VILIAS’ research in the field of anthropology is concerned with the foundations of being human. Cultural practises, meanings and symbols studied anthropologically are the links that connect our everyday life to pre-biblical times, to archaic humanity. By understanding the core of humanity, we can find ways for social change through technological advances, economic and political choices, but also recognise that certain aspirations are simply not feasible because of unchanging human nature. The archaic symbols and ideas that were forgotten in the West centuries ago are still alive in the villages and forests of Lithuania. The last European country to officially embrace Christianity only at the end of the 14th century, Lithuania has preserved the ancient memories of Europe throughout the millennia of its turbulent past.
Human nature, revealed through the study of ancient and modern cultures, is something that different peoples and cultures have in common. By knowing what they have in common, we can better understand each other in our multicultural societies and in the globalised world in general. In this context, it should be noted that multiculturalism is one of Lithuania’s distinctive features. The country is located at the crossroads of Byzantine and Western cultures and has therefore suffered and benefited from the influences of different peoples and nations for centuries. It’ is the right place to examine the understanding and misunderstandings in Europe today.
The holistic view of human nature applied in anthropological research cannot and shouldn’t be separated from the psychological study of the inner world of the individual. Anthropology is closely related to psychology and psychological knowledge is one of the cornerstones of anthropological work. But apart from providing deeper insights into general human nature, psychological research helps to understand why certain individuals and groups behave the way they do. Why some accept existing cultural practises and others resist them. Cultural studies cannot answer why the suicide rate in Lithuania is the highest in Europe or why alcohol consumption in the country is among the highest on the continent. The answers to pressing questions like these must be based on sound cognitive and behavioural psychological knowledge. Therefore, psychological knowledge is indispensable in many areas of social sciences, be it political science, law, economics, management, etc. Psychological research enables organisational and strategic decisions to be tailored to the needs and capabilities of the individuals and groups directly affected, thus enabling the smooth implementation of strategic and everyday tasks of states, companies and trusted groups of people.
People’s mental well-being directly affects and is partly determined by their physical health. Therefore, psychology and health studies must go hand in hand to find the best ways for society to survive, whether it’ is the problems of the ageing population or the deviant lifestyles of the young. Health studies not only occupy an important place in Lithuanian science, but are also of great importance to the Lithuanian economy. The biotechnology sector is one of the most promising sectors in Lithuania. Nevertheless, Lithuania lags behind most EU countries in life expectancy: the age-standardised mortality rate in Lithuania is the second highest in the EU, deaths from ischaemic heart disease and alcohol-related causes, as well as mortality rates that can be influenced by medical interventions, are among the highest in the EU. Health studies that look at the causes of disease therefore help us uncover something related to the culture of the country – high alcohol consumption, distrust of medical professionals and a general deficit in the perception that health is an essential resource for life and well-being.