In fact, it is mainly through the process of socialisation that a child develops a personality in a cultural context. It is interesting to note that different cultures provide for different ways of socialisation. These ways of socialisation have their own impact in the formation of personality.
The Meaning of Personality:
Personality is the product of culture. It is through the process of socialisation that the child develops a personality according to the cultural expectations of his society. According to the social psychologist G.M. All port, personality is – a person’s pattern of habits, attitudes, and traits which determine his adjustment to his environment.
According to the sociologist Kimball Young, personality “consists of habits, attitudes, and ideas which are built up around both people and things”. No man is born with a personality but everyone develops it through socialisation.
Individuals everywhere will react to and be influenced by their culture in different ways and degrees. Culture provides the limits within which personality will develop; through socialisation each culture places its distinctive work on human personality. The more homogeneous the culture the more likely it is to produce a characteristic type of person who reflects the dominant ethos or culture theme.
Ruth Benedict’s Classification of Cultures:
An American anthropologist Ruth Benedict in her “Patterns of Culture” published in 1935 has classified cultures into two broad types on the basis of their ‘ethos’ or distinctive feeling tones.
[Sumner defines ‘ethos’ as the totality of characteristic traits by which a group i.e., a society is individualised and differentiated from others]. She has made a comparison of three tribal cultures – the Zuni, the Dobuan and the Kwakiuti Indian – and shown how each has its own unique impact on personality. The two types of cultures which she has mentioned are:
(i) The Apollonian Culture, and
(ii) The Dionysian Culture.
(i) The Apollonian Culture is characterised by qualities such as self-control, even-temperedness, moderation, mutual understanding, mutual assistance and co-cooperativeness.
(ii) On the other hand the Dionysian Culture is marked by high emotionalism, aggressiveness, individualism, superficiality, prestige and competitiveness.
As Ruth Benedict has pointed out the Zuni tribe of the South Western U.S.A. represents the Apollonian Culture whereas the Dobuans of Melanesia and the Kwakiuti Indians represent the Dionysian Culture.
In the Zuni tribe or society which represents the Apollonian Culture, the members reveal characteristics which are peculiar to their culture. The Zuni people dislike individualism, violence and power.
They respect moderation and modesty, co-operation and mutual understanding. They are emotionally undisturbed. The spirit of competition is virtually absent in them. The mountain dwellers of New Guinea, called Arapesh who are mild, gentle, calm and quiet also represent the Apollonian Culture.
In the Dobuan and Kwakiuti societies, which are Dionysian in character,, members exhibit traits common on their culture. The Dobuans make virtues of ill-will and treachery. They fight against one another for the possession of good things in life. Suspicion, cruelty, animosity, and malignancy are traits of almost all Dobuans. The Kwakiuti Indians of the Pacific Northwest Coast define everything that happens in terms of triumph or shame.
For them, life is a constant struggle to put one’s rivals to shame. They destroy the material possessions of the defeated. The defeated resort to sulking or to acts of desperation.
In her study Benedict has tried to show that it is possible to identify the influence of the total culture on personality. She has tried to establish that each culture will produce its special type or types of personality. It is true that her study reveals the mutual interplay of culture and socialisation in conditioning personality.
Culture provides for the way in which personality is to be developed. But personality as such is developed through the process of socialisation. It may also be argued that different ways and means of socialisation may produce different personalities.
Individuals try to develop their personalities in accordance with their cultural ideals and expectations. If the people of three tribal communities develop different types of personality it is because their cultural ideals, values and expectations differ significantly.