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A Psycho-Existential View of Culture

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Part of the International and Cultural Psychology book series (ICUP)

Abstract

A central proposition of this book is that culture(s) have important characteristics and functions that address core human concerns and needs. At the outset of this volume, multiple definitions of “culture” were considered and two became the focus of this narrative. It was asserted that humans have an existential need to know how to be and act in the world ...that humans need a roadmap for living and that culture(s) serve as a psychological defense against the terror inherent in the human condition. Culture(s) serve this essential function by providing a worldview that may be internalized that offers standards that if achieved allows for the construction of self-esteem. Self-esteem, the conviction that one has value in a meaningful world, serves as defense against the potentially crippling anxiety that is resident in the human condition due to our cognitive complexity that allows for the realization of our mortality. The conviction that one is of value in a meaningful world (self-esteem) is proposed as a human need that is addressed and constructed culturally. A previous chapter described how Buddhism, Confucianism and Judaism describe reality and offer a roadmap for being and acting in the world. This chapter will focus on how culture(s) serve as a psychological defense against existential terror. Selected evidence for this proposition extracted from the hundreds of empirical tests of hypotheses developed from Terror Management Theory (TMT) will be presented and the implications and applications of this compelling theory will be suggested and examined. Central to this examination is the foundational question of What do humans really need and how do culture(s) address them. Following this discussion, we will examine the psychological and behavioral consequences that happens when a people’s culture is traumatically disrupted and the world of meaning is shattered or the standards of value described by that description of reality become inaccessible.

Keywords

Existential Meaningful world Terror management Human condition Terror management hypotheses Empirical tests 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of Hawai‘i at ManoaHonoluluUSA

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