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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 society
Why is culture important?
Material World
Material Culture
 The
physical or tangible (see, touch) that
members of a society make, use, and share
 Raw
Materials → Technology → Stuff
Non-Material Culture
 The
abstract or intangible human creations of
society that influences people’s behavior
 Language,
beliefs, values, rules of behavior, family
patterns, political systems
Cultural Universals
Customs and practices that occur across
all societies
Components of Culture
A set of symbols that expresses ideas and enable people to
think and communicate with one another
Anything that meaningfully represents something else
Collective ideas about what is right or wrong, good or bad,
and desirable or undesirable in a particular culture
Established rules of behavior or standards of conduct
Come Up with Your Own
With a partner, generate a list of the
following components of culture
 Symbols
 Language
 Values
 Norms
Terms of culture
 Culture shock
 Disorientation due to the inability to make
sense out of one’s surroundings
 Domestic
and foreign travel
 Cultural relativism
 More accurate understanding, find meaning of
what we need to know
Essential to American life?
Williams list:
Equal opportunity
Achievement and success
Material comfort
Activity and work
Practicality and efficiency
Democracy and free enterprise
Racism and group superiority
Do any of these contradict the other?
Values sometimes conflict!
Williams's list includes examples of value
 Sometimes one key cultural value
contradicts another.
 Value conflict causes strain.
 Values change over time.
 Examples of this today?
Global perspective
Cultures have their own values.
• Lower-income nations have cultures that
value survival.
• Higher-income countries have cultures
that value individualism and selfexpression.
 Agree? Disagree?
 Should-nots, prohibited
 Shoulds, prescribed like medicine
Mores and Folkways
Mores (pronounced "more-rays")
 Widely observed and have great moral significance
 Folkways
 Norms for routine and causal interaction
Culture integration
 The
close relationships among various
elements of a cultural system
 Example:
Computers and changes in our language
Culture lag
 The
fact that some cultural elements change
more quickly than others, which might disrupt
a cultural system
 Example:
Medical procedures and ethics
Things change, heres how:
Invention–Creating new cultural elements
Discovery–Recognizing and better understanding
of something already in existence
Telephone or airplane
X-rays or DNA
Diffusion–The spread of cultural traits from one
society to another
Jazz music or much of the English language
Building blocks
Culture is a set of values, norms, and
behaviors shared by a social group.
 Values are those ideals that a society
holds above all others (e.g., honesty,
 These values are the building blocks of
norms, which are basic rules of social
Think of it this way:
Culture encapsulates the way of life of a social
 Culture can be described as a “toolkit” from
which we can choose the appropriate tools—
values, norms, practices—for any social
 Key point: culture is learned, not instinctual or
Cultural Variation
Culture varies both across and within societies.
 What is important and seemingly “normal” in
one society may not be in another.
 Even within a society, the dominant values and
norms change over time.
Society? Culture builds it:
Societies are systems of relationships
between people.
 Societies consist of members that share some
sense of common identity and be small (like
a family) or large (like a nation-state).
 Shared culture is important in holding a
society together by defining its purpose.
 Defines past, present and future. We
understand what this all looks like.
We Conform………
Societies need a significant degree of
conformity to function smoothly.
 Members learn norms through the process of
 Because people accept the norms and values of
their societies as natural, they largely conform.
 Those who do not conform are subject to
measures of social control. They are not in the
larger acceptance of society.
You are exceptional…
Culture versus instinct
 The ability to reason, to think in the abstract,
allowed for the development of culture.
 What
do I mean by abstract? Why is this essential?
This causes the development of complex
systems of communication and future-oriented
thought and planning.
 Complex thinking also makes us innovators.
Humans. Why is this important? What does it
No, you did not build this 
Sociologists today largely agree that the social
environment interacts with biology.
 Even so, sociology, psychology, anthropology
along with others all strongly resist the idea
that genetics predetermine an individual’s
social life and potentialities.
 So…….
arguments for it? Against it?
A little more
Sociologists now study how nature and
nurture interact to produce particular
 The interest in nurture has led to an
ongoing focus on the importance of
 Examining cultural variation offers
evidence of the role of the social in
explaining human behaviors and values.
Studying diversity is very important for
sociologists; comparative research is
common. What s comparative research?
 Things to be aware of:
 Ethnocentrism—viewing
one’s own culture
as normal and, oftentimes, superior or
 Cultural relativism—judging other cultures
based on their own norms and standards
 Good or bad….needed?
More diversity
Diversity within societies is also important.
 There are the obvious kinds of social
groups (e.g. race, gender, religion) that
constitute a society, but there are also
 A subculture is a group whose norms and
values differ from those of the
Diversity and how it affects us
In diverse societies like the United States,
studies of assimilation and
multiculturalism are common.
 These studies attempt to understand how
diverse societies (and the individuals in
them) can best function.
 Globalization has led to increased diversity
in most countries.
How many of the following words or phrases
can you identify? The United States is a
melting pot, where many cultures live sideby- side. Americans often share in the
cuisines, music, holiday traditions, and even
language of cultures that are very different
from their own family heritages. Yet even
within a single ethnic or religious subculture,
further subcultures exist, such as
generational subcultures— where people
born in the 1990s experience culture in very
different ways than their parents or
bhangra: A type of music and dance that originated in
the Punjab region of India, especially among Sikhs.
American music fans may recognize bhangra melodies
and rhythms from hip- hop artists including Beyonce and
Beenie Man.
2. bocce: Bocce is a sport similar to bowling, although it
takes place outside— usually on one’s lawn or on a court
made of stones or shells. The sport originated in Italy,
and literally means “bowls.”
3. acupuncture: A form of Chinese medicine that has
grown in popularity in the United States over the past
decade. It involves inserting fine needles into specific
points on the body to relieve pain.
4. futon: A thick mattress with a cloth cover, used for
sleeping. Although futons are common in college dorm
rooms, they originated as beds in Japan.
tah deeg: A much- sought- after delicacy in Persian
cooking; it is the crispy layer of browned rice at the
bottom of a pan of cooked rice.
pierogi: A boiled dumpling of unleavened dough stuffed
with ingredients such as potatos or cheese. Pierogis can
be found at American grocery stores, but originally are
from eastern European nations such as Poland.
jumping the broom: A common custom at African
American wedding ceremonies. The bride and groom
end their ceremony by jumping together or separately
over a broom that is lying in front of the altar.
chuppah: A canopy traditionally used in Jewish
weddings. It symbolizes the home the couple will build
ushanka: A fur cap with ear flaps that can be tied
under the chin to protect the ears from the cold. The
ushanka originates from Russia.
10.sarape: A colorful shawl or poncho worn in
11.djembe: A large drum from West Africa.
Djembe literally means “everyone gather
together.” American popular musicians Ben
Harper, Paul Simon, and the Grateful Dead have
added the djembe to their percussion lines.
11.sitar: A long- necked stringed instrument that
is plucked. It is used primarily in music from
India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Sitar music was
widely introduced to the Western world when
Ravi Shankar performed with the Beatles in the
11.LP: a long- playing record, also known as a 33
1/3 rpm vinyl record. In the 1960s through the
mid 1980s, this is how most people listened to
recorded music. The LP has since given way to
CDs and downloaded music stored in iPods.
12.kaffeeklatsch: An informal gathering of
friends to drink coffee and chat, like on the
television show Friends. This is a German word,
although the idea is very familiar to Americans.
13.getting pinned. In the 1940s and 1950s,
when a dating couple decided they wanted to be
“exclusive,” the boy would present the girl with
a “pin”— typically earned for his athletic or
academic achievements.
What do you think you know
about what you think you know?
What does culture do for you, right now?
 How does it impact you? Think past,
present, future.
 How has your socialization lead to your