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People are social beings, so there is no wonder that a personality is largely determined by the environment in which a person lives. Psychologists believe that people’s social roles are like masks, which they can wear and change depending on the situation. The essay Complexion by Rodriguez explores the attributes like race and appearance that contribute to overall perception of a person in society. This is the case with any interaction of a person: the models of behavior do change to adjust to environment, so it is possible to speak about a vague identity in this case. When analyzing the reasons of identity clash, Jungian psychology and the theory of cultural transmission can be used. Thus, a person’s adaptation to different environments is determined by the existence of “persona” and by the mechanism of cultural transmission.
Identity is a phenomenon that has been studied by philosophers and psychologists for centuries. In this context, Jungian idea of personality looks quite interesting as it answers the questions about the mechanism of mask that a person wears depending on social expectations. Carl Gustav Jung, a famous Swiss psychologist and analyst, introduces the term “persona” when he speaks about a certain mental and behavioral pattern that a person takes in a particular social situation. He believes it to be "a mask of the collective psyche; a mask which simulates individuality, which makes others and oneself believe that one is individual, while it is only a part being played, through which the collective psyche speaks” (Shamdasani 305). So, this approach explains why a person can be characterized by such a flexible personality depending on a situation or a group belonging.
Personally, I find myself acting in different ways when being with my family and with my friends, and I see the same in other people’s behavior. It is true that my environment is different at home and outside it, which quite naturally results in different sides of my personality reveal in each case. I am clearly more traditional at home with my parents, while I can be more outgoing and innovative with my friends. There is an approach of cultural transmission, which refers to family, peers, teachers, media, etc as agents of this transmission. Three types of cultural transmission are usually distinguished: a vertical one, a horizontal one, and an oblique one. The vertical cultural transmission usually refers to a family and includes a whole range of values that are passed from one generation to another one: “personality traits, cognitive development, attitudes, attainments, educational and occupational status, patterns of upward/downward mobility, sex-role conceptions, sexual activity, attitude towards feminism, political beliefs and activities, religious beliefs, dietary habits, legal and illegal drug abuse, phobias, self-esteem, and language and linguistic usage”( Schoenpflug 5). Although this list is quite long, it is obvious that there is part of cultural experience that reveals itself when dealing with one’s family in the best way, yet its influence weakens when a person stays away from the family.
A family is a closed system, the most conservative one, yet it is usually the place where a person can reveal more of their true identity. So, there is a controversy about the self that one exposes to the family: on the one hand, expectations of goodness can work to force a person in being deliberately good, as a kind of a mask. Thus, for instance, many children can lie to their parents about who they are because they do not want to disappoint them. In this case a mask ( persona) comes into play and tries hard to meet other people’s expectations. So, personally, I can be influenced by this pattern, as my face in the family is more mature, traditional, and respectful.
On the other hand, however, family is a place of trust that a person is not able to find elsewhere. It is a secure place where the influence of “persona” is lowered, so a person’s face can be more natural.
Another type of cultural transmission is a horizontal one and usually deals with shaping personality by communication with one’s peers or equals. This usually takes place outside the family, and the environment can be quite hostile and competitive to some people. Apparently, when I find myself in a new company, I am quite cautious and do not start communication at once, while I can be quite more open with my family and my old friends. This is obviously another side of my personality, which adapts to the environment. Communication with peers usually refers to horizontal way of cultural transmission, which is more likely to shape other types of values than vertical transmission. The very pattern of communication between peers differs from a hierarchy typical for a family.
Apparently, there are more and less conservative families, hence a person’s “self” shown within the family can depend on the culture and tradition of this unit. In case the family is religious, or patriarchal, the personality revealed by a child can be quite different than in a more liberal community. One can be more modest, submissive, respectable to one’s parents, and be quite relaxed within a group of friends outside the ethnical or religious community. Yet, one can be very relaxed with parents too, if the family’s culture is democratic and broad-minded. There are families when a child-parent relationship looks similar to communication between friends. So, this example demonstrates how vertical cultural transmission works and how it affects one’s identity. It is worth saying that the notion of a norm is quite vague nowadays because of cultural diversity that is characteristic of today’s society. Thus, because a person belongs to several contexts at the same time, he or she can have several personalities for each of them. The more significant is the gap between the values of society and family, the more different faces a person has whenever he or she communicated within different groups.
In conclusion, it is worth saying that a person can have two or more selves stemming from his or her identity, but there is not much contradiction about that. There are theories like Jungian psychology and cultural transmission, which explain the mechanisms of identity functioning in social groups. The notion of persona reveals one’s desire to adopt a pattern of behavior favored by a particular society and group. This is a type of a mask which can be changed when dealing with different contexts. The difference between horizontal and vertical transmission explains why values are revealed differently with peers and with one’s family. It is also obvious that the more different are environments in which a person lives, the more contrasting the two or more personalities are going to be and the higher is going to be flexibility of behavior and thinking.