Culture refers to a total way of life shared by people in a society (i.e., shared customs, traditions, norms,
beliefs, values, material products, and technology) that is passed from one generation to the next.
• Culture is a unique human capacity.
Components of Culture
• Material Culture – the material objects that distinguish a group of people, such as their art, buildings,
weapons, utensils, machines, clothing, and jewelry
• Nonmaterial Culture – a group’s ways of thinking (including its beliefs, values and other assumptions
about the world) and doing (it common patterns of behavior, including language and other forms of
• Material and nonmaterial culture are interrelated.
Characteristics of Culture
1) There is nothing "natural" about material or nonmaterial culture
2) Culture penetrates deep into our thinking, becoming a taken-for-granted aspect of our lives
3) Culture provides the lens through which we see the world and obtain our perception of reality
4) Culture provides implicit instructions that tell us what we ought to do in various situations; it provides
a fundamental basis for our decision-making
5) Culture provides a "moral imperative"; that is, by internalizing culture, people learn ideas of right and
6) Coming into a radically into contact with a radically different culture challenges our basic assumptions
7) Although the particulars of culture differ from one group of people to another, culture itself is
Diversity Between Cultures
• Culture Shock – the disorientation that people experience when they come in contact with a
fundamentally different culture and can no longer depend on their taken-for-granted assumptions
• Ethnocentrism – the use of one’s own culture as a yardstick for judging the ways of other individuals or
societies, generally leading to a negative evaluation of their values, norms, and behaviors
• Cultural Relativism – understanding a people from the framework of its own culture Diversity Within Cultures
• Subculture – a group whose values and related behaviors distinguish its members from the larger
• Counterculture – a group whose values, beliefs, and related behaviors place its members in opposition
to the broader culture
• Cultural Hegemony – the control over cultural institutions by an elite group of individuals
- Values are shared ideas about what is socially desirable and undesirable, what is good and bad.
- Norms are rules, expectations, and guidelines that govern what people should and should not think,
feel, and do in a given social situation; norms define expected and accepted be