CHAPTER 3 – Culture


Study Assignment:  Read chapter 3 – Sociology by Jon M. Shepard


After careful study of this chapter, you will be able to:



Action Assignment – Answer the following questions.  Each response must be at least 100 words.


No. 1:  Describe and illustrate the relationship between cultural diversity and      ethnocentrism.


No. 2:  Explain the relationship between culture and heredity.


No. 3:  Explain the existence of cultural similarities that are shared around the world.


Below are highlights from Chapter 3.


1.         Using Sociological Imagination:  What, if anything, could the United States have in common with Iraq?  Iraq make the women cover their faces in public.   We do have things in common when it comes to schools, families, houses of worship, economics, and governments. (page 65)


2.         Culture and Society - What is the difference between culture and society?  Culture is a people’s way of life that is passed on from generation to generation.  Culture consists of physical objects as well as patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.  On the material side, American culture includes such physical objects as skyscrapers, fast-food restaurants, video games, and cars.  On the nonmaterial side, American culture includes various beliefs, rules, customs and family system and a capitalist economy.  Although culture and society are tightly interwoven and cannot exist without each other, they are not identical.  A society is a group of people living in a defined territory and participating in a common culture.  Culture is that society’s total way of life.(page 65)


3.                  Culture and Heredity – What is the relationship between culture and biology?  Instincts are generally inherited, complex patterns of behavior that always appear among members of particular species under appropriate environmental conditions. (page 66)


4.                  Is genetic heritage without influence on human behavior?  Although humans lack instincts, they are nevertheless affected by their genetic nature.  Research on twins see page 66).


5.                  Reflexes – Humans have reflexes – simple, biologically inherited, automatic reactions to physical stimuli.  (A baby cries when its pinched).


6.                  Drives – Humans also have biologically inherited drives, or impulses, to reduce discomfort.  They want to eat, drink, sleep, associate with others, and have sexual relations.


7.                  Sociobiology – is the study of the biological basis of human behavior.  We are born with certain genes that is why we act like we do???  What do critics say about sociobiology?  Some critics fear that this perspective will be used as a justification to label specific races inferior; other fear that it will be used to argue for the superiority of the male Page 67).


8.                  Symbols, Language and Culture (page 68)


A.     Symbols – things that stand for, or represent, something else.

B.     What is the relationship between language and culture?  Language frees humans from the limits of time and place.  It allows us to create culture.  Equipped with the symbols of language, humans can transmit their experiences, ideas, and knowledge to others.  Children can be taught things without any actual experience on their part.  Although it may take some time and repetition, children can be taught the dangers of fire and heights without being burned or topping from stairs.


9.                  What can vocabulary reveal about a culture?  When something is important to a society, its language will contain many words to describe that entity.  The importance of time in American culture is reflected in many words like era, moment, interim, century afternoon, semester, eternal, annual, meanwhile, just to name a few.  Example – The index finger and thumb to form an “O” is sign language in the United States that means okay.  This same sign language in Tunisia means “I’ll kill you”.  Also, extending the palm of your hand in the United States means a greeting such as a handshake in Greece this means the person is being insulted.  Japanese bow to each other which is the equivalent of the American handshake.(page 68)


10.              What are Norms?  Norms are rules defining appropriate and inappropriate heavier.  (page 69).  There are 3 types of norms:  Folkways, Mor-ays and laws.


11.              What are folkways?  Rules that cover customary ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving but lack moral overtones.(page 70).


12.              What are Morays?  Morays are norms of great moral significance.  They are thought to be vital to the well being of s society.  Conformity to norms is a social requirement.  Conformity to folkway is generally a matter of personal choice.


13.              Taboo is a mores (pronounced MOR-ays) so important that its violation is considered repugnant (or distasteful).(Page 70).


14.              How do laws differ from MOR-ays?  Laws, the third type of norm are norms that are formally defined and enforced by officials.  Folkways and MOR-ays emerge slowly and are often unconsciously created, but laws are consciously created and enforced.


15.              How are norms enforced?  Sanctions are rewards and punishments used to encourage conformity to norms.  They can be formal or informal.


16.              Formal sanctions are sanctions that may be given only by officially designated persons, such as judges and college professors.  Formal sanctions range widely in their severity.  (See page 71).


17.              Informal sanctions are sanctions that can be applied by most members of a group.  They too can be positive or negative.


18.              What are values?   Values are broad cultural principles that most people in a society consider desirable.  Values are so general that they do not specify precise ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.


19.              Why are values important?  Values are important because they have a tremendous influence on human social behavior-mainly because norms are based on them.  (See page 72-73).  


20.              What are the basic values in American Society?  See page 73.


21.              Do Beliefs matter?:

A.     Cognition is the process of thinking, knowing, or processing information.  The cognitive dimension of culture, then, refers to its complex of ideas and knowledge.  The most important aspect of the cognitive dimension of culture is beliefs.

B.     Beliefs are ideas concerning the nature of reality.  Actually, beliefs are influential whether they are true or false.  (Page 74).


22.              The Material Dimension:


A.     How do a society’s physical objects reflect its culture?

B.     Material culture consists of the concrete, tangible objects within a culture-Automobiles, basketballs, Jeans.

C.     Artifacts, or physical objects, have no meaning or use apart from the meanings people give them.  (Page 74).


23.              Ideal culture – refers to cultural guidelines publicly embraced by members of a society; these are the guidelines we claim to accept.

24.              Real Culture – refers to actual behavior patterns.

25.              Cultural Diversity – How is cultural diversity promoted?  Cultural diversity exists in all societies in part because of the presence of social categories.  A social category is a group of persons who share a social characteristic such as age, sec or religion.  (Page 77)

26.              Subculture is a group that is part of the dominant culture but differs from it in some important respects.  One of the clearest illustrations of a subculture is an ethnic minority concentrated in one location, such as San Francisco’s Chinatown.  See page 78.

27.              Counterculture – a counterculture is a subculture that is deliberately and consciously opposed to certain central aspects of the dominant culture.  (see page 78).

28.              Ethnocentrism – The tendency to judge others in terms of one’s own cultural standards is referred to as ethnocentrism.  Page 79.

29.              Cultural relativism – The idea that any given aspect of a particular culture should be evaluated in terms of its place within the larger cultural context of which it is a part rather than in terms of some alleged universal standard that is applied across all cultures.

30.              Cultural Universals – See page 84.  General cultural trains thought to exist in all known cultures.