ANTHROPOLOGY CHAPTER 9: CULTURE AND CULTURE CHANGE
SOCIETY and CULTURE are not synonymous.
SOCIETY refers to a group of people
CULTURE refers to the learned and shared behaviours,
ideas, and charateristics of those people.
CULTURE IS COMMONLY SHARED
- not outside of time, but within. culture can change
over time. the culture of one people group today may
not be the same for the exact same people group in a
past or future setting.
- if only one person thinks or does a certain thing,
that is a personal habit, not a pattern of culture.
- but individuals do not necessarily all think and act
the same. individual variation is in face at major
source of new culture.
- when everyone in a society shares these learned
traits, we call it culture. when it is a smaller group
within a larger society sharing learned traits, it is
called a SUB-CULTURE.
CULTURE IS LEARNED
- although much is learned by trial and error and
imitation (like monkeys and apes do), most human ideas
are learned from others.
- symbolic language aids this immeasurably SO: SOMETHING IS CULTURAL IF IT IS A LEARNED BEHAVIOUR
OR IDEA (BELIE, ATTITUDE, VALUE, IDEAL) THAT MEMBERS OF
A SOCIETY OR OTHER SOCIAL GROUP GENERALLY SHARE.
Both ETHNOCENTRISM and it's opposite, GLORIFICATION, of
other cultures, hinder effective anthropological study.
- Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Melville Herskovits, and
Margarent Mead all challendged the attitude that
western cultures were obviously superior.
Cultural Relativism: society's customs and ideas should be described
objectively and understood in the context of that society's problems and
- does not mean that anthropologists should not try to
bring about positive change. tolerance should be the
basic mode unless there is strong reason to behave
otherwise. Judgements should not preclude accurate
description and explanation.
DESCRIBING A CULTURE
understanding what is cultural as opposed to individual
involves two parts:
1. separating what is shared from what is very
2. and understanding whether common behaviours and
ideas are learned. INDIVIDUAL VARIATION
- although individual variations are theoretically
limitless, they tend to fall within easily recognizable
- variations of behaviour are confined within socially
- some limitations are practical, some traditional.
- anthropologists try to distinguish between actual
behaviour and the ideas about how people in particular
situations ought to feel and behave.
IDEAL CULTURAL TRAITS - differ from actual behaviour
because the ideal is based on the way society used to
be / or based on what people would like to see as
correct behaviour. "equality before the law" "free
(this is called IDEAL CULTURE in Sociology too)
NORMS - importance of a norm can be judged by how
members of a sociely respond when the norm is violated.
2 basic types of cultural constraints:
1. DIRECT, the more obvious of the two. mores.
2. INDIRECT, folkways. no less effective.
HOW TO DISCOVER CULTURAL PATTERNS
- Two ways to discover cultural patterns:
1. Direct observation and interviews. 2. Studying larger sample groups.
In studying groups, we seek to determine the MODAL
RESPONSE or MODE - a statistical term referring to th
emost frequently encountered response. You could count
the distance people stand from one another during a
conversation and plot the points in what is called a
FREQUENCY DISTRIBUTION. The distance with the highest
frequency is the MODAL PATTERN.
- we suspect that particular behaviours and ideas are
largely learned if they vary from society to society.
- conversely, when behaviours or ideas are found in all
societies, we suspect genetic influences.
CULTURE IS PATTERNED
- CULTURE IS MOSTLY INTEGRATED, THE ELEMENTS OR TRAITS
THAT MAKE UP A CULTURE ARE NOT JUST RANDOM CUSTOMS BUT
ARE MOSTLY ADJUSTED TO OR CONSISTENT WITH ONE ANOTHER.
THE VARIETY OF CUSTOMS IN ANY ONE CULTURE ARE
CONSISTENT WITH ONE ANOTHER
- the tendency towards cognitive consistency in
individual human brains lends itself to a wider
- adaptation to the environment. MALADAPTIVE CUSTOMS
that diminish chance of survival don't last. ADAPTIVE
CUSTOMS that increase the chance of survival persist.
*what may be adaptive in one environment may not be
adaptive in another. HOW AND WHY CULTURES CHANGE
3 General Questions can be asked about Culture Change:
1. What is the source of a new trait?
2. Why are people motivated (un)consciously to adopt a
3. And is the new trait adaptive?
DISCOVERY AND INVENTION
● may be an object: wheel, plow, computer
● my involve behaviour or ideas: buying and selling,
- also referred to as ACCIDENTAL JUXTAPOSITION.
- some inventions, especially the prehistoric, were
probably consequence of dozens of tiny initiatives by
unconscious inventors, unintentionally culminating in
something like the wheel or axe.
- some invention is consequence of society's setting
itself a specific goal
- arise out of deliberate attempts to produce a new
idea or object
- in Ghana, Ashanti artist carvers departed from
tradition to produce two new styles of carving. The two
groups found most to innovate were the richest and the
poorest carvers. Rich can afford the risk, poor aren't
doing well with traditional carving anyway. WHO ADOPTS INNOVATIONS?
- once something is discovered it still must be
- "early adopters" tend to be educated, high in social
status, upwardly mobile
- those who most need adaptive improvements, the less
well off, are generally last to adopt innovations.
- wealthy can take substantial risks
COSTS AND BENEFITS
- INNOVATIONS THAT TECHNOLOGICALLY SUPERIOR ARE NOT
NECESSARLY GOING TO BE ADOPTED.
- Think back to QWERTY keyboards.
- the process by which cultural elements are borrowed
from another society is called DIFFUSION.
THE SELECTIVE NATURE OF DIFFUSION
- not all cultural traits are borrowed as readily, nor
do they expand in neat, ever-widening cicles like
ripples in a pond
- diffusion is a selective process
- cultures will reject ideas that do not satisfy some
psychological, social, or cultural need.
- process of change called