Relationship of culture and human behavior

relationship of culture and human behavior

develop theories to explain these psychological and behavioral patterns, and to understand their relationship to culture and human nature. Addresses. Most importantly, it is a model that posits human agency. For example How do you see the relationship between culture and behavior?. Cultural differences in human behavior are widely documented. . further support a cause-effect relationship between specific cultural values.

This emphasis brings us back to your question about culture. I see culture as a part of our social environment. Most importantly, it is a model that posits human agency. For example, suppose we want to exercise more.

We can take two steps to exert our agency. First, we need to recognize the influences that are working against us. Bandura suggests we look at personal, social, and environmental influences. In Influencer and Change Anythingmy co-authors and I classify these as Personal, Social the social environmentand Structural the physical world influences.

This ability to recognize and change the influences around us gives us agency over our behavior. When we apply this model to culture, we see that we are influenced by our culture, but that we are also able to influence and change that culture.

Instead of being a prisoner of our culture, we are both the product and parent of our culture. Now, back to my earlier aside. I said that culture is an aspect of our social environment.

relationship of culture and human behavior

What I really mean is that culture is the implicit part of our social environment. Our social environment includes both explicit and implicit elements.

We often characterize this distinction as above the waterline and below the waterline. Above the waterline are the explicit, acknowledged, and intentional influences of our social environment.

Below the waterline are the implicit, unrecognized, and unseen influences.

relationship of culture and human behavior

The scientific question is just how experience and hereditary potential interact in producing human behavior. The characteristics of a child's social setting affect how he or she learns to think and behave, by means of instruction, rewards and punishment, and example.

This setting includes home, school, neighborhood, and also, perhaps, local religious and law enforcement agencies. Then there are also the child's mostly informal interactions with friends, other peers, relatives, and the entertainment and news media.

How individuals will respond to all these influences, or even which influence will be the most potent, tends not to be predictable. Furthermore, culturally induced behavior patterns, such as speech patterns, body language, and forms of humor, become so deeply imbedded in the human mind that they often operate without the individuals themselves being fully aware of them. Every culture includes a somewhat different web of patterns and meanings: Within a large society, there may be many groups, with distinctly different subcultures associated with region, ethnic origin, or social class.

Some subcultures may arise among special social categories such as business executives and criminalssome of which may cross national boundaries such as musicians and scientists.

relationship of culture and human behavior

Fair or unfair, desirable or undesirable, social distinctions are a salient part of almost every culture. The form of the distinctions varies with place and time, sometimes including rigid castes, sometimes tribal or clan hierarchies, sometimes a more flexible social class. Class distinctions are made chiefly on the basis of wealth, education, and occupation, but they are also likely to be associated with other subcultural differences, such as dress, dialect, and attitudes toward school and work.

The class into which people are born affects what language, diet, tastes, and interests they will have as children, and therefore influences how they will perceive the social world. Still, many people live lives very different from the norm for their class.

The ease with which someone can change social class varies greatly with time and place. Throughout most of human history, people have been almost certain to live and die in the class into which they were born.

The times of greatest upward mobility have occurred when a society has been undertaking new enterprises for example, in territory or technology and thus has needed more people in higher-class occupations.

In some parts of the world today, increasing numbers of people are escaping from poverty through economic or educational opportunity, while in other parts, increasing numbers are being impoverished. What is considered to be acceptable human behavior varies from culture to culture and from time period to time period.

Every social group has generally accepted ranges of behavior for its members, with perhaps some specific standards for subgroups, such as adults and children, females and males, artists and athletes. Unusual behaviors may be considered either merely amusing, or distasteful, or punishably criminal.

Some normal behavior in one culture may be considered unacceptable in another. For example, aggressively competitive behavior is considered rude in highly cooperative cultures. Conversely, in some subcultures of a highly competitive society, such as that of the United States, a lack of interest in competition may be regarded as being out of step. Although the world has a wide diversity of cultural traditions, there are some kinds of behavior such as incest, violence against kin, theft, and rape that are considered unacceptable in almost all of them.

The social consequences considered appropriate for unacceptable behavior also vary widely between, and even within, different societies.

Punishment of criminals ranges from fines or humiliation to imprisonment or exile, from beatings or mutilation to execution.

The form of appropriate punishment is affected by theories of its purpose to prevent or deter the individual from repeating the crime, or to deter others from committing the crime, or simply to cause suffering for its own sake in retribution.

The success of punishment in deterring crime is difficult to study, in part because of ethical limitations on experiments assigning different punishments to similar criminals, and in part because of the difficulty of holding other factors constant. Technology has long played a major role in human behavior. The high value placed on new technological invention in many parts of the world has led to increasingly rapid and inexpensive communication and travel, which in turn has led to the rapid spread of fashions and ideas in clothing, food, music, and forms of recreation.

Books, magazines, radio, and television describe ways to dress, raise children, make money, find happiness, get married, cook, and make love. They also implicitly promote values, aspirations, and priorities by the way they portray the behavior of people such as children, parents, teachers, politicians, and athletes, and the attitudes they display toward violence, sex, minorities, the roles of men and women, and lawfulness.

Membership in these groups influences how people think of themselves and how others think of them. These groups impose expectations and rules that make the behavior of members more predictable and that enable each group to function smoothly and retain its identity.

The rules may be informal and conveyed by example, such as how to behave at a social gathering, or they may be written rules that are strictly enforced. Formal groups often signal the kind of behavior they favor by means of rewards such as praise, prizes, or privileges and punishments such as threats, fines, or rejection.

Affiliation with any social group, whether one joins it voluntarily or is born into it, brings some advantages of larger numbers: Within each group, the members' attitudes, which often include an image of their group as being superior to others, help ensure cohesion within the group but can also lead to serious conflict with other groups.

Such social prejudice may include blind respect for some categories of people, such as doctors or clergy, as well as blind disrespect for other categories of people who are, say, foreign-born or women.

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The behavior of groups cannot be understood solely as the aggregate behavior of individuals. It is not possible, for example, to understand modern warfare by summing up the aggressive tendencies of individuals. Several children together may vandalize a building, even though none of them would do it on his or her own. By the same token, an adult will often be more generous and responsive to the needs of others as a member of, say, a club or religious group than he or she would be inclined to be in private.

The group situation provides the rewards of companionship and acceptance for going along with the shared action of the group and makes it difficult to assign blame or credit to any one person. Social organizations may serve many purposes beyond those for which they formally exist.

Private clubs that exist ostensibly for recreation are frequently important places for engaging in business transactions; universities that formally exist to promote learning and scholarship may help to promote or to reduce class distinctions; and business and religious organizations often have political and social agendas that go beyond making a profit or ministering to people. The conditions of one generation limit and shape the range of possibilities open to the next.

On the one hand, each new generation learns the society's cultural forms and thus does not have to reinvent strategies for producing food, handling conflict, educating young people, governing, and so forth.

It also learns aspirations for how society can be maintained and improved. On the other hand, each new generation must address unresolved problems from the generation before: Slavery in the early history of the United States, for example, still has serious consequences for African-Americans and for the U. Grievances may be relieved just enough to make people tolerate them, or they may overflow into revolution against the structure of the society itself. Many societies continue to perpetuate centuries-old disputes with others over boundaries, religion, and deeply felt beliefs about past wrongs.

Governments generally attempt to engineer social change by means of policies, laws, incentives, or coercion. Sometimes these efforts work effectively and actually make it possible to avoid social conflict. At other times they may precipitate conflict. For example, setting up agricultural communes in the Soviet Union against the farmers' wishes to farm their own private land was achieved only with armed force and the loss of millions of lives.

The outlook of the Soviet Union, for example, is strongly influenced by the devastating losses it suffered in both world wars.

Chapter 7: Human Society

The societies of American Indians were ravaged and displaced by the diseases and warfare brought by colonists from Europe. In the United States, forcible importation of Africans and successive waves of immigrants from Europe, Latin America, and Asia have greatly affected the political, economic, and social systems such as labor, voting blocs, and educational programsas well as adding to the nation's cultural variety. Natural disasters such as storms or drought can cause failure of crops, bringing hardship and famine, and sometimes migration or revolution.

Convenient communication and transportation also stimulate social change. Groups previously isolated geographically or politically become ever more aware of different ways of thinking, living, and behaving, and sometimes of the existence of vastly different standards of living. Migrations and mass media lead not only to cultural mixing but also to the extinction of some cultures and the rapid evolution of others. The size of the human population, its concentration in particular places, and its pattern of growth are influenced by the physical setting and by many aspects of culture: Some religious groups also take a strong stand on population issues.

Leaders of the Roman Catholic church, for example, have long campaigned against birth control, whereas, in recent years, religious leaders of other major faiths have endorsed the use of birth control to restrict family size.

Quite apart from government policy or religious doctrine, many people decide whether to have a child on the basis of practical matters such as the health risk to the mother, the value or cost of a child in economic or social terms, the amount of living space, or a personal feeling of suitability as parents. In the United States, the trend toward casual adolescent sexual relations has led to increasing numbers of unexpected and unwanted pregnancies.

Great increase in the size of a population requires greater job specialization, new government responsibilities, new kinds of institutions, and the need to marshal a more complex distribution of resources. Population patterns, particularly when they are changing, are also influential in changing social priorities. The greater the variety of subcultures, the more diverse the provisions that have to be made for them. As the size of a social group increases, so may its influence on society.

The influence may be through markets such as young people who, as a group, buy more athletic equipmentvoting power for example, old people are less likely to vote for school bond legislationor recognition of need by social planners for example, more mothers who work outside the home will require child-care programs.

To gain something we want or need, it is usually necessary to give up something we already have, or at least give up an opportunity to have gained something else instead. For example, the more the public spends as a whole on government-funded projects such as highways and schools, the less it can spend on defense if it has already decided not to increase revenue or debt. Social trade-offs are not always economic or material.

Sometimes they arise from choices between our private rights and the public good: Or choices may arise between esthetics and utility.

For example, a proposed large-scale apartment complex may be welcomed by prospective tenants but opposed by people who already live in the neighborhood. Different people have different ideas of how trade-offs should be made, which can result in compromise or in continuing discord. How different interests are served often depends on the relative amounts of resources or power held by individuals or groups.

Peaceful efforts at social change are most successful when the affected people are included in the planning, when information is available from all relevant experts, and when the values and power struggles are clearly understood and incorporated into the decision-making process.

There is often a question of whether a current arrangement should be improved or whether an entirely new arrangement should be invented. On the one hand, repeatedly patching up a troublesome situation may make it just tolerable enough that the large-scale change of the underlying problem is never undertaken.

On the other hand, rushing to replace every system that has problems may create more problems than it solves. It is difficult to compare the potential benefits of social alternatives. In a very large population, value comparisons are further complicated by the fact that a very small percentage of the population can be a large number of people.

For example, in a total population of million, a rise in the unemployment rate of only one-hundredth of 1 percent which some people would consider trivially small would mean a loss of 10, jobs which other people would consider very serious.

Judgments of consequences in social trade-offs tend to involve other issues as well. One is a distance effect: The farther away in distance or the further away in time the consequences of a decision are, the less importance we are likely to give them. City dwellers, for instance, are less likely to support national crop-support legislation than are farmers, and farmers may not wish to have their federal tax dollars pay for inner-city housing projects.

relationship of culture and human behavior

As individuals, we find it difficult to resist an immediate pleasure even if the long-term consequences are likely to be negative, or to endure an immediate discomfort for an eventual benefit. As a society, similarly, we are likely to attach more importance to immediate benefits such as rapidly using up our oil and mineral deposits than to long-term consequences shortages that we or our descendants may suffer later.

The effect of distance in judging social trade-offs is often augmented by uncertainty about whether potential costs and benefits will occur at all.

If relative value measures can also be placed on all the possible outcomes, the probabilities and value measures can be combined to estimate which alternative would be the best bet. But even when both probabilities and value measures are available, there may be debate about how to put the information together. People may be so afraid of some particular risk, for example, that they insist that it be reduced to as close to zero as possible, regardless of what other benefits or risks are involved.

And finally, decisions about social alternatives are usually complicated by the fact that people are reactive.

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When a social program is undertaken to achieve some intended effect, the inventiveness of people in promoting or resisting that effect will always add to the uncertainty of the outcome. Through politics, governments are elected or appointed, or, in some cases, created by armed force. Governments have the power to make, interpret, and enforce the rules and decisions that determine how countries are run.