Over the last century, various anthropologists have conducted studies on culture. Most of these anthropologists have forwarded theories that spell out the relationship between an individual and culture. Ruth Benedict is a famous anthropologist who did most of her studies in the early twentieth century. Ruth’s work is considered as one of the pioneering contributions on cultural anthropology. One of Ruth’s most famous declarations on culture is that each culture bears a national character.
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This anthropological viewpoint is the basis of the claim that when individuals are born into a certain culture they tend to pick up the behaviors that are dictated by that culture. This means that people behave the way they do because of their culture. These claims were made during the 1930s when anthropology as a field of study was still in its infancy. However, this paper will prove that there are other factors that influence human behavior other than culture.
According to Benedict, culture is responsible for the commonness of behaviors among individuals of a single origin. However, the existence of a culture is somehow ambiguous. Each culture is made up of subcultures. For instance, people from Europe always refer to the ‘Asian culture’.
This is in spite of the fact that there are hundreds of subcultures that are contained within this Asian culture. Using Benedict’s claims, one would assume that the behaviors of all people of Asian origin are similar. This is not true because people from different subcultures within the Asian culture would have similar expectations concerning fellow subcultures. Therefore, the accuracy of Benedict’s claims cannot be guaranteed.
Distinctions in behaviors are not always related to culture. People of the same cultural and biological origins can have very different behavioral patterns. For instance, at times a father and his son can exhibit behaviors that bear little to no similarities. Benedict’s theory suggests that similarities in culture should be complimented by similarities in behaviors.
imilarities in behaviors can also be hereditary but in this instance, a father and son show no similarities. In a strange turn of events, people from two different cultures, who are not biologically related, can exhibit striking similarities in behavior. This is further proof that behaviors are shaped by a combination of factors but not by a single factor such as culture.
Routines are not necessarily behaviors. Individuals from different cultures adopt routines that with time might resemble behaviors. The routines are necessarily for an individual to streamline his/her life with that of other members in his/her culture. For example, an individual who is born in America has to get used to certain routines such as driving in a certain manner, settling disputes in a certain manner, studying in a certain manner, and interacting in a certain manner.
Even though some of these routines aid in behavior formulation, when the individual moves to another culture it will only take a few days for him/her to adapt to new routines. Therefore, routines should not be confused with behaviors. For example, adhering to traffic rules might be thought to be a behavior only for it to turn out to be a routine. Given another cultural context, some individuals can break traffic rules without hesitation.
Benedict’s assertions were a product of a different age and time. This age was dominated by simplistic reasoning and lack of enough research. Culture is not a solid precursor of behavior. Behaviors are shaped by a combination of factors. Some of what Benedict might have considered behaviors are just routines. Therefore, it is not accurate to assume individuals’ behaviors are dictated by their culture.