Internalization: How culture becomes mind

Internalization, the process by which culture becomes mind, is a core concept in cultural psychology. However, since the 1990s it has also been the source of debate. Critiques have focused on the underlying metaphor of internal-external as problematic. It has been proposed that appropriation provides a better conceptualization, a term that focuses attention more on behavior and less on psychological processes. The present article reviews the debate and introduces the recent concepts of position exchange and symbolic resources. Position exchange focuses on the societal side of culture, on the way in which social situations shape people’s experiences. Symbolic resources focus on culture in terms of specific elements, such as books, films, and so on, which also shape people’s experiences. The key idea common to both position exchange and symbolic resources is that people move through culture, both physically and psychologically. Moving through culture shapes a series of experiences across the life-course, and these experiences “layer up” within individuals, forming a complex sedimentation of culture within individuals. In so far as culture is heterogeneous and fragmented, so the sedimented layers of experience will also be heterogeneous and fragmented, thus creating the tensions that underlie the dynamics of mind.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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