• Human behaviour is shaped by the interaction of variety of biological, psychological and social
elements. Sociologists reject determinist arguments that suggest human behaviour is
biologically, or genetically pre-programmed.
What is Culture?
• Culture refers to the totality of the various material and non-material aspects of human
existence. It includes knowledge, language, values, customs, and material objects that are
passed from person to person and from one generation to the next in a human group or society.
• Culture brings people together, but it also pulls people apart.
• Culture is complex, shared, diverse, and cumulative.
Biological aspect of human behaviour:
• instinct: unlearned, biologically determined complex behaviour patterns that is assumed to exist
in every member of the species, and cannot be controlled by force of will. spiders and web
• reflex: unlearned biologically determined involuntary response to some physical stimulus
• drives: unlearned biologically determined impulses that satisfy needs such as sleep, food, water,
sexual gratification etc.
Culture and Structure
• It is important to clarify the differences between culture and structure.
• Structural aspects of society are enduring patterns of social relations and social institutions
through which society is organized and through which behaviour is carried out (i.e. gendered
structure of the Canadian labour market)
• Culture can vary significantly across time and space.
• Cultures can be differentiated on the basis of physical space and social groupings.
▫ subculture: a cultural pattern that differs from the dominant culture in some distinctive
▫ counterculture: cultural patterns strongly at odds with the dominant culture
• Cultural boundaries are often difficult to define as borrowing happens all the time.
Symbolic Aspects of Culture:
• human beings live in a world not just of objects and action but of meaning. The human world is
• language: a system of symbols with standard meanings that allows members of a society to
communicate with one another.
▫ Language is a system of words both written and spoken.
▫ Communication is the sharing of meaning by which thoughts of one person are made
understandable to another.
▫ Sapir and Whorf : language can also determine our reality.
Values and Norms:
• values: the standards by which members of a culture define right or wrong, what is desirable or
undesirable. Through values culture gives shape to our lives
• norms: relatively precise rules that guide or regulate social life Types of Norms:
• Folkways: informal norms or everyday customs that may be violated without serious
consequences within a given culture
• Mores (mos): are strongly held with moral & ethical connotations that when violated provoke a
relatively strong reaction on the part of other group members.
• Laws: are formal, standardized norms that have enacted by the law makers and are enforced by
cultural relativity: the principle that all cultures are equally valid and that every culture
must be judged on its own terms.
cultural pluralism: A system in which a number of distinct cultural identities co-exist
through shared recognition of each other's need for a cultural identity.
culture shock: the personal disorientation that may accompany exposure to an unfamiliar
way of life
How does Culture Change?
• Cultural change is often said to be the result of economic and technological changes or as
responses to other cultural developments.
• discovery: is the process of learning about something previously unknown or unrecognized
• invention: is the process of reshaping existing cultural items into a new form
• diffusion: the transmission of cultural items or social practices from one group or society to