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Robert LeVine, like Kardiner, was an anthropologist and psychoanalyst with a strong interest in personality (LeVine, 1973, 1974). He begins by asking the question of whether there are differences in personality between different cultural groups. If there are not, then any analysis of the nature or causes of those alleged differences is meaningless. If there are differences, can we then point to specific evidence that the environment can elicit changes in those differences? The answer is yes to both, and as one example LeVine points to the dramatic acculturation of rural immigrants from underdeveloped areas of Europe and Asia who emigrated to industrialized countries, such as the United States, and within two or three generations had radically altered not only their basic ways of life, but also their social class (moving from traditional peasantry to the middle-class; LeVine, 1973). LeVine also continued Kardiner’s approach of using a psychoanalytic perspective to evaluate and compare the nature of different cultures, and he proposed the term psychoanalytic ethnography . In an effort to justify the use of psychoanalytic ethnography, LeVine argues that there are enough common elements in the nature of all people and cultures to provide for valid comparisons of the differences between those same people and cultures (LeVine, 1973).

One of the most striking discussions of the relationship between culture and the potential for personality development was offered by Pitirim Sorokin, the founder of Harvard University’s sociology department and a colleague of the trait theorist Gordon Allport (see Chapter 13). Sorokin points out that culture can have a dramatic influence on the biological substrates of personality. For example, through the use of contraception, abortion, etc., many potential individuals are never born. Conversely, if such measures are prohibited, many unwanted children are born. In addition, cultural rules and norms against sexual intercourse and/or marriage between certain age groups, races, social classes, families, religions, etc., directly influence the potential for genetic variation within and across different groups of humans (Sorokin, 1947). Indeed, Sorokin took such a broad view of the role of society and culture in the environmental universe of each individual, that he described trying to understand sociocultural phenomena by locating them in terms of sociocultural space and sociocultural distance . The concept of sociocultural distance has taken on new meaning since Sorokin proposed it over 50 years ago. Today, anyone can travel around the world in a matter of hours or days, and many people do so regularly. Technology and globalization have dramatically reduced the distance between people, and consequently brought their cultural differences into contact with one another. Efforts to study cultures and societies alter the location of sociocultural phenomena within our own universe of personal development. In other words, by studying the relationships between society, culture, and personality, we are altering the meaning and influence of those relationships, hopefully for the better.

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Source:  OpenStax, Personality theory in a cultural context. OpenStax CNX. Nov 04, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11901/1.1
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