Culture and personality – Edward Sapir

Edward Sapir (1884-1939) was both an anthropologist and a linguist. In his work on culture and language, he deepened and analyzed the concept of culture. His work Anthropology led him to try to understand the links between culture and personality.

For Edward Sapir, personality plays a fundamental role in the culture of a society.

What we need to do nowadays is to analyze and compare very closely the images of the individual personality. There is a fundamental relationship between culture and personality. On the one hand, it is indisputable that the different types of personality profoundly influence the thinking and action of the whole community. Moreover, while anthropologists and sociologists do not believe that forms of social interaction shape different personality types, certain forms of social conduct, even if the individual adapts to them to a greater or lesser extent, are preferentially fixed on certain specific personality types. The aggressive patterns of military life, for example, are not suitable for all personalities; the subtleties of literature or science are not within the reach of every personality. If the human sciences did not succeed in attaching the cultural model to model of personality in the germ, it is because the social phenomena are complex and the study of the relations between the individual and the society still stammering. But one becomes more and more aware that the in-depth study of the personality is essential for the sociologist.

The influence of society on the personality must end up marking little by little the psychology of cultures. Thus Eskimo culture, unlike most North American Indian cultures, is extroverted; Hindu culture corresponds roughly to the personality of the intellectual introvert; that of the United States is frankly extroverted, favoring intellect and intuition over affectivity; Latin cultures are more sense-oriented than those of northern Europe. Sociologists do not like this way of applying psychological classifications to culture, but it is necessary to go through this.

Edward Sapir (1921), Anthropology. Volume 1: culture and personality

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