What is the Relationship between Anthropology and Psychology?

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Psychology is the science of human behaviour. Anthropology studies man in all places and times. In this way, both are closely related. Psychology is really the science of human experience and behaviour.

It studies man’s behaviour in relation to environment. Anthropology is also a comparative and analytic study of human behaviour and common principles are reached on that basis. Both of them carry on minute analysis of human nature. Both of them try to define man’s social behaviour. Both are complementary to each other. Whereas on one side a psychological knowledge helps an anthropologist in understanding the root causes of human behaviour in different cultures, on the other side anthropological studies help the psychologist in calculating the influence of cultural environment on human behaviour.

Utility of Anthropological Studies in Psychology

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In modern times, the various anthropological studies have given important help in the field of psychology. By studying different primitive cultures, anthropologists have shown how the human behaviour differs in different cultural environments.

Every culture has got its special method of social control which has an important influence on the personality of its members. For example, there has been a great disturbance in the adjustment of adolescence due to great restraint on the mutual relations among the individuals of different sex in civilzed societies.

It has been found out through anthropological studies that such changes are nowhere to be seen in many primitive societies. For example, as in civilzed societies, there is no restriction of any kind among the natives of Samoa Island and therefore an adult becomes self-reliant very early. In India, as compared to Hindu society, it is easier for adolescents of tribal society to become adult due to increased sex education and decreased restrictions.

In this way, psychologists learn from psychological studies the changes which can be seen in human personality and behaviour as a result of cultural changes. Remember that nothing can be known in this field on the basis of application, because cultural environments, specially in group form, cannot be created in an artificial way.

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In order to elicit the importance of the contribution of social anthropology in the field of psychology, only one example is enough. In modern age, anthropological discoveries have proved that different personalities are developed under different environments, and that difference of sex has very little influence.

The famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead studied the cultures of three primitive tribes of Arapesh, Mundugumor and Tchambuli in New Guinea. In Arapesh tribe, no difference was found in the personalities of men and women.

Both were equally found to be co-operating and serviceable. In Mundugumor tribe, men and women were both found to be cruel and aggressive. A difference was, no doubt, marked in the personalities of men and women of Tchambuli tribe. From this Margaret Mead concluded that the evolution of personality depends on cultural environment.

The close relation between psychology and anthropology is seen in the relation between the main branches, social psychology and cultural anthropology. In social psychology, individual behaviour is studied under social environments. Social anthropology also studies human society, social institution and groups.

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Explaining their relation, the famous anthropologist, Hoebel, writes that “The anthropologist concentrates chiefly on the society of primitive people and the sociologist concentrates on our contemporary civilization. The social psychologist roams happily between them manipulating his tests and measurements.” Difference between Anthropology and Psychology

In spite of the above mentioned close relation, the difference between anthropology and psychology should not be forgotten. In brief, the chief difference between them is given below:

1. Psychology studies the human behaviour whereas anthropology studies not an individual but the whole of mankind.

2. Psychology studies individual behaviour in social environments whereas social anthropology studies groups of individuals.

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3. Psychology and anthropology both study man but the viewpoint of both of them is different.

4. Whereas some such methods of observation are commonly employed in both of these sciences, some methods of psychology, for example, the introspection method, are not much used in anthropology.

5. Psychology and anthropology both have an important place in social sciences. A useful knowledge of human behaviour is obtained from both of them. Different researches have influenced each other in the field of both of them. In studying man, help from both of them is unavoidable.

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