Cultural Variation

You are visiting Tokyo and some
Japanese friends have asked you to
dinner. What do you expect?
• Make a list of things you might expect
to happen at this meal. What should
you do? What shouldn’t you do?
• Cultural Universals: features common to all cultures
• Murdock (1940s) – 65 cultural universals
• Dancing, family, greetings, language, music, housing,
Example: Family
• New members will be added to society & taken care of
• Introduces children to components of their culture
• However, families may look different across cultures
• Subculture: group with its own unique values, norms,
and behaviors that exists within a larger culture
• Age, gender, ethnic, religious, political, geographic, etc…
• Most do not present dangers & serve important functions
• Counterculture: group that rejects the values, norms,
and practices of larger society and replaces them
with a new set
• Anarchists, hippies, mafia
• Ethnocentrism: Tendency to view one’s own culture
and group as superior
• Extreme ethnocentrism can cause culture to stagnate –
exclude possible benefits
• Cultural Relativism: Belief that cultures should be
judged by their own standards rather than by
applying the standards of another
• Helps us keep an open mind toward cultural variations
• Cultural Diffusion: Spreading of culture traits from
one society to another
• Can happen almost instantly with current technology
• Material culture changes more readily than non-material
• Discovery and invention change society, too!
• Cultural Leveling: Process by which cultures become
more and more alike
• Functionalists
• Reflects and enforces
society’s central values
• Encourages harmony
• Subcultures diffuse discontent
of subgroups
• Ethnocentrism encourages
group solidarity
• Conflict Perspective
• Reflects values of those who
hold power
• Encourages and maintains
social inequality
• Sub/counter cultures
challenge those in power
• Ethnocentrism encourages
discrimination against
• Social Interaction
• Maintained & modified through every day social interaction
• Interaction among subcultural groups helps to transmit customs
and traditions
• The physical or tangible objects that members of society
make, use, and share. Material culture is the STUFF we use
• Examples of material culture:
• Food you eat
• Shelter you sleep in
• Transportation
• Entertainment: music, books, movies
• The abstract or intangible human creations of society that
influence people’s behavior
• Examples of Non-Material Culture
• Language
• Beliefs
• Values
• Family patterns
• Political Systems
• What can we know about a culture’s nonmaterial culture by examining their material
• In other words, what can we know about a
group’s beliefs and values by examining the
things/the stuff they use on a daily basis?