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Jahoda, G. Lewis, I. (1988). Acquiring Culture. Brit. J. Psychother., 4(3):294-296.

(1988). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 4(3):294-296

In Summary

Acquiring Culture

G. Jahoda and I. Lewis

It has been commonplace since the time of the Greeks that humans are essentially social animals. Itard, who studied the ‘wild boy of Aveyron’, went so far as to declare that isolated humans in a state of nature are inferior to many animals and it is only the society of his fellows that lifts humans up above the animal level. At the same time the line between humans and animals was by no means clearly drawn during the 18th century and there was controversy over the status of, for instance, pygmies. Moreover, the nature and origins of differences between human groups have always intrigued people. Even outstanding scientists like Linnaeus put forward ideas that now strike us as bizarre. The founder of botany, he wrote a book entitled System of Nature in which he divided humans into two species: homo sapiens and homo monstrous, the latter category including Patagonians, Hottentots and Chinese! During the 19th century such absurdities gradually disappeared, being replaced first by an evolutionary model whereby ‘primitives’, being less evolved, came to be equated with ‘civilised’ children. Towards the end of the century the view that differences between ethnic groups are due to biological inheritance became prominent, and ‘race’ became not merely a scientific but also a political issue.

The notion that group differences result mainly from inherited ‘racial’ dispositions tends to persist in popular belief, in spite of all attempts to combat it.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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