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Anth 207: Introductory lecture 2013

Greg Downey introduces himself and 'Psychological Anthropology: Brain, Body, Culture' (July 2013)

Greg Downey

on 23 October 2013

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Transcript of Anth 207: Introductory lecture 2013

Anthro 207
Psychological Anthropology: Brain, Body, Culture
Greg Downey
Globalising psychiatry
Weekly topics
'If anthropologists can show that mental processes among primitive and civilized are essentially the same, the view cannot be maintained that the present races of man stand on different stages of the evolutionary series and that civilized man has attained a higher-place in mental organization than primitive man.'
Franz Boas,
The Mind of Primitive Man
skill acquisition, sport, perceptual change, senses, bodily training
capoeira, mixed martial arts, rugby, dance
Brazil, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific
available in September!
Weekly discussion reading REQUIRED.
Additional readings, including pieces we've authored, available through iLearn.
Some readings online, but
recommend purchasing the reader.
'primitive mentality'
Lucien Lévy-Brühl
Wilhelm Wundt
'father of experimental psychology'
as opposed to modern thought, does not focus on logic or forbid contradictions.
Members of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Straits, 1898
One of the most promising psychologists of his day, W. H. R. Rivers was talked into joining the Torres Straits expedition in 1898 by Alfred Cort Haddon, who drug "Rivers from the path of virtue... (for psychology then was a chaste science)... into that of anthropology:”
'...was able to explode to old fallacy that the 'noble savage' was endowed with powers of vision far exceeding that of civilised natives. Errors of refraction are, it is true, less common, especially myopia.'
'But, altogether the feats of the Torres Straits islanders equalled those reported by travellers from other parts of the world, they were due to the power of attending to minute details in familiar and strictly limited surrounding, and not to supernormal visual acuity.'
'Primitive' peoples were biologically similar to 'modern' peoples.
At the same time, the islanders had no word for 'blue' & called many colours distinct in English by the same term.
W. H. R. Rivers (1864-1922)
Lizzie, a young woman from Simbo Island, photographed by Rivers
anthropologist, neurologist, ethologist & psychiatrist
famous for work on vision, shell shock (WWI)
came to run a psychological laboratory at Cambridge in 1897.
'human nature'
psychology & anthropology in conversation
what is the psychological nature of human variation?
The primitive 'moves in a world where
innumerable occult powers
are everywhere present and always in action or ready to act.'
Franz Boas
' & '
mystical participation
Wundt still believed in
stages of thought
: 'primitive', 'totemic', 'age of heroes and gods' & 'enlightened age'
Argued that people's intellectual capabilities needed to be
studied in context
(like sociology or anthro)
Intellectual abilities uniform, but
developed differently
methods have changed.
questions have changed.
still interested in human diversity
still a rich area for thinking about human psyche
Greg Downey
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(1), 61–135.
Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, & Democratic
psychology: 96% concentration on 12% of the world’s population
4000 times more likely to be psych subject if you're a psych student...
visual perception, fairness, cooperation, folkbiology, spatial cognition, social behaviour, self-concepts, self-esteem, agency (a sense of having free choice), conformity, patterns of reasoning (holistic v. analytic), and morality.
Müller-Lyer illusion
The fact that WEIRD people are the outliers in so many key domains of the behavioral sciences may render them one of the worst subpopulations one could study for generalizing about Homo sapiens…. WEIRD people, from this perspective, grow up in, and adapt to, a rather atypical environment vis-à-vis that of most of human history. It should not be surprising that their psychological world is unusual as well. (2010: 79-80)
Materialist, Young, self-Obsessed, Pleasure-seeking, Isolated, Consumerist, and Sedentary
what do non-Western observers say?
I do not hesitate to maintain, that what we are conscious of is constructed out of what we are not conscious of,-that our whole knowledge, in fact, is made up of the unknown and the incognisable.

William Hamilton
are we alone, our foibles & quirks, the best basis for making assertions about all of human nature?
thanks & see you next week!
with Anupom Roy and Edwina James
Edwina James
Anupom Roy
Full transcript