Jun 11, 2019 in Health

Tradition within the Framework of Social Psychology

The system of traditions has always acted as a measure of human exploration of the natural and social environment. Tradition outlines the limits of a full, meaningful, and intelligent life on the basis of a specific ethnic identity. Traditions kept the patterns of thought and behavior of people, performing their basic function in the life of the ethnic group. They involved the new generations into the spiritual and material values of the ancestors. Thus, tradition represents a social and psychological phenomenon, which ensures the continuity of generations.

Tradition is multiple views, rites, habits and skills of practical and social activities, passed on from generation to generation. It is one of the regulators of social relations. Until the modern era, the term “tradition” was associated only with the phenomena that lost the novelty and represented a kind of stagnation. The original meaning of the term “tradition” incorporated aspects of special respect to the transmitted views, habits, and skills as a gift and, consequently, to the process of transmission (Giddens, 2013). Subsequently, this aspect was being lost in secular culture.

An ambivalent attitude toward the tradition has developed at the beginning of the 19th century in European culture. The attitude included an understanding of the universal historical role of tradition, reflected in the assessment of Johann Herder, who believed that tradition is the main driving force of history. At the same time, he called it “an opium of the spirit,” which lulls the individual initiative and critical thinking (Palma, Herder, Adler, & Menze, 2015). However, the attitude towards tradition got worse and worse, exacerbating by the success of scientific knowledge and technical and technological achievements that focused on innovation as the opposite of tradition. 

The main function of tradition is regulation of lifestyles of people within a certain self-consciousness. The system of traditions of any nation is the result of a long historical development. Every nation reproduces itself as an ethnic group and retains its spiritual and material culture through this system. In the past, adherence to tradition was an exclusively sacred matter. Obviously, society has always needed a system of traditions. As a social institution of the society functioning, they carried out their duties only through the active support of the public. In practice, a variety of social norms different in importance and significance regulated all kinds of activities (Singh, 2015).

Ethnic traditions are manifestations of the socio-psychological nature. The latter represents a temperament and culture of a particular ethnic community, as well as its characteristics and adaptive abilities carried out on a reflexive level or another one. Traditions are the reaction to the usual situation in the form of feelings and states, which are uniform for the people of a particular culture. These include collective emotional patterns, habits, preferences, tastes, customs, traditions, attitudes, and values (Singh, 2015). Together, they make up the characteristic features of ethnic identity and mentality.

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The social psychology scientists pay special attention to the importance of communication between human beings and the need to consider social contacts at revealing the essence of socio-psychological phenomena, which are formed and operate only through communication. The effect of such socio-psychological mechanisms as persuasion, suggestion, imitation, public opinion, and others manifests itself in the process of communication. The latter is a means by which the system of national identity interact with the public, individual, and group opinion. People share feelings, experiences, and other mental states. Any mental state of a person involves empathy and complicity, so people need to communicate.

Communicative function of communication reveals the exchange of information between communicating individuals. Interactive function expresses the organization of interaction between communicating individuals in the field of knowledge, ideas, and actions. A perceptual aspect of communication is the process of mutual perception of partners in dialogue and the establishment of mutual understanding on this basis. The idea of the unity of communication and other activities expresses the level of development of national consciousness (Singh, 2015). People always interact during certain activities that overlap with those of other people. This intersection creates a certain relationship of the people with the subject of their activities and other people, thereby revealing the nature of ethnic identity.

The experience and the attitude act as the essential characteristics of the state of consciousness, revealing the direction and the willingness of people towards certain activities. Some kind of motives of activity, which are the semantic phenomena in the life of ethnic groups, determine the mentality and behavior of an ethnicity. Instinctive impulses, biological drives, interests, desires, aspirations, life goals, attitudes, and ideals can act as a motive in the national consciousness. Activities of an ethnic group are impelled by the system of motives (Giddens, 2013). One of the motives may have a decisive role. The choice of motive depends on many factors, namely needs, interests, the level of culture, values, goals, civil position and many others.

Motives are an integral part of the decision process. In turn, the decision-making is an act of goal setting and conscious choice of the order and mode of action to achieve it. The most important moral and psychological side of the decision-making process is the awareness of responsibility by a person or a particular ethnic group. The awareness of the state of the value orientations system shapes some form of persuasion in the ethnic identity.

Motivation of social action contains the following principles:

  • The purpose of the individual;
  • The purpose of the group;
  • The response of others (Giddens, 2013).

Together, they form the motive for social action. In other words, the motive for social action is an individual and collective purpose in the light of meaningful social relationships, contacts, and expectations. Therefore, the specific content and orientation of the motive will be determined by the way these three elements would correlate and interact.

Some options that stemmed from such a correlation and interaction are imitation and suggestion. The socio-psychological phenomena of suggestion and imitation are the mechanisms in the implementation of communication and relationship processes. They act as the mechanisms for interlinking social outlook and social psychology (Singh, 2015). People influence each other, share their experience, and organize for joint activities due to this kind of mechanism. Therefore, suggestion and imitation play a special role in the formation of traditions and the everyday consciousness of an ethnic group.

Imitation is inherent in many animals and is the earliest in origin and development. A human masters a system of traditional behavior on the basis of imitation in the process of formation and development of ethnic groups. Social norms, spiritual values, cultural archetypes are the result of imitation. Imitation in the system of ethnic identity is carried out in the process of interpersonal communication via symbols, signs, and customs, etc. It leads to the formation of tradition and is one of the main ways in the cultural development of man. Imitation helps a person to adapt to the norms and traditions (Singh, 2015). Ultimately, it reflects the collective emotions and reactions, which establish a credible emotional and psychological background of traditions.

A human acquires habits not only by imitation but also by the public suggestion. When a person joins a particular group of people, he/she immediately gets suggestion concerning the external environment of customs and habits. Suggestion can be voluntary and involuntary one. If the suggestion is voluntary, a person has a specific purpose and uses special techniques to influence others (Giddens, 2013). The involuntary suggestion is a mental phenomenon that manifests itself in the process of adopting certain qualities from other people. The involuntary suggestion is responsible for a certain way of thinking, feeling and behavior people get, sometimes without realizing it (Giddens, 2013). It roots national traditions in the psyche of people. 

In the structure of national identity, suggestion plays an important role in the understanding of ethnic psychology, consciousness, and mentality. In the process of suggestion, the information is given directly. Its credibility is based on the brightness of the image, facts, examples, etc. (Singh, 2015). Thus, the content of suggestion is fixed in the memory of people in the form of visual images. Suggestion focuses on the usual standards of thinking that reproduce ideas and views. At the same time, the latter reflect the system of activity and behavior patterns, thereby creating a special socio-psychological atmosphere. In such circumstances, the content of suggestion is taken for granted. This expresses the active role of suggestion as a way of influence on people’s minds.

Thus, traditions are not only social but also psychological phenomena. They are inherent to ethnic groups, functioning in the form of suggestions, motives, value judgments, attitudes, stereotypes, and manifesting in human activities. They became an outlook on life, gave a certain direction to the social-psychological phenomena, and regulated lifestyle of ethnic groups. People could not work together and communicate without guiding by certain social and psychological attitudes, rules, and regulations. Socio-psychological phenomena in the system of ethnic traditions also had the function of human adaptation to conditions of life.  Under these conditions, a person experiences a certain state of consciousness, which results in the formation of a particular ethnic tradition.


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