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Chapter 3: Culture

3.4 Test Your Knowledge

1. Kissing is a social construct.  Explain what is meant by this statement.

2. Take a few minutes to look around your home.  List 5 things found in your home that were influenced by your society’s culture.  Write a few sentences discussing your reaction to the idea that your tastes, interests, beliefs, likes and dislikes are influenced by your culture.

3. What is culture?  What are the two main reasons sociologists favor a cultural explanation for our behavior rather than an instinctual/biological explanation?  Provide examples to illustrate.

4. Culture is divided into two broad categories, including nonmaterial and material culture.  Material culture includes the physical objects (or artifacts) of a given society, while nonmaterial culture includes our thoughts and actions.   One part of nonmaterial culture is the system of symbols we use to communicate meaning and which allow for social interaction. Spend 30 minutes observing the symbolic culture around you (gestures, language and other parts of symbolic culture you see and use in your daily life).  Write a paragraph discussing your observations.  Be sure to include discussion of the symbols you see being shown or used and why these symbols are important.

5. Norms, the standards and expectations for behavior, are ever present in society.  We are expected to conform to cultural norms to a high degree and are usually negatively sanctioned (penalized or punished) when we violate a norm . Think of a time when you or someone you know violated a norm (either a formal or informal norm).  How did others react to your norm violation?  What was your response to their reaction?

6. Culture is perpetually changing, particularly once a society experiences industrialization.  Provide an overview of the major sources of cultural change and explain why cultural lag may result from cultural change.  Make sure in your discussion to provide an example to demonstrate cultural lag.

7. While members of a given society have shared culture, because most societies today are quite diverse, they also have subcultures and countercultures.  Looking at the U.S. or your country of origin, provide examples of both a subculture and a counterculture (not those discussed in the text).  Discuss how these groups are similar to and different from the dominant culture.

8. What are ethnocentrism and cultural relativism?  Discuss an example of a norm or value from another culture or subculture that you have looked at ethnocentrically.  Explain why you perceived it this way.  What could you do to try to look at this norm or value from a more relativistic point of view?


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Exploring Our Social World: The Story of Us by Jean M. Ramirez, Suzanne Latham, Rudy G. Hernandez, and Alicia E. Juskewycz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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