The Psychological Foundations of Culture

By Mark Schaller; Christian S. Crandall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
9

Scientists and Science: How Individual
Goals Shape Collective Norms
Christian S. Crandall
University of Kansas
Mark Schaller
University of British Columbia

When people talk about culture, they most often refer to the cultures attached to populations defined by geographic or ethnic boundaries. Some cultures, however, correspond to boundaries defined by shared interests, job descriptions, and professions, and the like. Frans de Waal (2001) suggests that culture exists when one community is distinguishable from another by unique behaviors; science is one such culture. Scientists speak a common language, and they share a common set of assumptions, values, and beliefs. Scientists thoughts and actions are guided by norms, customs, and rituals that are specific to scientific inquiry. Despite the many different subdisciplines that are called sciences, there is substantial agreement about what science is and what scientists do. So it's not surprising that the values and practices of the scientific culture have been as heavily studied as those of, say, the Kwakiutul or Kaw cultures. The same processes that govern the emergence and evolution of culture in other kinds of populations also govern the emergence and evolution of culture among scientists.

In this chapter, we focus on the cultural consequences of individuals' personal goals. We discuss some of the ways in which individual scientists' mundane and very human motives craft the collective values and practices that define the culture of science. Scientists may pay lip service to a set of abstract progressive values that appear to transcend the narrow concerns of individuals, but a careful examination of scientific culture reveals very clearly the fingerprints of scientists' psychological needs and practical selfinterests. This analysis helps us to understand why science proceeds in the

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