Culture and Memory
- Brady WagonerBrady WagonerDepartment of Psychology, Aalborg University
Within the course of a day people perform innumerable feats of memory. They are involved in remembering when they search for their keys, find their way through a city, reminisce on episodes from their past, or join in commemorations such as independence days and religious rituals. Culture plays a crucial role in all of these mnemonic activities. Memories come into being and take form through both a set of internalized cultural conventions, specific to the society in question, as well as a particular setting therein (e.g., therapy, court of law or church). Furthermore, culture has arguably shaped how memory is understood and the uses it has been put to, as can be seen in how the concept has differed across history and societies. But what is culture and how does it operate? Although culture has been variably understood throughout history and even by researchers in the early 21st century, there is consensus that it is something that is taken over from society, rather than being innate, and transmitted across generations with modifications. In psychology it is typically operationalized in two ways: In cross-cultural psychology it is something one belongs in (usually a national group) as a function of language, traditions, and geo-political borders, while in cultural psychology it is approached as a psychological tool that shapes and enables memory. Taking account of culture provides an opening to investigate memory socialization, setting specificity, and collective remembering.