Cultural Consonance, Consciousness, and Depression: Genetic Moderating Effects on the Psychological Mediators of Culture
Research on the causes of depression has focused on stressors emanating from the social environment (such as stressful life events); psychological mediators (such as perceived stress); and, with the mapping of the human genome, on specific genetic polymorphisms thought to influence risk (Monroe & Reid, 2009). More recently, research has examined the synergistic effects of genes and stressors (Monroe & Reid 2008). Of the variety of factors thought to influence mood, emotion, and psychological distress, cultural influences have been perhaps the most difficult to study, due to seemingly intractable theoretical and methodological problems. The recent development of a theory of cultural consonance has, however, offered a new direction in research on culture (Dressler 2007). The concept and measurement of cultural consonance are embedded in a cognitive theory of culture and link systems of shared meaning to individual belief and behavior. Cultural consonance is the degree to which individuals, in their own beliefs and behaviors, approximate prototypes for that belief or behavior encoded in shared cultural models. Lower cultural consonance has been found to be associated with greater depression (Dressler, et al. 2007a). Recently, we also reported on an interaction between cultural consonance and a genetic polymorphism in the brain serotonin system. The magnitude of the effect of cultural consonance on depression changes depending on the specific variant of the gene coding for one of the serotonin receptors (Dressler, et al. 2009). In this chapter, we will examine these findings further, especially in terms of the way in which the psychological processes that mediate the link of cultural consonance and depression are in turn modified in the presence of a specific genetic variant. These results have implications for how the intersection of neurophysiology, culture, and consciousness influence individual human adaptation.