Tok – Knowledge Issue – Culture and Personality

9 September 2016

Nabeel Ellahi Focused Knowledge Issue: To what extent does culture have an effect on an individual? In brief terms, culture is the way of life for an individual; it decides how they will communicate with the world and how they will see the world. The culture a person is born into provides them with guidelines to life; giving them characteristics, including psychological characteristics. It will define whether the person will be aggressive or passive, independent or collaborative. These examples go on and in the end it will define the person.

Culture will also fixate the individual into a specific group; this would be a stranger’s first impression of the individual. The group includes society, gender, ethnicity, age or even class. Since culture puts individuals into groups, individuals will find themselves amongst people who share the same values and beliefs. These values and beliefs play a very important role in our lives because, firstly it will distinguish us from the rest of the world and most importantly it will be the main factor which shapes our way of thinking; in other terms, how we see the world.

This factor can also be seen negatively, culture can be a way to fall into a stereotype category. When we are stereotyped, it would be a general assumption by people on what kind of person we are and our personality overall. Stereotyping a specific cultural group can result in various effects on individuals in that community. For example, if there is a stereotype that women have to be thin, this will affect an individual girl, lowering her self-esteem by a lot; this might not seem problematic at the beginning but in the long run it becomes life threatening.

This kind of affect is called internalization; or people taking the idea imposed by others on their culture personally. As mentioned earlier, culture affects the individuals way of seeing the world, better said, how they think of the world; what do they notice when they see something new, or how people from different culture’s would respond to the same thing; this defines our values. There was a test conducted in which the chosen people underwent brain scans to check their response to the same thing.

The people chosen were half from the east (China) and the other half from the west. When the words related to individuality was shown, both groups had increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, but the eastern group had more activity when words related to family were shown. This is a great representation of how culture affects the way we shape out our values; to the westerners the idea of individuality was more interesting, on the other hand the easterners had more interest to family.

Moving on, culture and background has a physical-psychological effect on an individual as well. This is relating to the regional background people have come from; this is important because it reflects the way they were raised and what they were taught when they were younger, overall this makes a person what they are. If a person came from an area with a lot of poverty and violence, then they will live the rest of their lives in fear and never be confident; this trait can be passed down to their children.

On the other hand if a person comes from a cultural background where the state is flourishing, there is security and many more facilities, the person will majority of the time have a “can-do” attitude; or a positive attitude which will encourage them to do even greater things. The difference between the two people would be that; relating to a famous quote “is the glass half-full or half-empty”, the one which is insecure will say the glass is half-empty, as they have seen negative things throughout their lives and is unsure, on the other hand the person coming from a very enthusiastic background would say the glass is half-full.

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