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Mentality (from the Latin mens , relating to the spirit ) denotes a predominant psychological personality trait (predisposition) in the sense of a thought and behavior pattern of a person or social group (e.g. a population or professional group) and is also related to entire nations . Cultural scientists try to make the mentality describable through so-called " cultural standards ". However, their seriousness is controversial as they can lead to stereotypes .

Scientifically, the term is mainly used in sociology and in the history of mentality .

Mentalities in sociology

Theodor Geiger describes mentality as “subjective ideology ”. He assumes that people develop a certain mentality due to their social class and the living conditions associated with it. For Geiger, layer is the combination of a social situation with a specific mentality, which is reflected in the way of life (life style). But not all people in one class develop the same mentality.

The assumption of collective dispositions that determine people's behavior and thinking also meets with criticism. For the historian Stefan Haas, mentality is a “dazzling term” that is used to denote collective states of consciousness. Mentalities are more informal than z. B. political ideologies and therefore difficult to determine and delimit.

The concept of mentality can have a negative connotation in the sense of cliché , prejudice or stereotype . On the other hand, a mentality can be consciously accepted as the basis for behavioral norms in a social grouping.

Mentality in psychology

Carol Dweck , a leading psychologist in mentality and behavioral research, addresses two different types of mentality here. The growth mindset and the fixed mindset. In a 2012 interview, she explains how these two types work:

“With a fixed mindset, the students believe that their basic skills, their intelligence, their talents are only fixed qualities. You have a certain amount and that's about it, and then your goal becomes to always look smart and never look stupid. In a growing mindset, students understand that their talents and skills can be developed through effort, good teaching, and perseverance. They don't necessarily believe that everyone is the same or that everyone can be Einstein, but they do believe that everyone can get smarter by working on it. "

In short, those with a “fixed mindset” believe that skills are mostly innate and interpret failure as the lack of necessary basic skills, while those with a “growth mindset” believe that they can acquire any skill provided they try or study.

Historical mentality research

The historian Peter Dinzelbacher defines a historical mentality as the “ensemble of wise men and contents of thought and feeling that is formative for a certain collective in a certain time. Mentality manifests itself in actions ”. In this perspective, the mentality shapes the worldview of a group of people from a historical epoch (e.g. the early Enlightenment rationalism of large parts of the Western European elites). It is part of the respective culture . While most historians use the concept of mentality to describe long-range and only very slowly changing mental dispositions of large groups over longer periods of time, there have been isolated attempts to apply it to situations of upheaval that change much more quickly, such as the time of the French Revolution or the phase of Allied occupation in Germany apply.

Historical mentality research began in Germany differently than in France (where the representatives of the Annales school established the history of mentality) or in England only in the 1980s.

See also


  • André Burguière (Ed.): History of mentalities. For the historical reconstruction of intellectual processes (= Wagenbach's pocket library. Volume 152). Edited by Ulrich Raulff. Wagenbach, Berlin 1987, ISBN 3-8031-2152-3 .
  • Peter Dinzelbacher (Ed.): European Mentality History. Main themes in individual representations (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 469). 2nd, revised and supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-46902-1 .
  • František Graus: Mentality - Attempting a definition and methods of investigation. In: Mentalities in the Middle Ages. 1987, pp. 9-48.
  • Volker Sellin mentality and history of mentality. In: Historische Zeitschrift, 241 (3), 1985, pp. 555-598.

Web links

Wiktionary: Mentality  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Theodor Geiger: The social stratification of the German people: sociographical attempt on a statistical basis. Stuttgart 1932.
  2. mentality. on:
  3. James Morehead: Stanford University's Carol Dweck on the Growth Mindset and Education. In: June 19, 2012, accessed August 11, 2020 .
  4. Peter Dinzelbacher (Ed.): European Mentality History. 2nd Edition. Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-46902-1 , pp. XXI ff.
  5. ^ Michel Vovelle : The French Revolution: Social movements and upheaval in mentalities. 6th edition. Fischer TB, Frankfurt a. M. 1997.
  6. ^ Klaus Hentschel : The mentality of German physicists in the early post-war period (1945-1949) . Synchron Verlag, Heidelberg 2005 (= studies on science and university history).