Culture as Embodiment - The Social Tuning ofBehavior
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More About This Title Culture as Embodiment - The Social Tuning ofBehavior


Culture as Embodiment utilizes recent insights in psychology, cognitive, and affective science to reveal the cultural patterning of behavior in group-related practices.

  • Applies the best of the behavioural sciences to contemporary issues of behavioural cross-fertilization in global exchange
  • Presents an original theory to be used in the gender and integration debates, about what the acceptance of newcomers from different cultural backgrounds really entails
  • Presents a theory that is also applicable to youth culture and the split in modern society between underclass, modal class, and the elite
  • Contains an original approach to the persistence of religion, and relates religious thought to the cognitive capacity of generic belief


Paul Voestermans is Emeritus Associate Professor in Cultural Psychology at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He also taught at the Bogaziçi University in Istanbul. He has contributed articles on culture and behaviour in Theory & Psychology, New Ideas in Psychology, and has written several books in the field.

Theo Verheggen is Associate Professor in Cultural Psychology and History of Psychology at the Open Universiteit Nederland. He has published several articles on the development of an enactive perspective for cultural psychology in various books and journals.


Preface vii

Acknowledgments xii

Part One Towards a New Psychology of Culture 1

1 Understanding Culture 3

2 Inventing Culture Theory 27

3 A Psychological Perspective on Culture 70

Part Two Sex, Status, Age, Ethnicity, and Faith 109

4 Sex: The Shaping of Sex and Gender 113

5 Status: The Body of Class and Organized Compliance 141

6 Age: The Optimal Balance of Love and Challenge 160

7 Ethnicity: Cultural Arrests and Bicultural Competence 188

8 Faith: Religion as a Man-made Order 211

Part Three Psychology and Globalization 243

9 A Psychology of Globalization 245

10 Epilogue 287

Bibliographical Essay 292

Index 319


"What I liked most about Culture as Embodiment is its positioning of psychological principles and behavioral patterns within the context of everyday life. This aspect of the book should not come as a surprise, given its focus on culture. But it is noteworthy, nonetheless, because in covering what are at times quite abstract concepts in psychology and beyond (e.g. metaphorical reasoning) the authors manage to force readers to traverse multiple terrains across history, economics, political science, and anthropology." PsycCritiques, July 2014

“In sum, with rich analyses and admirable aims, Culture as Embodiment reimagines what a psychological science of culture can mean for the 21st century, providing a compelling alternative to prevailing cultural psychological theories.” Theory and Psychology, July 2015

Voestermans and Verheggen provide a thorough critique of superficial views that treat culture as an invisible determinant of human behavior—analogous to the way magnetism determines the behavior of iron filings. Their perspective is integrative, seeking to link the biological and social levels, as well as interactionist, focusing on the ways that members of primary groups relate to each other. This book will be invaluable to researchers in academic disciplines such as anthropology, organizational behavior, psychology, and sociology as well as to those who are vitally interested in the ways that cultural influences shape the development and constrain the application of a wide variety of public policies.
Professor Michael K. Lindell, Texas A&M University

Yet another book on culture? If the reader thinks he or she has read too many already, think again! Readers interested in the subject, whatever their perspectives or backgrounds, will find a fresh look at the subject with much to stimulate their thinking and emotions. The book views it through the unique prism of behavioral patterns embedded in specific social categories—including gender, status, age, ethnicity, and religion. Its breadth and scope, variety of theoretical terrains and illustrative examples explored, and the stark nature of the argument provides a fascinating paradigm for understanding globalization and its cultural discontents.
Khaled Adham, Associate Professor, UAE University

This book, written in a fascinating and powerful style, offers a revolutionary perspective on what culture is, how it is formed, and how it shapes behavior. It should be read by everyone who takes culture seriously.
Professor Zeynep Kiziltepe,Boðaziçi University, Istanbul

In this thoughtful and thought-provoking study, the authors present a refreshing and genuinely new theory of culture that is more bottom-up than top-down, that is rooted in habits rather than the result of normative coercion. Their theory cannot be categorized as purely psychological or sociological, because it is a challenge to both disciplines. Voestemans and Verheggen re-examine existing social theory as well as pressing contemporary issues to offer a bold and new way of thinking about them.
—Stjepan Mestrovic, Texas A&M University

This work takes a fresh look at what we mean by culture and analyzes the way in which psychology and culture have passed each other by on so many occasions.  Voestermans and Verheggen show us how socially patterned behavior can meaningfully and usefully enhance an understanding of culture not as a mysterious entity but rather as a human accomplishment.  A work of profound insight, this book is a valuable tool in helping us grapple with the deep cultural dislocations of the present.
Henderikus J. Stam, Editor: Theory & Psychology