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 Culture and Personality 

(Psychological Anthropology)

  Margaret Mead
 Zhuangzi dreaming of a butterfly
(or a butterfly dreaming of Zhuangzi)


 Fall 2018 Calendar
Saturday, 22 June 2024, 23:40 (11:40 PM) CDT, day 174 of 2024

Mustard seed.
Selected Culture and Personality WebSites

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Altered States of Consciousness



A Typology

Distinctive Features

Changes / Modifications


In the News . . .


 Altered states of consciousness
  Anomalous phenomenon

see also
  Near-death Experiences
  Optical Illusions
 Culturally Constituted Behavioral Envoronments (CCBE)
and Species Specific Behavioral Environments


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A Typology

"Arnold Ludwig, [in "Altered States of Consciousness." In R. Prince, ed., Trance and Possession States, Montreal: R. .M. Bucke Memorial Society] listed five major types of ASC, classifying them by the manner in which they are induced. For each of these five types he listed a dozen or more forms, so the total comes to more than sixty different forms of ASC, and the list is not complete. The five sets of causes of AC are" (after Erika Bourguignon, Psychological Anthropology, 1979, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, pp. 335-236):

  1. the reduction of exteroceptive stimulation and/or motor activity

    • involves a decrease form a presumed preexisting "normal" level of stimulation or activity

      • highway hypnosis

      • sensory deprivation produced either experimentally or as a result of solitary confinement

  2. its opposite, the increase of exteroceptive stimulation and/or motor activity

    • involves an increase form a presumed preexisting "normal" level of stimulation or activity

      • mob contagion
      • religious conversion
      • healing trances in revivalistic settings
      • "dance and music trance"
      • battle fatigue
      • hysterical conversion neuroses
      • dissociational states
      • . . .

  3. increase of alertness or mental involvement

        • prolonged vigilance or sentry duty
        • watching a radar screen
        • fervent prayer

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    1. its opposite, decrease in alterness or mental activity

        • relaxation of critical faculties in daydreaming
        • boredom
        • profound relaxation
        • mediumistic trance
        • meditation states

    2. a series of 'somatopsychological' factors

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Distinctive Features

  • [Ludwig points out that] these causes, which appear at times to be contradictory . . . lead to states that share a number of important and distinctive features

  • alterations in thinking

    • disturbed sense of time

    AskMarilyn banner.

       During a recent downpour, the driver of a car in the oncoming lane lost control and headed straight for me. Suddenly, time seemed to switch to slow motion, and this allowed me to maneuver my car out of danger. It felt as though I had more time to react. Is this a common occurrence?
      —Bob English, Lakeland, Fla.

      Yes. Auto accidents sometimes cause this phenomenon, and the ability to shift to extreme concentration—which gives the illusion of slow motion—can be a lifesaver. Unfortunately, not everyone has this capability. Some people “freeze.”

      Parade, Sunday, 13 April 2008, p. 20.


    • loss of control

    • changes in the expression of emotions

    • changes in body image

    • perceptual distortion

    • changes in meaning and significance assigned to experiences or perceptions

    • a sense of the ineffable

    • feelings of rejuvenation

    • hypersuggestiblity

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Changes / Modifications

  • That is, altered states of consciousness are conditions in which sensations, perceptions, cognition, and emotions are altered

    • they are characterized by changes in

      • sensing

      • perceiving

      • thinking

      • feeling

    • they modify the relation of the individual to

      • self

      • body

      • sense of identity

      • the environment of time, space, or other people

    • they are induced by modifying sensory input, either directly by increasing or decreasing stimulation or alertness or indirectly by affecting the pathways of the sensory input by somotopsychological factors.


  • Note the great diversity among the examples.

    In our society,

    • some are fairly commonplace, others are unusual and striking events;

    • some are religious in nature, others are pathological;

    • some are socially constructive, others are dangerous and undesirable;

    • some are cases of individual deviance, others are culturally patterned and institutionalized.

    • They are grouped together because they share a limited set of causes" (p. 236).

  • as a result, the rules of perception and cognition that cross-cultural psychologists investigate do not necessarily apply to these states

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In the News . . .


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