issue that
are pervaded by anthropomorphism, as Or- must still be regarded as unsettled, and re-
lansky has amply shown. The main reasons quires that some kind of objective statement
for this appear to be (a) that little direct about the so-called "basic" elements of the
study of infants or children is undertaken to personality be made. It may be pointed out
determine whether the reactions attributed to that if personality is conceived as a system
them actually occur, and (b) it is assumed of responses arising in a cultural matrix, the
that the reaction of infants to a given type individual lives his entire life within such a
of experience "must be" of a certain char- matrix and is never independent of it. Why,
acter without any effort to prove that such is then, unless one assumes that learning and
the case, and (c) the dualistic procedure, the organization of responses takes place
which postulates psychic "processes and only in childhood, should later experiences be
states" as forces or "first causes"" that pro- largely ruled out? Most of the culture-per-
duce behavior, invites the investigator to at- sonality studies by their very emphases are
tribute motives and reactions which appear only partially situationally oriented—that is,
reasonable or plausible to him. The following with respect to childhood—and take the
quotation^^ nicely illustrates the last two of relative insignificance of later experience for
these points: granted. Though this assumption appears to
** Psychological Frontiers of Society, p. xvii.
be generally plausible to most social scien-
"Quoted by Kluckhohn and Mowrer, op. dt., tists, it is nevertheless necessary to show
p. 281. empirically which response systems change
•* The American People^,^ig4S. readily and which do not, and under what
"Linton, Cultural Background of Personality, p. conditions.
10.
" D . Leighton and C. Kluckhohn, Children of Indirect vs. Direct Learning. The belief
the People, 1947, pp. 3«>-3i. that p)ersonality pattems are fixed UO'
A CRITIQUE OF CULTURE-PERSONALITY WRITINGS 599
consciously and early involves a corollary but whenever it is, it is attractive by con-
assumption that these patterns cannot be trast in its simplicity and verifiability. The
directly taught, or that they can be taught predilection for indirect explanations no
later only if the childhood training has been doubt stems from stresses placed upon "un-
favorable. The latter argument is another conscious" processes, upon emotional aspects
heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition; the of interpersonal relations, and upon the
former argument rests upon an invidious deep, hidden, inner reality called "person-
comparison of different types of behavior, ality." We agree with Linton®" who says:
some being judged as more basic than others . . . how far is the personality formed by these
without specification of the grounds for these factors which operate on the child without the
conclusions. At times the argument assumes child really understanding what is happening,
a purely circular form: those patterns which and how far is it formed by actual instruction?
come first are most important because they I think this is a question we have not solved
are the earliest ones. at all at the present time.
In reports of research on non-literate SUMMARY AND SUGGESTIONS
peoples considerable data are of course given
on direct teaching, but in the interpretation The bulk of this paper has been concerned
of the deeper meaning of the data and in with negative criticisms, raised by us and
offering genetic explanations of {personality others, concerning the conclusions, evidence,
there is a clear tendency to stress the major methods, and general conceptual framework
influence of indirect and unconscious learn- offered and used by culture-personality
ing. For example, the Beagleholes'^ explain writers. These criticisms seem to us to indi-
the free spending habits of the Maori in cate quite clearly that available evidence
terms of childhood frustrations. The funda- offered by the writers in support of their con-
mental motive operating here is said to be clusions is inadequate and does not justify
the "buying of love" which the individual is their conclusions. Positive generalizations
afraid of losing because of the impact of made in this area are generally based upon
certain childhood experiences. Peter Buck*^* unwarranted confidence in rather loose un-
denies this interpretation, suggesting that scientific methods of interpreting data, and
patterns of handling money are directly upon a relatively uncritical acceptance of a
taught—a point that is also made by B. particular conceptual scheme.
Mishkin."' Research on the psychological responses of
The Beaglehole interpretation is rendered non-Western people needs to be made more
untenable anyhow by the fact that, regardless specific and concrete. Culture-personality
of types of childhood training, most non- writers have, on the whole, tended to avoid
literate peoples were resistant to the intro- this kind of limited investigation for a num-
duction of European economic practices and ber of reasons having to do with the danger
ideas. of viewing a given segment of behavior out of
Though this particular interpretation by its cultural context. The emphasis upon cul-
the Beagleholes is more obvioudy vulnerable tural configurations was in part a reaction
than others of like character, it is, neverthe- against such segmental interpretations.®^
less, a good example of the emphasis on Moreover, ethnologists have not been con-
cumbersome and unverifiable theories of in- cerned with specific psychological problems
direct learning where much simpler explana- because they have been urgently concerned
tions are available. Admittedly the hypothe- with gathering descriptive materials about
sis of direct learning is not always applicable, ••In Culture and Personality, p. 172.
"'E. and P. Beaglehole, op. dt. "Cf., M. Mead in L. Carmichael (ed.), Manual
''Buck, ibid., "Foreword." of Child Psychology, 1946, p. 674, who writes that
'""The Maori of New Zealand," in M. Mead "Emphasis is laid first upon collecting data upon
(ed.) Cooperation and Competition Among Primi- the total [!1 socialization process, and then focal
tive Peoples, 1937, pp. 452, 454-455- points within that process may be studied,"
6oo AMERICAN SOaOLOGICAL REVIEW

non-literate societies before they vanished or vestigations would be valuable, not only as
were distorted by Westem influences. correctives of certain ethnocentric tendencies
In his role as a psychologist the anthro- in psychological theorizing, but should also
pologist needs to integrate his work as a make constmctive theoretical contributions
careful ethnologist with a large body of on specific issues. Aside from the obvious
psychological theory and researdi, including benefits accming to anthropology from this
the non-clinical.** The study of limited, "gearing-in," another advantageous effect
specific, and verifiable propositions does not might be to arouse much more interest in
necessarily run counter to the ethnologist's anthropological work on the part of the
insistence that a culture must be understood great majority of psychologists and social
as a whole before specific psychological psychologists.
studies are undertaken. The cultures best A concem with more concretely limited
suited for these purposes should be those con- and traditionally emphasized psychological
ceming which a considerable amount of problems would broaden the culture-person-
ethnological material is available. Such in- ality ethnologist's range of choice of con-
ceptual schemes and hypotheses. As it is now,
"As early as 1934, R. Lowie, who has remained the substantial choice is between no psychol-
aloof from the culture-personality trend, objected ogy at all and a brand of neo-Freudianism.
to Sapir's studies of personality, saying that these The emphasis should not be on committing
were contributions to philosophy and did not apply oneself to one school of thought or another,
any psychological principles known to psycholo- but of checking all rival hypotheses on
gists: review of Goldenweiser's History, Psychology
and Culture, American Anthropologist, XXXVI specific problems by accepted scientific pro-
(1934), IIS. cedure.

A SOCIOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF A SCHIZOPHRENIC TYPE*


S. KiRSON WEINBERG
Roosevelt College

HE PURPOSE of this inquiry^ is to the chronic schizophrenic who has withdraw-

T analyze a transient schizophrenic type


who is characterized by a relatively
normal childhood and adolescent adjustment,
ing or perverse tendencies from childhood, a
slow, insidious breakdown and an unfavor-
able chance for improvement or recovery—at
a confiictful, explosive breakdown and a least under present conditions of therapy in
favorable chance for improvement or re- state mental hospitals.'
covery.^ This type is in definite contrast to This dynamic and developmental classifi-
•Paper read at the annual meeting of the Ameri-
cation of schizophrenics differs in the follow-
can Sociolo^cal Sodety held in New York, Decem- ing ways from the static taxonomy of
ber 28-30, 1949. Kraeplin, whose criteria were based upon
* This report, which is a phase of a larger inquiry, symptomatic end-reactions:*
has been facilitated by a grant from the Social
Science Research CounciL •Rosen has treated 37 "deteriorated" schizo-
*Many dichotomous terms are used in referring phrenics so that they either improved or recovered.
to the distinction between the chronic schizophrenic Were these patients in state hospitals many would
and the acute schizophreniform, as: endogenous vs. not have improved, and some would very likely
exogenous, constitutional or somatogenic vs. psycho- have spent the rest of their lives there. See J. N.
genie, true vs. pseudo, predisposed vs. situational, Rosen, "The Treatment of Schizophrenic Psychosis
classical vs. at5T>ical, malignant vs. benign, process by Direct Analytic Therapy," Psychiatric Quarterly,
vs. episodic The term "schizophreniform" was first 21 (1947), 1-37.
used by Langfeldt, then by Wittman and Steinberg. *See E. Kraeplin, Dementia Praecox and Paf"''
See G. Langfeldt, The Schizophreniform States phrenic. Edinbui^: E. and S. Livingston, 1919 ^•
(Copenhagen, 1938). R. M. Barclay. (Some dynamic psychiatrists claim