How culture affects personality

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Does the culture affect personality?

Does the culture affect personality?
Before i can tell you whether culture has any effect on personality or not i must first tell you how personality is developed.

In my previous article about personality development i said that a child develops certain desires and drives as a result of the situations he passes through earlier in his life. The child then develops certain personality traits that enables him to satisfy these drives.

All of the personality traits that appear later on usually have one common goal, which is fulfilling these desires that the child developed provided that his culture allows him to fulfill them that way.

So while the culture might not affect the personality directly it channels the person's efforts in different directions so that his actions become accepted by the community and as a result his personality is affected. So in the end we can say that the culture affects the personality of a person indirectly.

How culture affects personality

Lets suppose that as the result of the experiences a child passed through he developed the desire to become superior to others. If the culture didn't put certain restrictions on that child he might have dressed differently or refrained from doing the activities that other people in his community do.

But because the culture forces most people to be bound by certain rules then that child will develop different personality traits that would allow him to appear superior to others and that are in the same time accepted by his culture. In such a case that child might become obsessed with cleanliness or even become a perfectionist to differentiate himself from others in an acceptable way.

Alfred Adler, one of the greatest psychologists who ever existed once said that some of those who have repressed aggression drive become surgeons or policemen because these jobs allows them to channel their drives in a way that is acceptable to the culture.

What would have happened if the culture didn't affect the personality?

If the culture was to not have any effect on a person's personality then each person would have tried to fulfill his desires directly without taking any turns and his personality would have been affected in another way.

For example, overly sarcastic people who have the hidden goal of wanting to devalue others might bring discriminating acts to the surface because they are no longer bound by the culture. (see also Why do people judge others).

Personality is developed when the person tries to move from point A to point B in order to fulfill his drives. The culture in this case acts as a wall blocking the direct road between those two points, as a result the person starts to move around the wall and so his personality is shaped indirectly as a result of the rules set by the culture he lives in.

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