As important as it is to keep cultural factors in mind when studying personality, the unfortunate reality is that the major personality theories in psychology, as we recognize psychology today, have arisen within Western intellectual settings. Thus, we do not have corresponding systems of personality theory that arose in other cultures that we might compare to the theories we do have. This somewhat limits our perspective on cross-cultural personality theory to attempts to apply our Western theories to people of other cultures. This limitation should not, however, keep us from considering these issues. It is merely an inconvenience that you should keep in mind as you consider the theories present in this textbook. Should your career lead you into the field of psychology, perhaps you will be one of the people to help develop and advance some theory that moves beyond this limitation.
Another concern has to do with the nature of this textbook, and personality courses in general. Although we have emphasized anthropology and sociology in this chapter, this is a psychology textbook. Nonetheless, culture is an all-encompassing factor in the development and psychology of both individuals and the groups in which they live. Indeed, in Personality and Person Perception Across Cultures, Lee, McCauley, & Draguns (1999) boldly state that “human nature cannot be independent of culture” (pg. vii). Thus, it is essential that we learn as much as possible about culture. As an encouragement for studying other cultures, Ralph Linton had this to say:
The ability to see the culture of one’s own society as a whole, to evaluate its patterns and appreciate their implications, calls for a degree of objectivity which is rarely if ever achieved…Those who know no culture other than their own cannot know their own…Even such a master as Freud frequently posited instincts to account for reactions which we now see as directly referable to cultural conditioning. (pp. 125-126; Linton, 1945).