The Role of Cultural Factors in Paranoid Psychosis among the Yoruba Tribe

Adeoye Lambo, Journal of Mental Science, 1955, 101, 239-266.

Excerpt: It is certainly noteworthy that, during the last few decades, whatever the contributory forces, more and more emphasis is being placed on the contention that man is a social being and that has his individuality as a person is meaningful only in terms of his relations with others. Mead (1947) has shown that man as a social being is subjected “throughout his entire individual existence to systematic cultural pressures” which reinforce or intensify, elaborate or suppress his psycho-biological potentialities in a way which not only refutes the false belief in the uniformity of human behavior but reveals also its most extreme types.

Recent trends in genetic psychiatry have pointed to the fact that the gene is no longer inviolable and “that man is not committed in detail by his biological constitution to any particular variety of behavior.” It is for this reason that, where the cultural experiences have greatly differed, attempts should be made to discover how closely related are observable personality traits and analysable cultural phenomena.

It is on this great problem of the relationship between mental and cultural processes that the author attempts to shed some light, drawing on the vast clinical and anthropological materials available in Yoruba culture most of which, however, are quite unknown to British psychiatrists. …