chapter
culture and personality
Pages 2

Sapir was suspicious of the contemporary concept of *culture, which he described as ‘tidy tables of contents’ attached to particular groups of people. In an influential 1934 essay he argued that ‘the more fully one tries to understand a culture, the more it seems to take on the characteristics of a personality organization’ (1985:594). The study of the development of personality was Sapir’s solution to the problems posed by the way that, in anthropological accounts, culture ‘can be made to assume the appearance of a closed system of behaviour’ (ibid.). But in fact, ‘vast reaches of culture…are discoverable only as the peculiar property of certain individuals’ (ibid.). He recommended that to understand ‘the complicating patterns and symbolisms of culture’, anthropologists should study child development.