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SOCY 500

Culture as Problem Solving -sociologists define culture as the ideas, practices, and material objects that people create to deal w/ real-life problems -popular and mass culture is consumed by all classes, but high culture tends to be consumed by mainly upper class -tools and religion are also elements of culture -widely shared and passed from one generation to the next -shared culture is socially transmitted -thus, culture comprises the socially transmitted ideas, practices, and material objects that enable people to adapt to, and thrive in, their environments The Origins of Culture: -the human cultural survival kit consists of: -abstractionability to create general ideas or ways of thinking -ex. symbolsideas that carry meaning -cooperationcapacity to create a complex social life by establishing norms and values -by analyzing how people cooperate and produce norms and values we can learn much about what distinguishes one culture from another -productioninvolves making and using tools and techniques that improve our ability to take what we want from nature -uniquely human activity -material culture b/c it is tangible -symbols, norms, and values are non-material culture b/c they are intangible 3 types of norms: 1. Folkways: norms that specify social preferences. Punishment is minor. 2. Mores: norms that specify social requirements Punishment is modestly harsh. 3. Taboos: strongest and most central norm. When violated, it causes revulsion in the community and severe punishment Culture and Biology The Evolution of Human Behaviour: -biology sets broad human limits and potentials, including the potential to create culture -evolutionary psychology claims that genes account not just for physical characteristics but also for specific behaviours and social practices -based on Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest -most sociologists disagree Male promiscuity, Female fidelity, and other myths: -contemporary evolutionary psychologists use Darwin’s method to make similar arguments about human behaviour and social arrangements -they first identify and supposedly universal human behaviour trait -next offer explanation as to why this behaviour increases survival chances -final part is that the behaviour in question cannot easily be changed -the characteristics that maximize the survival chances of a species supposedly are encoded or “hardwired” in our genes Problems w/ their theory: -first, some behaviours discussed by evolutionary psychologists are not universal and some are not even
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