The Psychological Foundations of Culture

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

CHAPTER
5

Motivated Closed Mindedness
and the Emergence of Culture
Linda Richter
Columbia University
Arie W. Kruglanski
University of Maryland

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the link between culture and human cognition. For the most part, this research has focused on the various ways in which culture, or specific aspects of cultural knowledge, affects cognition and the different meanings one may draw from surrounding physical and social stimuli depending on one's cultural perspective (Hong, Morris, Chiu, & Benet-Martinez, 2000; Miller, 1999; Tomasello, 2000). What has received less attention, however, is the ways in which human cognition, and motivational effects on cognition in particular, influence the formation of cultures and the perpetuation of particular cultural norms or patterns.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (1998) defines culture as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group. ” Similarly, culture can be defined as “the shared beliefs, values, traditions, and behavior patterns of particular groups” (Berry, Poortinga, Segall, & Dasen, 1992). In many cases, the group is reciprocally defined by the culture such that it is characterized by the shared knowledge, shared set of assumptions, and fundamental beliefs that the members of the group hold in common.

There exists a fundamental connection between culture and the human need to know, or to possess a set of valid opinions, attitudes, or beliefs. According to Leon Festinger (1954), physical reality rarely affords objective standards for validating one's personal opinions, beliefs, and attitudes. Therefore, people attempt to obtain validation by comparing and adjusting their personal opinions, beliefs, and attitudes to those of others. This ad-

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