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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
Sunday, 19 May 2024, 12:59 (12:59 PM) CDT, day 140 of 2024

Mustard seed.
Selected Culture and Personality WebSites

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(Startle Reflex)

 Text, "Boo!: Culture, Experience, and the Startle Reflex, by Ronald C. Simons.

Latah: A Culture Specific Elaboration of the Startle Reflex
(38 min., 1990, UM DULUTH Martin Library DVD GN635.M4 L38 2006)

[NOTE: The UMD Library copy of this video, VC 4651, from the University of Indiana has a false start at the beginning. The actual video starts a couple of minutes after the blank section which follows the false start.]

script of the film

(Video segment 8:25 min., 1978)
Indiana University Instructional Support Service

Documentary on Malaysian culture's focus on the startle reflex


other culture-bound syndromes


  Ronald C. Simons

latah Malaysian and Indonesia afflicted person becomes flustered and may say and do things that appear amusing, such as mimicking people's words and movements

Adapted from Cultural Anthropology, 2nd ed. Miller, Barbara D. Boston:Allyn and Bacon, 2002, p. 156, who, in turn adapted it from Ronald C. Simons and Charles C. Hughes, eds., The Culture-Bound Syndromes: Folk Illnesses of Psychiatric and Anthropological Interest, Boston, D. Reidel, 1985: 91-110.

Film Guides

Terms / Concepts

  • hyperstartling

  • normal / abnormal

  • Disease is universal

    • compare: etic

  • Illness is culturally specific

    • compare: emic

  • Ainu


  • Only certain women in the village are latah (2)

  • Only one man is latah

  • Some think that latah runs in the family, but the role of heredity in latah is uncertain


  • Bakker, M. J., van Dijk, J. G., Pramono, A., Sutarni, S. and Tijssen, M. A.J. (2013), Latah: An Indonesian startle syndrome. Mov. Disord., 28: 370–379. doi: 10.1002/mds.25280.

  • Simons, Ronald C. Boo!: Culture, Experience, and the Startle Reflex (series in Affective Science). Oxford University Press, 1996.

    "The startle reflex provides a revealing model for examining the ways in which evolved neurophysiology shapes personal experience and patterns of recurrent social interaction. In the most diverse cultural contexts, in societies widely separated by time and space, the inescapable physiology of the reflex both shapes the experience of startle and biases the social usages to which the reflex is put. This book describes ways in which the startle reflex is experienced, culturally elaborated, and socially used in a wide variety of times and places. It offers explanations both for the patterned commonalities found across cultural settings and for the differences engendered by diverse social environments. Boo! will intrigue readers in fields such as psychological anthropology, medical anthropology, general cultural anthropology, social psychology, cross-cultural psychiatry, evolutionary psychology, and human ethology.

  • Simons, Ronald C. Introduction to Culture-Bound Syndromes, Psychiatric Times, Vol. 18 No. 11, 01 November 2001.

  • Winzeler, Robert L. Latah in Southeast Asia: The History and Ethnography of a Culture-bound   Syndrome. (Publications of the Society for Psychological Anthropology) Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

  • Winzeler, Robert L. (1984, April). The Study of Malayan Latah [Electronic version]. Indonesia, 77-104.


Related WebSites


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