Ethnopsychological School

Ethnopsychological School


a trend in cultural anthropology in the USA that was dominant in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

The members of the ethnopsychological school, which was led by the psychiatrist A. Kardiner, included the cultural anthropologists R. Linton, R. Benedict, and A. Hallowell. The school considered the essence of the culture of each people to lie in the psychological traits of the “basic” (“average,” “modal,” “summary”) personality, which were studied by Freudian methods. The culture of a people was, in this view, “individual psychology thrown large upon the screen, given gigantic proportions and a long time span” (Benedict, “The Configurations of Culture,” American Anthropologist, vol. 34, 1932, p. 24).

According to the school, the “basic personality structure” is formed in the first years of life under the influence of the methods of child rearing characteristic of a given culture; these include the way in which the child is fed, clothed, and taught. The basic personality structure constitutes the immutable basis of a culture. The members of the ethnopsychological school ascribed the unequal status of national minorities to inferiority and cultural isolation; they derived class distinctions from differences in childhood experiences. The ethnopsychological school was criticized at the Wenner-Gren Foundation Symposium in 1952, and it quickly lost influence.


Averkieva, Iu. P. “O nekotorykh etno-psikhologicheskikh issledovaniiakh v SShA.” In Sovremennaia amerikanskaia etnografiia. Moscow, 1963.
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