Historically Influential Publications

Ruth Fulton Benedict  (1887-1948)

Patterns of Culture  (1934)

In this book, Benedict presented her concept of cultural personality types (or ethos) and used several Native American cultures as examples.  These data were presented in support of her hypothesis that personality is acquired through learning rather than biological inheritance.

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture  (1946)

In this book, Benedict described what she thought was the Japanese national personality type.  This was the culmination of her work for the U.S. Bureau of Intelligence of the Office of War Information during World War II.

Margaret Mead  (1901-1978)

Coming of Age in Samoa  (1928)

In this book, Mead described her pioneering research in Samoa, which focused principally on socialization practices and adolescence.  She claimed that Samoans have a relaxed adolescence in which sex is talked about freely by boys and girls together rather than hidden or suppressed, and that this leads to less anxiety about sexuality among adults than is typical in the Western World.

Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies  (1935)

In this book, Mead described her research among three cultures in New Guinea focusing on discovering typical masculine and feminine personality traits.  She said that what is typically defined as masculine attitudes and behavior patterns in the Western World are characteristic of both men and women in some Melanesian societies and only women or men in others.  This supported her hypothesis that that feminine and masculine personality traits are not biologically hard-wired in but, rather, learned from our cultures.

Robert Redfield  (1897-1958)

The Primitive World and Its Transformations  (1953)

In this work written late in his career, Redfield presented his ideas about world-views.  He suggested that the world-views of people in all societies generally make the same kinds of distinctions in coming to grips with the cosmos.  That is, they have some sort of meaningful orientation between people, nature, and the supernatural.  He went on to suggest that there are essentially two different kinds of world-views--primitive and civilized.  The former envisions humans interacting with nature and gods on a personal level.  The latter sees nature and gods as being remote and removed from humans.

David Riesman   (1909-    )

The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the American Character   (1953)

In this classic sociological work, Riesman described three modal personality types that are found in the United States.  These are inner-directed, other-directed, and tradition oriented personalities.

Arnold Van Gennep  (1873-1954)

The Rites of Passage  (1909)

In this pioneer work, Van Gennep defined rites of passage, gave examples, and suggested the functions and typical stages that the rituals go through.  His ideas were not based on personal ethnographic observations but, rather, on the writings of other mostly 19th century sociologists, anthropologists, and travelers.  Van Gennep was criticized for this by the leading academic behavioral scientists in his time.  However, his understanding of rites of passage still continues as an important body of ideas about life stages and socially emphasized transitions between them.

Beatrice B. Whiting  (1914-2003)

Six Cultures, Studies of Child Rearing  (1963)

This book, edited by Whiting, presents the results of an extensive 1954 field study of socialization practices used by parents in six different traditional societies around the world.  The research was carried out by anthropologists and other social scientists from Harvard, Yale, and Cornell universities.  The goal was discovering cross-cultural differences in child rearing practices and their effects on personality development.  An overall conclusion of this work was that socialization practices vary markedly from society to society but that they are generally similar among people from the same society.


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This page was last updated on Saturday, January 03, 2009.
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