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Chapter 3
Chapter Outline
Dimensions of Culture
 Language and Culture
 Cultural Diversity
 Cultural Similarity
 Ethnocentrism Versus Cultural
 Culture, Society, and Heredity
Culture and Society
Culture consists of material objects,
patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving
passed from generation to generation. A
people’s way of life that is passed on
A society is a group of people living
within defined territorial borders who share
a culture.
Culture provides the blueprints for guiding
people in their relationships within a society.
Questions for Consideration
What are the dimensions of culture
discussed in this video? Are they
similar or different from what
Shepard identifies?
 How has change impacted our
 How is material culture different
than nonmaterial culture?
Three Dimensions of
Normative - composed of norms,
sanctions, and values.
 Cognitive - language, beliefs
 Material - concrete, tangible
aspects of a culture
Rules defining appropriate and
inappropriate ways of behaving.
Rules that guide behavior.
Change throughout time and from culture
to culture.
Help explain why people in a society or
group behave similarly in similar
Premarital Sexual Experience
Among Teen Women in the U.S.
Questions for Consideration
The previous slide shows the change
in the reported premarital
experience among teenage women
in the U.S. What questions might
you pose as you apply information
from the previous chapter to
this table?
 From a cultural context, what
might explain the rise and fall of
this trend?
Types of Norms
Folkways – rules that cover customary
ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
Norms that have little or no moral
significance. If they are not followed, the
sanctions are very minor (e.g., use of a cell
phone in a restaurant, or in class).
Mores (MOR-ays) – norms/rules with great
moral significance. Seen as vital to the wellbeing of society. Violation will evoke strong
Types of Norms – Cont.
Taboos are a type of more that is
extremely serious: incest taboo,
canibalism, etc. These are actions where
the mere thought of them disgusts people
in that society.
Laws – norms that are formally defined and
enforced by officials. They are consciously
created and enforced. Mores are an
important source of laws.
Enforcement of Norms
Sanctions—rewards and punishments
used to encourage conformity to norms
(informal and formal).
Formal sanctions – given only by
officially designated persons (e.g., an “A”
for academic performance; time in
jail/prison for committing fraud)
Informal sanctions – can be applied by
most members of society (e.g., thanking
someone for helping you change a tire)
What are Values?
Values – broad cultural principles that most
people in a society consider desirable.
They do not specify precisely what to think,
feel, or behave. Rather, they are ideas about
what a group of people believe is good/bad,
acceptable/unacceptable, etc.
They are important because they have a
tremendous influence on social behavior.
Norms are based on a culture’s values.
American Values
Achievement and success
 Activity and work
 Efficiency and practicality
 Equality
 Democracy
 Group Superiority (racial, ethnic,
Cognitive Dimension
The cognitive dimension of culture refers to a
culture’s construction of ideas and
Material culture – concrete tangible objects
within a culture (e.g., automobiles,
basketballs, jewelry). Artifacts that have no
meaning or use apart from the meanings
people give them.
Physical objects do not have the same
meanings and uses in all societies.
Ideal and Real Culture
Ideal culture – cultural guidelines
publicly embraced by members of a
society (those we claim to accept)
 Real culture – actual behavior
patterns exhibited by members of a
Language and Culture
The creation and transmission of culture
depends heavily on the capacity to develop
Symbols – signs with meaning; things that
stand for, or represent, something else. Can
also include gestures (e.g., a hand wave).
Language – a system of interrelated
symbols through which a group of people
are able to communicate and pass down
Questions for Consideration
Why are both columns called symbols?
How easy is it to learn these “emoticons”?
What thoughts and feelings are elicited
when you receive communication with an
emoticon and you do not know what it
stands for?
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
This hypothesis is known as the
hypothesis of linguistic relativity.
Our perception of reality is at the mercy
of the words and grammatical rules of
our language.
Language shapes our reality.
Studies demonstrate that language
significantly shapes thought.
Questions for Consideration
How does learning a new language
shape one’s view of the world?
 What is meant by the statement
that “people are forever prisoners of
their language”?
 What are some ways that you can
apply the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis?
Cultural Diversity
Because humans are basically the
same biologically, cultural diversity
must be explained by nongenetic
 Cultural diversity within societies is
promoted by social categories,
subcultures, and countercultures.
Subcultures – a group that is part of the
dominant culture but differs from it in
some important respects.
By tradition, Americans like to see
themselves as part of a large, single
culture. Yet there are many subgroups
with cultural uniqueness.
What are examples of subcultures in the
Southern Appalachia
According to sociologists in the 1960s:
 Southern Appalachians are fatalistic,
present oriented, unambitious, and
 This subculture is a cultural adaptation
to living a long-standing deprived and
frustrating existence.
A subculture that is deliberately and
consciously opposed to aspects of the
dominant culture.
Openly defies norms, values, and/or
beliefs of the dominant culture.
Rebelling against the dominant culture is
central to their members.
 militia movement, skinheads, hippies
The tendency to judge other individuals
or cultures based on one’s own cultural
This moves beyond race and ethnicity.
Taken to an extreme end, can result
in feelings of superiority of one’s group
over others.
A belief that your group’s way is the best
and “normal” way to do things, see the
world, etc.
Culture Shock
Defined as the psychological and social
stress we may experience when
confronted with a radically different
cultural environment.
This can be experienced when going to a
different country that one has never
experienced, but also when moving from
one familiar cultural group (grade school)
to an unfamiliar group (high school).
Questions for Consideration
How does culture shock affect
 What are some instances where you
have experienced culture shock?
Cultural Relativism
Evaluating another person’s or group’s
behaviors, thoughts, etc. based on that
culture’s standards, not one’s own.
This perspective also states values, norms,
beliefs, and attitudes are not in themselves
correct or incorrect; they simply exist within
the total cultural framework of a people and
should be evaluated in relation to their place
within the larger cultural context of which
they are a part.
Application of Cultural
Consider the novel excerpt provided in
your text regarding Ruesch’s novel about
an Eskimo’s rage that caused him to
accidentally kill a guest who refused to
have sexual relations with his wife.
 How does this norm fit with Eskimo
 By applying cultural relativism in this
case, does that require that you accept
another culture’s norms and practices?
Cultural Similarity
Although there are many differences
between groups throughout the world,
sociologists and anthropologists have
identified many behaviors that are shared
by all cultures.
All cultures have families, schools, houses
of worship, economies, governments, and
systems of prestige.
Questions for Consideration
Do you think that the data support
the existence of cultural diversity or
cultural similarity? Explain.
 Are you surprised by any of these
rankings? Which ones and why?
Cultural Universals
General cultural traits that exist in all
known societies.
Although found in all societies, their
expression varies among societies.
Reasons for cultural universals:
 Biological similarity of humans
 Common limitations of the physical
 Common problems of sustaining
social life
Cultural Universals
Culture and Heredity
Humans do not have instincts; human
behavior is learned.
Genetically inherited drives do not
determine how humans behave, because
people are heavily influenced by culture.
If we were controlled by instincts, we
would pretty much all behave the same
way (e.g., if women had an instinct for
mothering, then all women would want
Sociobiology is the study of the
biological basis of human behavior.
 Sociobiologists argue that physical
characteristics, human social
behavior is shaped through the
evolutionary process.
 The application of Darwinian natural
selection to human social behavior.
Questions for Consideration
How might functionalists and conflict
theorists have different views of
countercultures? Which view do you
prefer and why?
 What can be done to minimize our
tendencies of ethnocentrism?