Culture and Biology

Culture relates come nature (our biology and genetics) and nurture (our environment and surroundings that additionally shape our identities).

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Learning Objectives

Examine the ways culture and biology connect to form societies, norms, rituals and other representations of culture


Key Takeaways

Key Points“Culture” encompasses objects and symbols, the definition given come those objects and symbols, and also the norms, values, and also beliefs that pervade social life.Values reflect one individual’s or culture ‘s sense of right and wrong or what “ought” come be.Humans likewise have biological drives—hunger, thirst, need for sleep—whose unfulfillment can an outcome in death.Because of our biology and genetics, we have actually a particular type and us have certain abilities. These set essential boundaries on the variety of activities that humans can express culture, however there is still huge diversity in this expression.Culture refers to the way we understand ourselves as individuals and also as members the society, including stories, religion, media, rituals, and also even language itself.Social Darwinism to be the id that the closer a social group was to the normative west European criter of behavior and also appearance, the an ext evolved they were.Culture is the non-biological or social elements of human being life.Culture describes the way we recognize ourselves as individuals and also as members that society, including stories, religion, media, rituals, and also even language itself.Social Darwinism hinged top top the belief that the closer social groups to be to the normative west European criter of behavior and appearance, the more evolved they were.Key TermsSocial Darwinism: a concept that the regulations of evolution by natural an option also apply to social structures.culture: The beliefs, values, behavior, and also material objects that constitute a people’s way of life.

Culture and Biology

Human beings are organic creatures. We room composed the blood and bones and flesh. In ~ the most basic level, our genes express themselves in physics characteristics, affecting bodily aspects such together skin tone and eye color. Yet, humans are much much more than our biology, and this is evident specifically in the means humans generate, and also live within, facility cultures.

Defining Culture

Culture is a term provided by society scientists, like anthropologists and sociologists, to incorporate all the facets of person experience that extend past our physics fact. Society refers come the means we understand ourselves both together individuals and also as members of society, and also includes stories, religion, media, rituals, and also even language itself.

It is crucial to understand that the term society does not describe a singular, solved entity. Instead, the is a valuable heuristic, or means of thinking, that have the right to be really productive in understanding behavior. Together a student of the social sciences, you need to think that the word society as a conceptual tool fairly than together a uniform, static definition. Society necessarily changes, and is changed by, a variety of interactions, through individuals, media, and also technology, simply to name a few.

The history of culture as a Concept

Culture is mostly an anthropological term. The ar of anthropology emerged roughly the exact same time together Social Darwinism, in the so late 19th and early 20th century. Society Darwinism was the belief that the closer a social group to be to the normative, Western, European criter of behavior and also appearance, the much more evolved that group was. Together a theory of the world, that was basically a racist principle that persists in specific forms as much as this day. If you have ever before heard someone reference human being of african descent together being from, or near to, the jungle, or the wilderness, you’ve encountered a form of coded language the is a modern incarnation of social Darwinist thought.

During the late 19th and also early 20th century time period, the positivist school also emerged in sociological thought. Among the vital figures in this school, Cesare Lombroso, studied the physical characteristics of prisoners, since he thought that he could find a biological basis for crime. Lombroso coined the term atavism to imply that some people were throwbacks to a an ext bestial allude in evolution history. Lombroso provided this concept to case that certain individuals were much more weak-willed, and much more prone to criminal activity, than their supposedly more evolved counterparts.

In accordance through the hegemonic ideas of the time, anthropologists first theorized society as something the evolves in the same means biological organisms evolve. Similar to biological evolution, cultural evolution was believed to it is in an adaptive system that created unique results depending on location and also historical moment. However, unlike organic evolution, society can be intentionally taught and also thus spread out from one team of people to another.

Initially, anthropologists believed that culture was a product of biological evolution, and that cultural evolution depended specifically on physical conditions. Today’s anthropologists no longer think it is this simple. Neither society nor biology is specifically responsible because that the other. They interact in very complicated ways, which organic anthropologists will be examining for years to come.



Key Takeaways

Key PointsDifferent societies have different cultures; a culture represents the beliefs and practices that a group, while culture represents the civilization who re-superstructure those beliefs and practices.Material culture refers come the objects or thing of a group of people, such together automobiles, stores, and the physical structures where world worship. Nonmaterial culture, in contrast, consists of the ideas, attitudes, and beliefs the a society.In 18th and 19th century Europe, the term “culture” was related with civilization and considered a unique element of west society. Remnants of the colonial definition of society can be seen this particular day in the idea of ” high culture “.During the Romantic Era, society became related with nationalism and also gave increase to the idea the multiple nationwide cultures.Today, social researchers understand society as a society’s norms, values, and also beliefs; and also its objects and also symbols, and also the meaning given come those objects and symbols.Key Termscivilization: an organized culture encompassing plenty of communities, regularly on the range of a country or a people; a stage or system of social, political or technological development.high culture: The imaginative entertainment and also material artefacts associated v a society’s aristocracy or most learned members, normally requiring significant education to be evaluate or highly skilled labor to it is in produced.popular culture: The prevailing vernacular culture in any kind of given society, including art, cooking, clothing, entertainment, films, fixed media, music, sports, and stylenationalism: The idea of supporting one’s country and culture; patriotism.

Culture encompasses human aspects beyond biology: because that example, our norms and also values, the stories we tell, learned or got behaviors, religious beliefs, art and fashion, and so on. Society is what differentiates one group or society from the next.

Different societies have various cultures; but it is vital not to confused the idea of culture with society. A culture represents the beliefs and practices the a group, while society represents the human being who re-publishing those beliefs and also practices. Neither society nor society could exist there is no the other.

Defining Culture

Almost every human behavior, from shopping to marriage to expressions of feelings, is learned. Behavior based on learned customs is not necessarily a bad thing – being familiar with unwritten rule helps world feel secure and also confident the their behaviors will not be tested or disrupted. However even the easiest actions – such as commuting come work, ordering food indigenous a restaurant, and also greeting who on the street – evidence a good deal of social propriety.

Material culture refers to the objects or belongings of a group of human being (such as automobiles, stores, and also the physical frameworks where world worship). Nonmaterial culture, in contrast, is composed of the ideas, attitudes, and also beliefs that a society. Material and nonmaterial facets of society are linked, and physical objects often symbolize social ideas. A subway pass is a product object, but it to represent a kind of nonmaterial culture (namely capitalism, and the acceptance of paying for transportation). Clothing, hairstyles, and jewelry are part of material culture, but the appropriateness that wearing specific clothing for specific events shows nonmaterial culture. A school structure belongs to material culture, yet the to teach methods and educational requirements are component of education’s nonmaterial culture.

These material and also nonmaterial aspects of society can differ subtly from an ar to region. As civilization travel furthermore afield, relocating from various regions to entirely different parts that the world, details material and nonmaterial aspects of society become considerably unfamiliar. Together we interact with societies other 보다 our own, we become an ext aware of our own culture – which might otherwise be invisible to us – and also to the differences and commonalities in between our culture and others.

The history of “Culture”

Some human being think of society in the singular, in the means that that was believed of in Europe during the 18th and also early 19th centuries: together something achieved through evolution and progress. This principle of culture reflected inequalities in ~ European societies and their colonies around the world; in short, it equates society with civilization and also contrasts both v nature or non-civilization. According to this knowledge of culture, some countries are much more “civilized” 보다 others, and some human being are therefore much more “cultured” 보다 others.

When civilization talk about society in the sense of civilization or refinement, they room really talking around “high culture,” which is different from the sociological ide of culture. High society refers to elite goods and activities, such together haute cuisine, high fashion or couture, museum-caliber art, and also classical music. In usual parlance, people may describe others as being “cultured” if they know about and take component in these activities. Someone that uses society in this sense can argue that classic music is much more refined than music by working-class people, such together jazz or the native music traditions of aboriginal peoples. Well-known (or “pop”) culture, by contrast, is more mainstream and influenced by massive media and also the typical opinion. Popular culture tends to readjust as tastes and opinions adjust over time, conversely, high society generally continues to be the same throughout the years. Because that example, Mozart is taken into consideration high culture, conversely, Britney Spears is thought about pop culture; Mozart is likely to tho be well-known in 100 years, yet Britney Spears will most likely be forgotten by all yet a few.



This meaning of society only establish a solitary standard the refinement come which all teams are organized accountable. Thus, human being who different from those who believe themselves to it is in “cultured” in this feeling are not usually understood as having a different culture; castle are construed as being uncultured.

Although us still see remnants of this idea that high society today, it has largely fallen the end of practice. Its decline began during the Romantic Era, as soon as scholars in Germany – especially those pertained to with nationalism – developed the an ext inclusive notion of society as a distinct worldview. Although an ext inclusive, this strategy to society still enabled for distinctions between so-called “civilized” and also “primitive” cultures. Through the so late 19th century, anthropologists readjusted the concept of society to incorporate a more comprehensive variety of societies, ultimately resulting in the principle of society adopted by social scientists today: objects and symbols, the an interpretation given to those objects and also symbols, and also the norms, values, and also beliefs that pervade society life.

This new perspective has also removed the evaluative facet of the concept of culture; it distinguishes amongst different cultures, however does no rank them. For instance, the high society of elites is currently contrasted with renowned or popular music culture. In this sense, high culture no longer refers to the idea of being “cultured,” together all people have culture. High culture simply describes the objects, symbols, norms, values, and beliefs the a details group the people; popular society does the same.



Key Takeaways

Key PointsCultural universals are elements, patterns, traits, or establishments that are common to every human societies worldwide.There is a stress in cultural anthropology and social sociology between the case that culture is a universal and also that that is additionally particular. The idea of cultural universals runs contrary in some ways to cultural relativism i m sorry was, in part, a an answer to western ethnocentrism.Ethnocentrism may take obvious forms. For example, the id that one people’s society is the most beautiful and true. Franz Boas construed “culture” to incorporate not only particular tastes in food, art, and also music, or beliefs about religion yet instead suspect a much broader notion of culture.Among the social universals listed by Donald Brown (1991) room abstract speech, figurative speech and metaphors, antonyms and also synonyms, and units the time.Among the cultural universals noted by Brown, part were investigated through Franz Boas. Because that example, Boas observed language as a means of categorizing experiences. Thus, although human being may perceive clearly shows radiation similarly, human being who speak various languages part up the continually in various ways.Since Franz Boas, two arguments have dominated social anthropology.Key Termsculture: The beliefs, values, behavior, and also material objects the constitute a people’s means of life.particular: A certain case; one individual point as protest to a whole class.universal: common to all society; worldwide.

The sociology of society concerns culture—usually taken as the ensemble of symbolic codes offered by a society—as the is shown up in society. The facets of culture include (1) icons (anything that carries particular meaning recognized by world who share the same culture); (2) language (system of signs that permits people to interact with one another); (3) values (culturally-defined requirements that serve as wide guidelines for social living; (4) beliefs (specific explanation that people hold to be true); and (5) norms (rules and also expectations whereby a society guides the actions of the members). If these facets of culture may be watched in miscellaneous contexts with time and throughout geography, a social universal is one element, pattern, trait, or school that is common to every human cultures worldwide. Bring away together, the totality body of cultural universals is known as the human being condition. Among the social universals noted by Donald Brown (1991) space abstract speech, figurative speech and also metaphors, antonyms and also synonyms, and also units that time.


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The ide of a social universal has long been questioned in the social sciences. Social universals space elements, patterns, traits, or organizations that are common to all human cultures worldwide. Over there is a tension in cultural anthropology and social sociology between the claim that society is a global (the fact that all person societies have culture), and that it is also particular (culture takes a tremendous range of forms around the world). The idea of cultural universals—that details aspects of culture are typical to all person cultures—runs contrary to cultural relativism. Social relativism was, in part, a an answer to western ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism might take evident forms, in i m sorry one consciously believes that one people’s arts room the many beautiful, worths the many virtuous, and also beliefs the many truthful. Franz Boas argued that one’s culture may mediate and also thus border one’s awareness in less noticeable ways. He taken “culture” to incorporate not only particular tastes in food, art, and music, or beliefs around religion but instead presume a much broader notion that culture.

Among the social universals noted by Donald Brown, few of these to be investigated by Franz Boas. Because that example, Boas dubbed attention come the idea the language is a way of categorizing experiences, hypothesizing that the existence of different languages suggests that world categorize, and also thus experience, language differently. Therefore, although human being may perceive visible radiation the same way, in regards to a continually of color, human being who speak different languages slice up this continuum right into discrete colors in different ways.


Culture Shock

Culture shock is the an individual disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar means of life in a brand-new country.


Learning Objectives

Discuss society shock in terms of its four phases – honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and also mastery


Key Takeaways

Key PointsCulture shock is the personal disorientation a person may feel once experiencing an unfamiliar method of life due to immigration or a visit to a brand-new country.Culture shock deserve to be described as consist of of at the very least one the four unique phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and also mastery.During the honeymoon phase, the differences in between the old and also new society are watched in a romantic light.After some time (usually around three months, depending on the individual), differences in between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. This is the note of the negotiation phase.In the convey phase, one grows accustomed come the new culture and creates routines.Lastly, in the mastery stage, assignees are able to participate totally and comfortably in the organize culture.In the adjustment phase, one grows accustomed come the new culture and establishes routines.One to know what to suppose in many situations and also the host nation no much longer feels all the new.Lastly, in the Mastery stage, assignees space able come participate fully and comfortably in the hold culture.Key Termsbiculturalism: The state or top quality of being bicultural.

Culture shock is the an individual disorientation a person may feel once experiencing an unfamiliar means of life as result of immigration or a visit to a brand-new country, or come a move between social environments. One of the many common causes of society shock involves individuals in a foreign country. Over there is no true way to completely prevent society shock, as individuals in any culture are personally affected by cultural contrasts differently.

Culture shock deserve to be explained as consisting of at least one of four unique phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment, and also mastery. During the honeymoon phase, the differences between the old and also new culture are checked out in a romantic light. Throughout the first couple of weeks, most civilization are fascinated through the new culture. They associate through nationals who speak their language, and also who room polite to the foreigners. This period is complete of monitorings and new discoveries. Like most honeymoon periods, this stage ultimately ends.



After some time (usually around three months, relying on the individual), differences in between the old and also new society become apparent and also may develop anxiety. This is the mark of the negotiation phase. Excitement may eventually give method to uncomfortable feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to experience unfavorable events that might be regarded as strange and offensive come one’s social attitude. Still, the most important change in the period is communication. Human being adjusting come a new culture often feel lonely and also homesick because they room not yet offered to the brand-new environment and also meet people with whom they room not acquainted every day.

Again, after some time, one grows accustomed come the new society and establishes routines, noting the convey phase. One to know what to suppose in most situations and the host nation no longer feels all that new. One becomes pertained to with simple living again and also things become an ext normal. One start to build problem-solving an abilities for dealing with the culture and begins to expropriate the culture’s ways with a hopeful attitude. The society begins come make sense and negative reactions and responses come the society are reduced.

In the mastery stage, assignees room able come participate fully and comfortable in the hold culture. Mastery does not mean complete conversion. Human being often keep numerous traits from their earlier culture, such together accents and also languages. It is frequently referred to as the biculturalism stage.

Ethnocentrism and cultural Relativism

Ethnocentrism, in comparison to cultural relativism, is the propensity to look at the people primarily native the perspective of one’s own culture.


Learning Objectives

Examine the principles of ethnocentrism and social relativism in relation to your own and other cultures in society


Key Takeaways

Key PointsEthnocentrism often requires the id that one’s own race or ethnic team is the most crucial or that part or all aspects of its society are premium to those of various other groups.Within this ideology, people will judge other groups in relation to your own details ethnic team or culture, specifically with issue to language, behavior, customs, and also religion.Cultural relativism is the id that the concepts and also values the a culture cannot be totally translated into, or fully understood in, other languages; the a specific cultural artifact (e.g., a ritual) needs to be interpreted in terms of the bigger symbolic device of which it is a part.Cultural relativism is the principle the an separation, personal, instance person’s ideas and tasks should be construed by rather in terms of that individual’s very own culture.Key Termsethnocentrism: The propensity to look in ~ the world primarily indigenous the view of one’s own culture.cultural relativism: cultural relativism is a principle that was established as axiomatic in anthropological study by Franz Boas in the first few decades of the twenty century, and also later popularized through his students. Boas very first articulated the idea in 1887: “…civilization is no something absolute, but… is relative, and… our ideas and conceptions are true just so much as our human being goes. “

Ethnocentrism, a hatchet coined by william Graham Sumner, is the propensity to look at the world primarily native the view of your own ethnic society and the id that that is in fact the “right” method to look in ~ the world. This leader to making incorrect assumptions about others’ behavior based on your own norms, values, and beliefs. For instance, reluctance or aversion come trying one more culture’s cook is ethnocentric. Social scientists strive come treat social differences together neither inferior no one superior. That way, they deserve to understand their research topics in ~ the appropriate cultural context and also examine their own biases and assumptions in ~ the very same time.

This method is well-known as “cultural relativism.” social relativism is the principle the an individual person’s beliefs and activities should be construed by rather in regards to that individual’s own culture. A key component of social relativism is the ide that nobody, not also researchers, originates from a neutral position. The means to resolve our own assumptions is no to pretend the they don’t exist however rather to recognize them, and also then usage the awareness the we room not neutral to notify our conclusions.

An instance of social relativism could include slang indigenous from specific languages (and also from certain dialects in ~ a language). Because that instance, the word “tranquilo” in Spanish translates straight to “calm” in English. However, it deserve to be used in many more ways than just as an adjective (e.g., the seas space calm). Tranquilo can be a command or tip encouraging an additional to patience down. The can additionally be offered to ease tensions in an discussion (e.g., anyone relax) or to indicate a degree of self-composure (e.g., I’m calm). There is no a clear English translate in of the word, and in stimulate to completely comprehend the many feasible uses, a cultural relativist would argue the it would certainly be crucial to completely immerse oneself in societies where words is used.


Key Takeaways

Key PointsStudying a society ‘s partnership to materiality is a lens with which society and social attitudes can be discussed. People’s connection to and perception the objects are socially and culturally dependent.A view of society as a symbolic mechanism with adaptive functions, differing from ar to place, led anthropologists to conceive of different cultures as having distinctive patterns the enduring standard sets of meaning.Anthropologists distinguish between material society and symbolic culture, not only since each reflects various kinds of human being activity, but also because castle constitute different kinds of data and also require different methodologies to study.This watch of culture, which involved dominate anthropology between people War I and World battle II, implied the each culture was bounded and had to be interpreted as a whole, on its own terms.The result is a id in social relativism, which suggests that there space no ‘better’ or ‘worse’ cultures, just different cultures.Key Termsmaterial culture: In the society sciences, material society is a term, occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century, that refers to the relationship in between artifacts and also social relations.Symbolic culture: Symbolic society is a concept used through archaeologists, society anthropologists and also sociologists to designate the cultural realm constructed and inhabited unique by Homo sapiens.

In the social sciences, material society refers come the relationship in between artifacts and social relations. Material culture consists in physical objects that human beings make. These objects certain reflect the historical, geographic, and social conditions of your origin. Because that instance, the garments that you are wearing could tell researcher of the future around the fashions that today.


People’s connection to and also perception that objects room socially and culturally dependent. Accordingly, society and cultural attitudes have the right to be discussed through the lens of a culture’s connection to materiality.

Material society is also a term provided by historians, sometimes termed “material history,” which describes the examine of old objects and artifacts in order come understand just how a particular society was organized and functioned end time.

This check out of culture as a symbolic system with adaptive functions, varying from place to place, led anthropologists to see different cultures as having distinct patterns of enduring conventional sets the meaning. Anthropologists for this reason distinguish between material society and symbolic culture, no only since each reflects various kinds of human being activity, but likewise because lock constitute different kinds the data and also require different methodologies come study.

This view of culture, which pertained to dominate anthropology between world War I and World battle II, implied the each society was bounded and had to be interpreted as a whole, ~ above its own terms. The an outcome is a id in cultural relativism, which suggests that there room no ‘better’ or ‘worse’ cultures, just different cultures.


Key Takeaways

Key PointsIn comparison to product culture, non-material society does not incorporate physical objects or artifacts.It contains things that have actually no visibility in the physics world but exist totally in the symbolic realm.Examples are ideas such as good and evil, mythical developments such as gods and also underworlds, and also social constructs such together promises and football games.The concept of symbolic culture draws native semiotics and also emphasizes the way in i m sorry distinctively human society is mediated through signs and also concepts.The symbolic aspect of distinctively human culture has to be emphasized in sociology by Emile Durkheim, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Clifford Geertz, and also many others.Semiotics emphasises the way in which distinctively human society is mediated through signs and also concepts.Key Termssocial construct: social constructs are generally taken to it is in the spin-offs of plenty of human selections rather than regulations resulting from divine will or nature.

Culture together a general ide consists of both material and non-material culture. Material society is a term developed in the late 19th and also early 20th centuries, that describes the relationship in between artifacts and social relations. In contrast, non-material society does not include physical objects or artifacts. Instances include any type of ideas, beliefs, values, or norms that shape a society.

When sociologists talk about norms, they are talking around what’s thought about normal, appropriate, or plain for a details group the people. Social norms are group-held beliefs around how members have to behave in a given context. Sociologists describe norms as regulations that administer society’s behaviors. Values are concerned the standards of a culture, yet they room more global and abstract than norms. Norms are rules for actions in particular situations, when values recognize what need to be judged as great or evil. Paris the national flag ~ above a holiday is a norm, yet it exhibits patriotism, i m sorry is a value. Attract dark clothing and appearing solemn room normative actions at a funeral. In certain cultures they reflect the values of respect and support of friends and family. Different societies honor various values. Finally, beliefs are the method people think the cosmos operates. Ideas can be spiritual or secular, and also they deserve to refer to any aspect of life. For instance, many people in the U.S. Believe that tough work is the crucial to success.

Members take part in a society even if each member’s an individual values do not entirely agree with few of the normative worths sanctioned in the culture. This shows an individual’s ability to synthesize and also extract aspects beneficial to them indigenous the lot of subcultures lock belong to.

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Norms, values, and beliefs space all deeply interconnected. Together, they administer a method to understand culture.