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Transcript of Social influence
Genes, Culture and Gender
Human Nature and Cultural Diversity
In viewing human similarities and differences, two perspectives dominate current thinking: an evolutionary perspective, emphasizing human kinship, and a cultural perspective, emphasizing human diversity. Nearly everyone agrees that we need both: Our genes design an adaptive human brain—a hard drive that receives the culture’s software.
the evolutionary process by which nature selects traits that best enable organisms to survive and reproduce in particular environmental niches.
Culture and Behavior
Perhaps our most important similarity, the hallmark of our species, is our capacity to learn and adapt. Evolution has prepared us to live creatively in a changing world and to adapt to environments from equatorial jungles to arctic ice fields. Compared to bees, birds, and bulldogs, nature has us on a looser genetic leash. Ironically, therefore, our shared human biology enables our cultural diversity.
Evolution and Behavior
The universal behaviors that define human nature arise from our biological similarity. Some 100,000 to 200,000 years ago, most anthropologists believe, we humans were all Africans. Feeling the urge to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth,” many of our ancestors moved out of Africa, displacing cousins such as Europe’s Neanderthals. In adapting to their new environments, these early humans developed differences that, measured on anthropological scales, are relatively recent and superficial. Those who went far north of the equator, for example, evolved lighter skins capable of synthesizing vitamin D in less direct sunlight. Still, historically, we all are Africans.
studies why we as humans are alike. In particular, it studies the evolution of behavior and mind using principles of natural selection.
the enduring behaviors, ideas, attitudes, and traditions shared by a large group of people and transmitted from one generation to the next.
The diversity of our languages, customs, and expressive behaviors suggests that much of our behavior is socially programmed, not hardwired. The genetic leash is indeed long. As sociologist Ian Robertson (1987) has noted:
Americans eat oysters but not snails. The French eat snails but not locusts. The Zulus eat locusts but not fish. The Jews eat fish but not pork. The Hindus eat pork but not beef. The Russians eat beef but not snakes. The Chinese eat snakes but not people. The Jalé of New Guinea find people delicious. (p. 67)
Do you think it is wrong for unmaried couples to bear children? (% Yes)
These responses to a 1997 World Gallup survey illustrate our cultural diversity.
rules for accepted and expected behavior. Norms prescribe “proper” behavior. (In a different sense of the word, norms also describe what most others do—what is normal.)
the buffer zone we like to maintain around our bodies. Its size depends on our familiarity with whoever is near us.
Thanks to human adaptability, cultures differ. Yet beneath the veneer of cultural differences, cross-cultural psychologists see “an essential universality” (Lonner,
1980). As members of one species, the processes that underlie our differing behaviors
are much the same everywhere.
Although norms vary by culture, humans do hold some norms in common.
Best known is the taboo against incest: Parents are not to have sexual relations
with their children, nor siblings with one another. Although the taboo apparently
is violated more often than psychologists once believed, the norm is still
universal. Every society disapproves of incest. Given the biological penalties for
inbreeding, evolutionary psychologists can easily understand why people
everywhere are predisposed against incest.
Role theorists assume, as did William Shakespeare, that social life is like acting on a theatrical stage, with all its scenes, masks, and scripts. Like the role of Jaques, who speaks these lines in As You Like It, social roles outlast those who play them. The roles of parent, student, and friend will continue after we cease to play them. And, as Jaques says, these roles allow some freedom of interpretation to those who act them out; great performances are defined by the way the role is played. Some aspects of any role must be performed, however. A student must at least show up for exams, turn in papers, and maintain some minimum grade point average.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.
Gender similarities and differences
Both evolutionary psychologists and psychologists working from a cultural perspective have sought to explain gender variations. Before considering their views, let’s see what there is to explain: As males and females, how are we alike? How do we differ? And why?
in psychology, the
biological or socially
influenced, by which
people define male and
Independence vs. Connectedness
Individual men display outlooks and behavior that vary from fierce competitiveness to caring nurturance. So do individual women. Without denying that, psychologists Nancy Chodorow (1978, 1989), Jean Baker Miller (1986), and Carol Gilligan and her colleagues (1982, 1990) have contended that women more than men give priority to close, intimate relationships.
Girls’ play is often in small groups and imitates relationships. Boy’s play is more often competitive or aggressive.
The difference surfaces in childhood. Boys strive for independence; they define their identities in separation from the caregiver, usually their mother. Girls welcome interdependence; they define their identities through their social connections. Boys’ play often involves group activity. Girls’ play occurs in smaller groups, with less aggression, more sharing, more imitation of relationships, and more intimate discussion (Lever, 1978).
When surveyed, women are far more likely to describe themselves as having empathy, or being able to feel what another feels—to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Although to a lesser extent, the empathy difference extends to laboratory studies. Shown slides or told stories, girls react with more empathy (Hunt, 1990).
the vicarious experience of another’s feelings; putting oneself in another’s shoes.
Whether considered feminine or human, traits such as gentleness, sensitivity, and warmth are a boon to close relationships. In a study of married couples in Sydney, Australia, John Antill (1983) found that when either the husband or wife had these traditionally feminine qualities—or better, when both did—marital satisfaction was higher. People find marriage rewarding when their spouses are nurturer and emotionally supportive.
Imagine two people: One is “adventurous, autocratic, coarse, dominant, forceful, independent, and strong.” The other is “affectionate, dependent, dreamy, emotional, submissive, and weak.” If the first person sounds more to you like a
man and the second like a woman, you are not alone, report John Williams and Deborah Best (1990a, p. 15). The world around, from Asia to Africa and Europe to Australia, people rate men as more dominant, driven, and aggressive.
physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt someone. In laboratory experiments, this might mean delivering electric shocks or saying something likely to hurt another’s feelings
There is also a gender gap in sexual attitudes and assertiveness. It’s true that, in their physiological and subjective responses to sexual stimuli, women and men are “more similar than different” (Griffitt, 1987). Yet consider:
“I can imagine myself being comfortable and enjoying ‘casual’ sex with different partners,” agreed 48 percent of men and 12 percent of women in a recent Australian survey (Bailey & others, 2000).
The American Council on Education’s recent survey of a quarter million first-year college students offers a similar finding. “If two people really like each other, it’s all right for them to have sex even if they’ve known each other for only a very short time,” agreed 53 percent of men but only 30 percent of women (Sax & others, 1999).
In a survey of 3,400 randomly selected 18- to 59-year-old Americans, half as many men (25 percent) as women (48 percent) cited affection for the partner as a reason for first intercourse. How often do they think about sex? “Every day” or “several times a day,” said 19 percent of women and 54 percent of men (Laumann & others, 1994).
Data gleaned from 177 other studies of 130,000 people confirm that men are much more accepting of casual sex (Oliver & Hyde, 1993).
Evolution and gender: Doing what
“What do you think is the main reason men and women have different personalities, interests, and abilities?” asked the Gallup Organization (1990) in a
national survey. “Is it mainly because of the way men and women are raised, or are the differences part of their biological makeup?” Among the 99 percent who answered the question (apparently without questioning its assumptions), nearly equal numbers answered “upbringing” and “biology.”
Gender and Mating Preferences
Evolutionary psychology also predicts that men will strive to offer what women will desire—external resources and physical protection. Male peacocks strut their feathers, and male humans their abs, Audis, and assets. “Male achievement is ultimately a courtship display,” says Glenn Wilson (1994). Women, sometimes assisted by cosmetic surgery, strive to offer men the youthful, healthy appearance (connoting fertility) that men desire. Sure enough, note Buss (1994a) and Alan Feingold (1992), women’s and men’s mate preferences confirm these predictions. Consider:
Studies in 37 cultures, from Australia to Zambia, reveal that men everywhere feel attracted to women whose physical features, such as youthful faces and forms, suggest fertility. Women everywhere feel attracted to men whose wealth, power, and ambition promise resources for protecting and nurturing offspring (Figure 5–2). Men’s greater interest in physical form also makes them the consumers of most of the world’s visual pornography. But there are gender similarities, too: Whether residing on an Indonesian island or in urban San Paulo, both women and men desire kindness, love, and mutual attraction.
Men feel most jealous over their mate’s having sex with someone else. Women tend to feel greater jealousy over their mate’s becoming emotionally attached to someone else. Evolutionary psychologists say this gender difference reflects men’s natural concern with their offspring’s paternity (a man doesn’t want to raise another man’s offspring) and women’s natural concern with their mate’s provision of resources (Buss, 2000).
Men everywhere tend to marry younger women. Moreover, the older the man, the greater the age difference he prefers when selecting a mate. In their twenties, men prefer, and marry, women only slightly younger. In their sixties, men prefer, and marry, women averaging about
ten years younger (Kenrick & Keefe, 1992). Women of all ages prefer men just slightly older than themselves. Once again, say the evolutionary psychologists, we see that natural selection predisposes men to feel attracted to female features associated with fertility.
Gender and Hormones
Do hormone differences also predispose psychological gender differences?
As people mature to middle age and beyond, a curious thing happens. Women become more assertive and self-confident, men more empathic and less domineering (Lowenthal & others, 1975; Pratt & others, 1990). Hormone changes are one possible explanation for the shrinking gender differences. Role
demands are another. Some speculate that during courtship and early parenthood, social expectations lead both sexes to emphasize traits that enhance their roles. While courting, providing, and protecting, men play up their macho sides and forgo their needs for interdependence and nurturance (Gutmann, 1977).
Culture and Gender
a set of behavior expectations (norms) for males and females.
In Western countries, gender roles are becoming more flexible. No longer is housework necessarily
women’s work and mechanical work necessarily
Cultures, like ice cream, come in many flavors. On Wall Street men wear mostly suits and women wear mostly skirts and dresses; in Scotland many men wear pleated skirts (kilts) as formal dress; in some equatorial cultures (but not others) men and women wear virtually nothing at all. How are such traditions preserved across generations?
The prevailing assumption is what Judith Rich Harris (1998) calls The Nurture Assumption: nurture (the way parents bring their children up) governs who their children become.
Biology and Culture
the effect of one factor
(such as biology)
depends on another
factor (such as
A social-role theory of gender differences in social behavior.
Various influences, including childhood experiences and factors, bend males and females toward differing roles. It is the expectations and the skills and beliefs associated with these differing roles that affect
men’s and women’s behavior.
End of Chapter 5
Rosales, Lea Jewel