Saturday, June 28, 2014

Consequences of dysfunctional enculturation

This happened a day or so ago, in New Jersey.  A woman was brutally beaten in public by a MacDonald's coworker, her 2-year old son tries to stop it, and the adults stand around taking video.  Welcome to America.

And then, on CNN's New Day (Saturday) the hosts interviewed a "licensed psychologist" about this, and he actually came scarily close to explaining it, but without the anthropological insight (shouldn't psychologists, almost by definition, have to know some anthropology?).  Anyway, the CNN guys asked how this could happen, and the psychologist pointed out that the adults had been socialized (we would say enculturated) into being witnesses, bystanders, not participants; the 2-year old, on the other hand, was not "socialized" and thus didn't know he was supposed to just watch or try to film it.

If only this psychologist had known about psychological anthropologist Francis Hsu, who wrote about a thing called Independence Training way back in the 50s.  Independence Training, in the extreme form we see in America, turns us into unempathetic, socially irresponsible psychopaths: she's not beating me, what's the problem?  I'll be writing an email as soon as I get his name...


  1. verily! Here in Louisiana the university anthropology courses seldom have the student enrollment, while sociology and psychology usually fill. These legacy disciplines have the advantage in the eye of the public and media. The four field approach of American Anthropology needs to be taught in every high school (and yes- including human evolution).

  2. I saw this article today and it reminded me of your post:

    Parents say they want their kids to have morals, but "caring" is usually ranked second to academic achievement in parents' priorities, which get passed down to their kids.

    Common Core doesn't include empathy scores I'm guessing.


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