Chapter 13: Social Identity, Personality, and Gender

ENCULTURATION: THE SELF AND SOCIAL IDENTITY

There is much debate over to what degree human behavior is influenced by genetic versus cultural factors. Some scientists think of humans as blank slates onto which our identities and personalities are written throughout our lifetimes, influenced by culture and experience. Other scientists believe that our genes might set some broad constraints and potentials on our identities and personalities. Regardless of which side one is on, it is indisputable that culture is the key to understanding how human beings learn about their society as well as develop the personalities they do. For all humans, roughly similar types of activities and orientations arise as they go through the process of enculturation and development.

PERSONALITY

Through the process of enculturation, an individual develops their personality (the way that a person behaves, acts, thinks, or feels). Enculturation, through setting limits and teaching people about acceptable behaviors, sets certain broad limitations and potentialities for the development of personality in a culture. The development of personality is incredibly complex.

GENDER MODELS FROM A CROSS-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE

We may think about sex (the presence of particular genitalia) as a binary state, you are either male or female. However, on a biological level, there are numerous examples of individuals occupying an ambiguous sexual position. Likewise, many cultures allow for more than two genders and permit various forms of sexual orientation. Puberty is the time when sexual maturation occurs and an individual’s sexual and gender orientations become apparent. Some believe that genes or hormones determine sexual preference while others believe it is culturally learned, like gender.

NORMAL AND ABNORMAL PERSONALITY IN SOCIAL CONTEXT

Definitions of normal and abnormal behavior are culturally specific; what one culture feels is perfectly acceptable behavior, another will find odd or strange. Just as definitions of abnormal and normal behavior are culturally specific, they also change over time, where behavior that may have been previously labeled as abnormal is accepted as normal at a later date.