Chapter 3 - Culture
Cultureis the 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
Importance of culture
We must learn about culture through interaction, observation and imitation in order to
participate as members of the group.
Culture is both essential for individuals and the survival of society.
Culture is a common denominator that makes the actions of individuals in intelligible to
Societies need rules to survive, human nature, is the assumption that human beings are
determined by nature rather than nurture, that our behavior is instinctive.
An instinct is an unlearned, biologically determined behavior pattern common to all
members of the species that predictably occurs whenever certain environmental
Humans do not have instincts what we often think of as instinctive behavior can be
attributed to a reflex or drive.
A reflex is an unlearned, biologically determined involuntary response to a physical
Drives are unlearned, biologically determined impulses common to all members of a
species that satisfy needs.
Reflexes and drives do not determine how people behave in society and the expression
of these characteristics are channeled by culture.
Culture and social learning-not nature-account for virtually all of our behavior patterns.
Material and nonmaterial culture
Our cultural toolbox is divided into two major parts: material and nonmaterial culture Materialcultureis a component of culture that consists of the physical or tangible
creations-such as clothing shelter and art-the members of society make, use and share.
Material culture began as raw materials for resources.
Material culture is important because it is a buffer against the environment.
Technologyis the knowledge, techniques and tools I make it possible for people to
transform resources into usable forms, as well as the knowledge and skills required to
use them after they are developed.
Nonmaterialcultureis a component of culture that consists of the abstract or intangible
human creations of society-such as attitudes, beliefs and values-that influence people’s
Language, beliefs, values, rules of behavior, family patterns and political systems are
examples of nonmaterial cultures.
A central component of nonmaterial culture is beliefs - the mental acceptance or
conviction that certain things are true or real.
Beliefs may be based on tradition, faith, experience, scientific research or a combination
All humans face the same basic needs, engage in similar activities that contrary to our
CultureUniversalsare customs and practices that occur across all societies.
The general customs and practices may be present all cultures, but the specific forms
vary from one group to another and from one time to another within the same group.
Cultural universals ensure smooth and continual operation of society.
All cultures have four common nonmaterial cultural components: symbols, language,
values and norms.
These components contribute to both harmony and conflict in a society. Symbols
A symbol is anything that meaningfully represents something else.
Culture could not exist without symbols because there would be no shared meanings
They help us communicate ideas because they express abstract concepts with visible
The interpretation of symbols varies in different cultural contexts.
Gestures and emoticons are examples of symbols.
Languageis a system of symbols that expresses ideas enables people to think and
communicate with one another.
Verbal and nonverbal communication help us describe reality. The most important
human attribute is the ability to use language to share experiences, feelings and
knowledge with others.
Language also allows people to distinguish themselves from outsiders and maintain
group boundaries and solidarity.
Nonhuman animals cannot transmit the more complex aspects of culture to their
offspring. Humans have a unique ability to manipulate symbols to express abstract
concepts and rules, just to create and transmit culture from one generation to the next.
Language and social reality language Creek or simply communicates reality.
Sapir-Whorfhypothesis- The proposition that language shapes it’s speakers the of reality.
If people are able to think only through language, language must precede thought.
If language shapes the reality we perceive and experience, some aspects of the world
are viewed as important and others are virtually neglected because people know the
world only in terms of the vocabulary and grammar of their own language.
There’s a relationship between our language and our thoughts and behavior patterns.
Language and gender The English language ignores women by using the masculine form to refer to human
beings in general such as mankind.
Use of the pronouns he and she effects of thinking about gender. Put on show the
gender of the person we expect being a particular occupation.
Words have positive connotations when relating to male power, prestige and leadership;
when referring to women, carry negative overtones of weakness, inferiority and
A language-based predisposition to think about women in sexual terms reinforces the
notion that women are sexual objects. Women often described by terms such as Fox,
broad and dole, which ascribed childlike or even pet-like characteristics are placed on
them. By contrast, performance pressures are placed on men. Words such as dude
were stunned defined them in terms of their sexual prowess.
Many organizations and publications established guidelines for the use nonsexist
language and she’s titles of occupations.
Language, race and ethnicity
Language may create and reinforce our perceptions of a race and ethnicity my
transmitting preconceived ideas about the superiority of one category of people over
- Words may have more than one meaning and create and reinforce negative images.
Terms like blackhearted or an expression such as black mark or the Chinaman’s
chance of success.
- Overtly derogatory terms, such as kike, chink or savage, as well as other racial-ethnic
slurs have been popularized in movies, music and comic routines. Such derogatory
terms are often used in conjunction with physical threats against persons.
- Words are frequently used to create or reinforce perceptions about a group. Like
referring to aboriginals as primitive.
- The “voice” of verbs may minimize or incorrectly intensify the activities or
achievements of members of various minority groups.
Language diversity in Canada
Canada’s a linguistically diverse society.
Language is the chief vehicle for understanding and experiencing one’s culture. Bilingualism remains a distinct component Canadian culture, along with aboriginal
Language is not only a means of communication but also a link that connects people
with their past and grounds their social, emotional and spiritual vitality.
Through language, children learn about their cultural heritage and develop a sense of
personal identity in relation to their group.
Conflict theorists view language of the source of power and social control; it perpetuates
inequality between people and between groups because words are used to “keep
people in their place.”
Valuesare collective ideas about what is right or wrong, good or bad and desirable or
undesirable in a particular culture.
Values do not dictate which behaviors are appropriate, but provide us with the criteria by
which to evaluate people, objects and events.
Valuecontradictionsare values that conflict with one another or are mutually exclusive. All
society have value contradictions.
Ideal versus Real Culture
Idealculturerefers the values and standards of behavior that people in a society profess
RealCulturerefers the values and standards of behavior that people actually follow [as
contrasted with ideal culture].
Values provid ideals or beliefs about behavior but do not state explicitly how we should
behave. Norms has specific behavioral expectations.
Normsare established rules of behavior or standards of conduct.
Prescriptive norms state what behavior is appropriate or acceptable.
Proscriptive norms state what behavior is inappropriate or unacceptable.
Formal and informal norms Formal norms are written down and involve specific punishments for violators. These
formal norms might be enforced by sanctions.
Sanctionsare rewards for appropriate behavior or penalties for inappropriate behavior.
These can be divided into positive and negative sanctions.
Informal norms are unwritten standards of behavior understood by people who share
When individuals violate informal norms other people may apply informal sanctions.
Informal sanctions are not really defined and can be applied by any member of a group.
Norms are also classified according to their relative social importance.
Folkwaysinformal norms or everyday customs that may be violated without serious
consequences within a particular culture.
They provide rules for conduct that are not considered essential to society survival.
Folkways are culture-specific.
Mores are considered highly essential to the stability of a society.
Moresare strongly held norms with moral and ethical connotations and may not be
violated without serious consequences in a particular culture.
Mores are based on cultural values and are considered crucial for the well-being of the
group, violators are subject to more severe negative sanctions.
Taboosare Mores so strong that the violations are considered extremely offensive and
Violation of taboos is punishable by the group or even a supernatural force.
Folkway and Mores provide structure and security in a society.
Lawsare formal, standardized norms that have been enacted by legislatures and are
enforced by formal sanctions.
Civil law deals