Wherever you look in the world, human beings find themselves attached to a particular culture. Some people invest themselves in multiple cultures at once, some are able to appreciate another’s way of life and spot noticeable differences. But why do humans feel the need to adopt a cultural identity? Could this be due to basic human psychology?
Cultural psychology is a branch of study that brings psychology, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and linguistic studies together to explain different cultures and how they reflect onto a human’s psyche. The main problem with cultural psychology is that many findings would get rejected from the usual branch of research, mostly due to the inability to prove something that is often dedicated to only one small group of people. That being said, Steven Heine, a psychologist from the University of British Columbia, commented that ‘knowing that certain groups do or do not show the same tendencies under different social and cultural conditions is very informative of how minds work.’
It is clear to see that the culture someone is born into can greatly affect a person’s view of the world. For example, those born into the Western individualist culture will experience life much differently from those who belong to the Confucian collectivist culture in China. People within the Western culture are more likely to strive for personal achievement and ‘living life to the full’ whereas a collectivist culture is focused more on the good of the group and the community to which they belong. For collectivists, personal attainment is far less important than others’ needs, which is clearly very different from the ambitiousness that underpins the British culture.
But why do humans feel the need to belong to a culture? It is very obvious how a culture will shape and influence a person’s life, but that doesn’t explain why a human being will hang so tightly on the need to conform. The culture will shape a person’s behaviour just as much as a person’s thoughts will inevitably shape the culture itself. Theorists believe that, just as there would be no culture without human beings, there would be no human beings without different cultures. Some even argue that the only thing that separates us from other species is our ability to create and distinguish cultures. This would explain why as humans we feel bound to interact with particular cultures as otherwise, we would cease to be what we believe we are.
As culture is a way of behaving through socially approved means, humans must follow a culture as we have adapted to becoming civilised beings with very particular ways of life. While it may appear that other species entertain the idea of culture, it is only human beings that have such a researched repertoire. It hasn’t yet been thoroughly explained why there is such a thing as culture, just that it exists, and it is essential to who and what we are as a species itself.