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National character studies is a defunct anthropological focus that made broad and often flawed generalizations when studying cultural behavior as a means of justifying the concept of modal personality traits. That is, recognizing and applying behavioral patterns unanimously to citizens within a culture as a result of those citizens being born and or raised there. In short, stereotyping.
A good example of the logical fallacies this method produces is found in Ruth Benedict's book "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword", where she had studied Japanese culture during wartime. She characterized the Empire of Japan as having a preoccupation with aesthetics and militarism.
This book was a good example of Boasian anthropology founded by Franz Boas (of whom Benedict was a student). While it was the first to introduce a scientific method to anthropology, it had not yet developed adequate and recurrently verifiable data collection methods.
- Homayun Sidky (2004). Perspectives on culture: a critical introduction to theory in cultural anthropology, 174–8, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
- Terracciano A, Abdel-Khalek AM, Adám N, et al. (Oct 2005). National character does not reflect mean personality trait levels in 49 cultures. Science 310 (5745): 96–100.
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