The Meaning of Culture:
The Key to Human Diversity
Does this picture offend you?
If so, then you may be guilty of
People who are ethnocentric apply
their own values in judging the
behavior and beliefs of other people
raised in other cultures.
Ethnocentrism contributes to social
solidarity and a sense of value and
However, it also fuels conflict.
Culture is learned behavior
Each child goes
through a process of
they grow up in a
Children learn by
behaviors of people in
symbols specific to
Examples of cultural symbols
Culture is shared
Culture is an attribute not of
individuals per se but of individuals as
members of groups.
Culture is transmitted by society.
Enculturation unifies people by
providing us with common
Culture is symbolic
Symbols can either
Culture and Nature: Differences in
How we meet the call
Culture defines what
people eat, how food
is prepared, and when
and how food is eaten.
Waste elimination is
Sexual activities are
also dictated by
culture (with who,
how, where, and
Culture is all-encompassing and
Culture envelopes each of us, and
touches every aspect of our lives.
Culture is systematic and integrated
(it is not a random phenomenon).
Cultures teach us to share certain
core values that helps shape the
personality of the individuals within a
Cultures are dynamic: rules are
made to be broken
Humans are creative animals and
always do not strictly follow the
dictates of their culture.
There is individual interpretation of
each aspect of culture that is in part
due to family and personal history.
Real vs. Ideal culture.
Culture can be both adaptive and
has provided for the
adaptation of humans
to every part of the
globe, as ancient
environments on a
Short-term vs. long-
Levels of culture
National: learned behavioral
patterns, beliefs, values, and
institutions shared by the citizens of a
International: cultural traditions that
expand beyond cultural boundaries.
Subculture: different traditions
practiced by groups set within a larger
culture. Frequently regionally based.
Ethnocentrism, Cultural Relativism,
and Human Rights
The “human rights”
that there is a realm of
justice and morality
that supercedes the
practices of many
genital mutilation in
the Middle East; male
circumcision at birth in
the United States.
Universality, Generality, and
Universal: found in all cultures.
Examples: Exogamy and incest
Generality: found in many cultures,
but not all. Example: nuclear family.
Particularities: found only in some
cultures. Example: head hunting.
What makes cultures change?
Diffusion: borrowing of traits
Acculturation: exchange of cultural
features that results from long-term
exposure between cultures.
Independent invention: Developing
to solution to problems by individual
cultures. Example: agriculture.
One World Culture? Globalization
in the 21st
Cultures are increasingly coming in
contact as a result of improved trade
relations, better communication, and
Multinational corporations and
business “outsourcing” to the Third
World are becoming more