Uploaded by Jansyl Tribdino

Sociocultural Lens Theory

A Synthesis Paper
Presented to
Prof. Marie Monsada
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements
For Self and Society
TRIBDINO, Jansyl Isabel C.
BA in Behavioral Sciences
October 2020
Culture and society play a crucial part in shaping ourselves. It also influences our
understanding of ourselves and how we perceive others. The society we live in serves as a mold
that forms our personality and development in relation to the culture it promotes. We learn and
incorporate beliefs, values, behavior patterns and such in ourselves with culture. We interact with
people who share the same culture as us and therefore, practice cultural attitudes as we grow up
with society. Through the understanding of how both culture and society molds us as persons, as
Rosaldo (1984) has said that culture is a mediating factor in understanding ourselves and Mead
(1934) the self is a social structure that arises from social experiences. As these both are very
related to each other, we can even consider the intersection of society and culture and how their
relationship with each other affects our whole being. The intersection of culture structure which
are the patterns in the members’ share beliefs and values and social structure that are patterns in
behavioral interaction among society could be seen as a social institution (Heise & MacKinnon,
In the past, psychologists and even anthropologists have researched about the relations
between culture and the psychology of man. One of these noted works are from the father of
psychology, Wilhelm Wundt who studied culture’s effect on a person’s behavior. There are early
studies in anthropology that presented the relation of culture, social practices and child
development. The similarities we could see from these researches are the socio-cultural factors
influencing a human’s development as they grow up (Albert & Trommsdorff, 2014). The
sociocultural lens theory is a perspective that looks into the social and cultural aspects of the
individual. The 'lens' describing how these two essential aspects are our basis for understanding
an individual. It does not only focus on the aspects but also takes into consideration the different
ascertainments they make as they develop in their respective societies.
The culture we are exposed to as we grow up is a big factor in our growth as persons. As
developing children, our mindset is pretty simple, we tend to imitate what we see. We follow the
behaviors of people we grow up with, like the language we learn, this comes to us naturally.
According to Bandura (1963), we acquire personality patterns from imitation of our parent’s
behavior and attitudes and these could all be indirectly acquired. Our parents most likely acquired
their behavior and attitudes from the culture they were exposed to as they grow up and as they
continue living in this way, we integrate some of these patterns into ourselves and interact with
people in society who also has been brought up in the same culture. When a child grows up seeing
their parents follow cultural traditions as an example, praying before eating. This will be followed
by the child as they observe this being done by the people that surround them daily. They will most
likely imitate behavioral patterns from their parents if they are exposed to this at an early age and
if it is continuously showed to them.
As we interact and become accustomed to these cultural practices, we can see how greatly
it affects our whole being and could be a basis of understanding oneself. This is where social norms
come into the picture, where we will be more aligned to conform to social norms for society’s
approval of us. As we grow accustomed to these practices that we assume everyone is doing, we
have expectations not only for ourselves but also for in conforming to the norms. Social norms are
rules that are understood by society, these norms are constructed through the interaction with
others and is mostly forced without public laws. (Cladini & Trost, 1998) We can say that we are
conditioned by society and the cultural practices we were brough up in and therefore have the
tendency to try and fulfill these social norms. An example of said norms could be the expectation
of society for you to have a family at a certain age, it is not in the law and it is unspoken. There
are exceptions to these, of course, because of the different circumstances and experiences we have
which will be later discussed in the paper.
There are exceptions to these, of course, because of the different circumstances and
experiences we have even in the same society. An individual could experience something that will
change their view regarding their own beliefs and practices that would lead to opposing them.
Opposing is a strong term rather they would abstain from these practices they disagree with and it
might lead to opposition. Society might see them as delinquents as they do not conform to the
social norms. This says a lot about both the individual and the society. According to Sunstein
(1996), some people depart from existing norms because of their own judgement, their own
reflection. They find these norms foolish or irrelevant to one’s being, sometimes they restrict
autonomy or well-being. Misogyny is still pretty prevalent these days as we still very much live in
a patriarchal society. There are social standards unspoken as well regarding the treatment between
men and women. The individual would view this incorrect and would disagree with such standards.
These are realizations an individual realizes as they grow up and are exposed to different views of
the world. People might also have core experiences that will also affect their perspective on the
society they live in and the culture they are promoting. These said experiences could be something
crucial to the individual which made them realize something. This all boils down to the
ascertainment, finding out that you've learned and acquired all these years does not align with your
moral value you developed.
There are different cultures and societies around the world, contradicting ideologies aren’t
avoided. The way people from a completely different culture will perceive us differently. Their
basis of their impression of you is from the culture and society you are. They might treat you
differently because of their own standards and beliefs. These could also give you a change in
perspective as you see how your culture and society are perceived by someone with different
cultural practices and societal attitudes. This is not really that essential to the theory but it is good
to take into consideration as it also may affect the perception of an individual.
Here we can see why the initial plan of action is to understand the culture and society of
an individual, whether you conform or oppose the cultural practices or social standards you were
made to follow. Even the different realizations and experiences you attain has a relation to society
and culture. All your decisions are influenced by society and culture. Culture is seen as to influence
socialization, behavior and development of individual and in turn, human behavior influences
culture (Trommsdorff, 2007) Knowing an individual's sociocultural background is essential to
understanding them.
From Figure 1, we can see that the sociocultural lens theory presents:
● The relationship between society and culture and how it influences a person through
cultural attitudes and practices that is promoted by the society that the individuals resides
● The individual’s self-perspective based on their own society and culture, they will obtain
this perspective through social and cultural standards they have acquired.
● The perspective of others to you that is also based on the same society and culture, they
will obtain this perspective through social and cultural standards they have acquired.
● The intersection of both of these perspectives will show how the individual perceives
himself and how society perceives them on the basis of social and cultural standards,
● There will be different experiences and realization which creates a shift in the selfperspective that will show how perspectives can change and how people can be different
even if they share the same cultural and societal attitudes.
● It is important to note that people from different cultures who grew up in a much different
society will have, if not an inverse perspective of the individual, but something unsimilar
to it because of their different standards. This can have an effect on how you perceive
Through all these aspects together, we can understand their relationship with each other,
we will have a greater comprehension of the self, how it developed, progressed and how it
continues to change.
Figure 1. Sociocultural Lens Theory
Jean Piaget’s (1970) theory of cognitive development presented that knowledge develops
systematically, it starts with sensory experience which moves to higher forms. His theory focuses
on the relationship between an individual and society in socio-moral, affective and intellectual. As
well on the development of intellectual and social operations and the role of norms. (DeVries,
1997) When he talked about a child’s development, he always relates it to the social interaction it
• Considers the social interaction an individual experience
• Social environment is crucial in development
• Behavior patterns is based on social interactions and
• Emphasized adult-child relationships and how it can affect
their development
• Focused
the • Focused on the sociomoral
sociocultural aspects
• Based on the intersection of • Emphasized cooperation of
self-perspective and others’
a child as detector of
perspective of you
• Takes in consideration
shifts due to experiences • Elaborated
and realizations
relationships of children
and authoritative figures in
• Observes perspectives from
their lives
different societies that can
affect your self-perception
George Herbert Mead (1913) introduced the social theory in which he says that an
individual has a “self” that is developed through social interaction and is composed of a “me” and
“I”. The individual has to see himself from others. The self is something we are not born with but
is developed through social experience and activities.
• Self-perception and consciousness are important in relation
to society
• Mind and behavior pattern resulted from social interactions
• Based on the intersection of self-perspective and others’
perspective of you
• Focused
the • Emphasis
selfsociocultural aspects
perception as the nature of
the self
• Takes in consideration
shifts due to experiences
and realizations
• Observes perspectives from
different societies that can
affect your self-perception
• Self-consciousness should
arise first before social
• Thinking
between the “I” and “me”
Lev Vygotsky (1934) introduced his sociocultural theory where he states that social
interaction is crucial in the development of a child. He focused mostly on the acquisition and
internalization of language. The internalization of social speech is the foundation that contributes
to the socially elaborated systems of thought of an individual. (Mahn, 1999)
• Emphasized adult-child relationships and how it can affect
their development
• Focused on the sociocultural aspects
• Behavior patterns is based on social interactions and
• Social environment is crucial in development
• Takes in consideration • Emphasis on how acquired
shifts due to experiences
language develops social
and realizations
thought in an individual
• Self-perception
and • Development is not from
linear progression but from
important in relation to
qualitative transformation
• Cognitive thinking results
• Based on the intersection of
from internalization of
self-perspective and others’
perspective of you
• Observes perspectives from
different societies that can
affect your self-perception
One of the significant strengths of the sociocultural lens theory is its emphasis on the effect
of the sociocultural aspects in the development of an individual, it does not only focus on the
societal effects as mostly theories do. The understanding of the environment where an individual
develops themselves in is something that should come first before understanding the individual
themselves. It will give you a basis on why someone acts in a certain way, their judgement is
based on the standards they have acquired from their environment, their society and the culture it
practices. Another strength it showcases is its basis on the self-perspective of the individual but
also from the members of their own society, it highlights the consciousness of an individual on
how they think society perceives them. Lastly, this theory takes into consideration the shift that an
individual may have due to experiences and realizations they deem important and has given them
a new perspective of things. These shifts are important to note as it forces an individual to change
their own beliefs that they have acquired at a young age, as well as changing your view on the
people who continuously practice said beliefs that you perceive wrong.
The weakness of the sociocultural lens theory is that its mostly focused on the collective
perspective of the members of society rather than considering that people have individualistic
aspects as a free-thinking person. It also focuses more on the sociocultural aspects rather than the
core experiences an individual has that really changes their developed perception, though it is
considered a factor it is just not as emphasized compared to the sociocultural aspects.
The sociocultural lens theory could be easily applied in advertising purposes when one is
determining what and how the product should be presented to a certain demographic in one society.
It would be easy to determine their standards and what their social norms are if they are approached
using this framework. This theory could also be used in analyzing research queries regarding the
effect of society and culture to an individual as it shows not only how it influences but also why it
influences a person. It would be very helpful with institutions if they are examining a certain group
of people for example, the government, if they need a better understanding of their people, the
framework would show them to go back to their roots and instead examine how social interaction
works in that community. This theory may help with our own understanding of the self, if one
wants to know how they could understand themselves more the sociocultural lens theory can be
used as a guide.
Sociocultural lens theory takes on a wide-range look on human beings, for us to be able to
understand ourselves more. It focuses on society and culture and how it shapes our self-perception
and the perception of others. This theory shows how society and culture molds us as human beings
as we develop and progress in the world. It also takes into consideration the different shifts because
of experiences we face that changes our view on certain things. This theory encourages the
individual to go back to your roots (culture), look at themselves, look at others, look at how others
look at you (society) and gain a holistic understanding not only of one’s self but also of the people
around you.
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