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Physical Environment and Personality

Some of our earliest manuscripts are attempts to explain human behavior in terms of climate and geography. Sorriness [1928, chap. 3] summarizes the theories of hundreds of writers, from Confucius, Aristotle, and Hippocrates down to the modern geographer Ells worth Huntington, who have claimed that group differences in behavior, are due mainly to differences in climate, topography, and resources. Such theories fit beautifully into an ethnocentric framework. for geography provides a respectable, apparently objective explanation of our national virtues and other peoples’ vices. • As shown in Chapter 3, physical environment is a minor .factor in cultural evolution. It is even less important in personality development. Practically any kind of personality can be found in every kind of climate. True, the physical environment has some influence upon personality. The Athabaskans developed a set of dominant personality traits which enabled them to survive in a harsh subarctic climate [Boyer, 1974]. The Australian bushmen had a desperate struggle to stay alive, while it took the Samoans only a few minutes a day to gather more food than they could eat. Some regions even today can support only a very thinly scattered population, and density of population has some effects upon personality. The Ik (pronounced “eek”) of Uganda are slowly starving, following the loss of their traditional hunting lands, and, according to Turn bull [1973 J, they have become one of the most selfish, grasping peoples .on earth, totally lacking in kindness, helpfulness, or compassion, even seizing food from the mouths of their children in the battle to survive. The Corolla of Peru are described by Trotter [1973] as the most violent people. on earth, and he attributes this to hypoglycemia arising from dietary deficiencies. Obviously, physical environment has some influence upon personality and behavior. But of the five factors discussed in this chapter, physical environment is least often important far less often than culture, group experience, or unique experience

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