Re: Enculturation

Robert White (rwhite@SUPERIOR.CARLETON.CA)
Thu, 13 Apr 1995 16:53:48 GMT

Hello, I noticed your request and thought that I would put this up for
you. Additionally, Dr. Laughlin is an Anthropologist and he is the
author of this book which I recommend highly. Additionally, if you
need references for a good text to use in your course I can put you in
touch with Dr. Laughlin via e-mail. I would rather you wrote to me for
his address though.

Anywho, here is a ref from his book and it pertains to the
enculturation process. Hope your students like it.

REF: Laughlin, C. D. (1992). _BRAIN, SYMBOL & EXPERIENCE_ Towards a
Neurophenomenology of Human Consciousness.
Columbia University Press NEW YORK.

Chapter six _The Symbolic Process_ pg172-73


"The symbolic process operates in cognition largely at an unconscious
level. It is, of course, possible to become more aware of the symbolic
process through contemplation. However, most human beings are only
dimly aware of this process in experience, and can only remain so
without carefully examining the relationships that obtain between the
various factors making up that meaningful experience. Yet for an individual
or group there exist many symbols that are consciously cognized to one
degree or another as symbolic, for example, stimuli in the world or inter-
nalized in ritually delineated bundles. Although cognized symbols are the
products of the symbolic process, additional principles come into play for
this type of symbol. Furthermore, it may be argued that cognized symbols
are an evolutionary advance over simple symbols. For these reasons it is
useful to maintain a distinction between the ubiquitous stimulus-as-object
of the symbolic process and the relatively less frequent cognized (big-S)

A person's or society's SYMBOLS are typically those that may evoke models
of the most extensive and profound intentionality (e.g., flags, totems,
shamanic regalia, religious icons, commercial logos, personal costumary,
etc.). SYMBOLS also tend to be hierarchically organized within systemic
bundles concentrated upon few primary ("dominant," "core," "key") SYMBOLS,
the evocative fields of which contain the intentionalities of other
secondary SYMBOLS (see Ortner 1973; Marshack 1976; Turner 1967). Ritually
delimited SYMBOLS provide material of the greatest interest to ethnographers,
most of whom come from SYMBOLICALLY impoverished postindustrial cultures.
A society's repertoire of SYMBOLS is never more than a small subset of
of symbols operating within and between its members' cognized environments
(Mead 1934; see also Schneider 1968 on Americans; Munn 1973a on the Walbiri;
Ortner 1970 on the Sherpas; Turner 1967 on the Ndembu).

Several authorities have noted the difficulty of dealing with the communal
and idiosyncratic aspects of symbolism (Sperber 1975:102, Firth 1973). The
distinction between "public" and "private" symbolism or intentionality
has only minimal analytic significance and is untenable from the vantage
point of ontogenesis. In ontogenesis, the degree of symbolic communality
--that is, the degree of overlap between intentionalities in the cognition
of various group members evoked by a single stimulus--depends upon the
extent to which the object-intentionality relationship has been canalized
by (1) genetically predisposed neurognostic ("archetypal") structure; for
example, mandala symbolism (Jung 1969), phobia (Seligman and Hagar 1972),
parenting, and other social cognition (Count 1973); (2) common experience
and socially conditioned interpretation; or (3) a combination of factors
1 and 2 as co-producers. In any case, genetic predistribution and social
conditioning will combine to provide only sets of constraints to the
intentionality evoked by a symbol (recall our structural landscape model
above; see page 53ff). There will always be a degree of variance among
the evocative fields in different individuals within any social group
regarding the range of experiences recorded in memory and triggered by
symbols, and the level of cognitive complexity at which the
intentionality has been organized. Thus, any symbol will be more or less
"public," more or less "private" in its evocation.

Naturally enough, Symbols evidence a great deal of standardization of
intentionality among group members. This is because the inculcation of
intentionality during ontogenesis ("enculturation," "socialization") is
typically focused upon, and ritually structured about, those very
SYMBOLS. Standardization of intentionality minimizes the possibility of
social dysfunctional meaning, particularly in response to SYMBOLS used
to elicit social action. And, as Firth (1973) points out, those in the
society who control these SYMBOLS control the intentionality, and thereby
social power."

----------------------------------------- Carleton University ----------
Robert G. White Dept. of Psychology
Ottawa, Ontario. CANADA
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