Chapter 3 Culture
Chapter Outline • Defining Culture • The Elements of Culture • Cultural Diversity • Popular Culture • Theoretical Perspectives on Culture • Cultural Change
Defining Culture • Complex system of meaning and behavior that defines the way of life for a society. • Includes: beliefs, values, knowledge, art, morals, laws, customs, habits, language, and dress.
Characteristics of Culture • Culture is shared. • Culture is learned. • Culture is taken for granted. • Culture is symbolic. • Culture varies across time and place.
Culture is… • Concrete • We can observe cultural practices that define human experience. • Abstract • It is a way of thinking, feeling, believing, and behaving.
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis • Language determines what people think because it forces them to perceive the world in certain terms. • Critics question whether language single-handedly dictates the perception of reality.
The Social Meaning of Language • Language affects people’s perception of reality. • Studies find that when college students look at job descriptions written in masculine pronouns, they assume women are not qualified for the job.
The Social Meaning of Language • Language reflects the social and political status of different groups in society. • The term “working woman” suggests that women who do not work for wages are not working.
The Social Meaning of Language • Groups may advocate changing language referring to them as a way of asserting a positive group identity. • Some advocates for the “disabled” challenge the term “handicapped,” arguing that it stigmatizes people who may have many abilities.
The Social Meaning of Language • The implications of language emerge from specific historical and cultural contexts. • The naming of so-called races comes from the social and historical processes that define different groups as inferior or superior.
The Social Meaning of Language • Language can distort actual group experience. • The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” lump together Mexican Americans, island Puerto Ricans, U.S.-born Puerto Ricans, people from Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, and other Central and South American countries.
The Social Meaning of Language • Language shapes people’s perceptions of groups and events in society. • The statement that Columbus “discovered” America implies that Native American societies didn’t exist before Columbus “found” the Americas.
The Social Meaning of Language • Terms used to define groups change over time and can originate in movements to assert a positive identity. • In the 1960s, “Black American” replaced ‘Negro”. • Earlier, “Negro” and “colored” were used to define African Americans. • Currently, it is popular to refer to all so-called racial groups as “people of color.”
Norms • Specific cultural expectations for how to behave in a given situation. • A society without norms would be in chaos; with established norms, people know how to act, and social interactions are consistent, predictable, and learnable. • Social sanctions are mechanisms of social control that enforce norms.
Beliefs • Shared ideas people hold collectively within a culture. • Beliefs are the basis for many of a culture’s norms and values. • Beliefs orient people to the world by providing answers to otherwise imponderable questions about the meaning of life.
Values • Abstract standards in a society or group that define the ideal principles of what is desirable and morally correct. • Values determine what is considered right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, good and bad. • Values can provide rules for behavior, but can also be the source of conflict.
Cultural Diversity • The United States has enormous cultural diversity from religious, ethnic, and racial differences, as well as regional, age, gender, and class differences. • 11% of people living in the United States are foreign-born. • In a single year, immigrants from more than 100 countries come to the United States. • 18% of young people speak a language other than English at home.
Polling Question • Do you favor or oppose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would make English the official language of the United States? A.) Favor B.) Oppose C.) No opinion
Dominant Culture • The dominant culture is the most powerful group in society. • It receives the most support from major institutions and constitutes the major belief system. • Social institutions in the society perpetuate the dominant culture and give it a degree of legitimacy that is not shared by other cultures.
Subcultures • The cultures of groups whose values and norms of behavior differ from the dominant culture. • Members of subcultures interact frequently and share a common world view. • Subcultures share some elements of the dominant culture and coexist within it.
Countercultures • Subcultures created as a reaction against the values of the dominant culture. • Members of the counterculture reject the dominant cultural values and develop cultural practices that defy the norms and values of the dominant group. • Nonconformity to the dominant culture is often the mark of a counterculture.
Ethnocentrism • Judging a culture by standards of one’s own culture: • builds group solidarity • discourages understanding • can lead to conflict, war, and genocide
Popular Culture • The beliefs, practices, and objects that are part of everyday traditions. • It is mass-produced and mass-consumed. • Has enormous significance in the formation of public attitudes and values, and plays a significant role in shaping the patterns of consumption in contemporary society.
The Influence of the Mass Media • The average person consumes some form of media 71 hours per week—more time than they likely spend in school or at work. • 95% of all homes in the United States have at least one television—more than have telephone service. • Watching television is the most popular leisure activity of Americans: 26% say it is their favorite way to spend an evening.
% Of Americans Who Say They Are Offended by Television Content (by Age)
Polling Question • Rate yourself on attractiveness to the opposite sex compared with the average person your age and in your culture. A.) Highest 10 percent B.) Above average C.) Average D.) Below Average E.) Bottom 10 percent
Sources of Cultural Change • A change in societal conditions. • Cultural diffusion • Innovation • Imposition of cultural change by an outside agency.
Fast Food and the Transformation of Culture • The average person in the United States consumes 3 hamburgers and 4 orders of French fries per week. • Americans spend more money on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, music, computers, and higher education combined. • 1 in 8 workers has at some point been employed by McDonald’s.
Fast Food and the Transformation of Culture • McDonald’s is the largest private operator of playgrounds in the United States. • McDonald’s is the single largest purchaser of beef, pork, and potatoes. • 96% of American schoolchildren can identify Ronald McDonald, which is only exceeded by the number who can identify Santa Claus.
1. Culture includes all of the following except:a. impulsesb. lawsc. artd. knowledge
Answer: a • Culture does not include impulses.
2. Which of the following statements about culture is not true? a. Cultural beliefs and practices are learned. b. Cultural beliefs and practices are constantly questioned. c. Culture is dynamic that is it changes over time. d. A significant aspect of culture is that it is shared.
Answer: b • The statement, cultural beliefs and practices are constantly questioned, is not true.
3. Expectations about what is appropriate behavior in particular situations are referred to as: a. values b. laws c. norms d. beliefs
Answer : c • Expectations about what is appropriate behavior in particular situations are referred to as norms.
4. Values can best be defined as: a. What is considered appropriate behavior b. Shared ideas that provide a life theme c. Shared ideas held collectively by people d. What is considered socially and morally desirable
Answer: d • Values can best be defined as what is considered socially and morally desirable.
4. Which of the following is not an example of subcultures? a. Inner-city youth b. Deadheads c. The Amish d. Militia groups
Answer: d • A militia group is not an example of a subculture.
5. Which of the following statements reflects the symbolic interactionist view of culture? a. Culture creates norms and values that help integrate people into society b. Culture serves to reinforce the position of power enjoyed by the elite c. Culture is socially constructed d. Culture can be a source of political resistance
Answer: c • That statement, culture is socially constructed, reflects the symbolic interactionist view of culture.