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Cultural Norms

Cultural Norms

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Published by Alice Mendeleyeva

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Published by: Alice Mendeleyeva on Apr 29, 2012
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Culture: learned shared behaviour of members of society
Defining terms “culture” and“cultural norms”
Culture is a complex concept used inmany different ways. It can be explicit(written) or implicit (simply understood). As
defined by Matsumoto (2004), it is “a
dynamic system of rules, explicit andimplicit, established by groups in order toensure their survival, involving attitudes,
values, beliefs, norms and behaviours”.Rohner defines culture as “an organised
system of meanings which provides ashared way of making sense of different
aspects of the world”.
Hofstede describesculture as mental software, which isshared by the members of a socio-culturalgroup. Culture is dynamic; it changes overtime and exists on many levels, two ofwhich can be distinguished:
First is the surface culture, whichchanges at a relatively rapid rate(music, fashion, entertainment).
Second is the deep culture, whichis slow to change (life, religious,philosophical beliefs, values inhuman relationships).Clearer culture boundaries may be seen at
the “deep culture level”. Culture is no
tinnate; it is a learned shared behaviour ofmembers of society. Culture includes:
Norms: accepted and expectedways of behaving.
Beliefs: explanations for whathappens, statements about whatis true and real.
Values: views of what is good,worthwhile and worth striving for.
Cultural norms
Cultural norms are behaviour patterns thatare typical of specific groups that arepassed from generation to generation by
observational learning by the group’s gate
parents, teachers etc. Arrangedmarriage, forbidding alcohol consumptionand child abuse are examples of culturalnorms. Norms vary from society to society.
In Bedouin society of North Africa, sheep’s
eyes are considered a delicacy and a loud,prolonged burp at the end of the meal isconsidered a compliment to the host. Bothdo not conform to Western norms. Someof the reasons why most people conformto social/cultural norms are becausehuman beings need social/cultural normsto guide their behaviour, provide order andto make sense and understand each
others’ actions.
Examining the role of twocultural dimensions onbehaviour
For example:
power distance
uncertainty avoidance
Confucian dynamism
Cultural dimensions
Cultural dimensions are the perspectivesof a culture based on values and culturalnorms.
Cultural bias
Cultures and subcultures direct action,shape perception, influence thought andconstitute world views. For most of
psychology’s history,
culture was ignoredcausing cultural bias, such as:
Ignoring culture: it leaves out oneof the most important consistuentsof human behaviour.
Culture doesn’t matter: cross
-cultural research shows that theassumption that findings from
reseach conducted in the Westare universally applicable iswrong.
Cultural change doesn’t matter:
cultures change over time andmany psychologists assumed thattheir findings applied to past,present and future societies.
Culture and psychology: aWestern creation with a relativelyshort history will inevitably reflectWestern culture and culturalchanges over the past 150 years.
Ethnocentrism: meaning seeingand evaluating other cultures interms of the norms and values ofyour own culture, is somethingpsychology has often beenaccused of as West has beenseen as the centre of the world.
Hofstede (1973)
Aim: find differences between theemployeesMethod: he asked employees of themultinational company IBM to fill insurveys about morale in the workplace.Results: after carrying out contentanalysis, focusing on the key differencessubmitted by employees in differentcountries, he noticed trends that he calleddimensions.Hofstede argues that understandingcultural dimensions will help facilitatecommunication between cultures.
Individualist society: ties betweenindividuals are loose, for example,people are expected to look afterthemselves and their immediatefamily.
Collectivist society: since birth,people are integrated into strong,cohesive in-groups, often withtheir extended families providingsupport and protection. Not living
up to family’s expectations can
lead to severe results.
Markus and Kitayama (1991)
They characterized difference between USand Japanese culture by citing two of theirproverbs:
“In America, the
squeaky wheel gets the 
(meaning it’s best to speak up); “
in Japan, the nail that stands out gets 
 pounded down” 
(meaning it’s
best to
remain silent, so you don’t get hit on the
head)Markus and Kitayama argue thatperceiving a boundary between individualand the social environment is distinctlywestern in its cultural orientation(individualism), while in non-westerncultures, the sense of connectedness(collectivism) is more common.
Wei et al. (2001)
Aim: to investigate the extent to which thedimension of individualism/collectivisminfluence conflict resolutioncommunication styles.Method: 600 managers from Singaporewere randomly selected for a survey.Participants were divided into 4 groups:Japanese, American, Chinese andSingaporeans working in multinationalcompanies and Chinese andSingaporeans working in local companies.Questionnaires and correlational analysiswere used to find possible relationshipsbetween scores on cultural dimension andconflict resolution style.Results: the higher the score in theindividualist dimension the more likely themanager was to adopt a dominatingconflict resolution style. Americanmanagers (I) were generally more likely toadopt a dominating conflict resolutionstyle, than Asian managers who adoptedan avoid ant conflict resolution style. Butas the companies were multinational, andother cultural factors played a role, therewas some crossing over present.
 There is an on-going controversial debatein psychology about whether gender is
determined culturally rather thanbiologically. Biological side of theargument provides with evolutionaryexplanation for sexual behaviour. Cross-cultural studies provide evidence formasculinity and femininity being culturaldimensions: cultural relativism supportsthe view that gender roles are culturallydetermined.
Margaret Mead (1935)
investigate culture’s influence on
gender roleMethod: study of three tribes in NewGuinea.Results: there were substantial differencesbetween the tribes:
Arapesh: both sexes were gentleand feminine.
Mundugumor: both sexes wereaggressive and masculine.
Tchambuli: females were moresexually assertive, males werevain, insecure and prone togossip.The study has been shown to be influentialand provided convincing evidence thatgender is cultural. However, Freeman(1996) branded her study as based onhearsay, rather than real research.
Gender differences
According to van Leeuwen (1978), thereare usually small in many hunter-gatheringsocieties like Inuit/Eskimo and AustralianAborigines, while more pronounced inagricultural societies. Women are morelikely to be expected to be compliant anddocile in herding societies, which suggeststhat females lose status in those societieswhere the economic activities of males,such as herding the animals, areparamount.
From Berry et al.’s (199
2) findings, it wasfound that, in terms of cognitive abilities,males are more superior in visuo-spatialtasks in agricultural and urban societiesbut not among hunter-gatherers. Alsoaggression is higher among young malesthan females in most societies, regardlessof whether such behaviour is encouragedby the society or not. Segall et al.suggested that since females areresponsible for nurturing infants, malesadopt aggression as a gender marker todistinguish themselves from females.However, hormones like testosteronemight also influence aggressive behaviour.
Hofstede’s low/high masculinity
Low masculinity High masculinitySingle standard forwomen and menWomen need to bevirgins before
marriage, men don’t.
 Other-oriented sex Ego-oriented sexReligion is not soimportant; optionalReligion is the mostimportant thing in lifeHomosexuality is afact of lifeHomosexuality is atabooSex is for procreationand recreationSex is only forprocreationSexual harassment isnot a major issueSexual harassment isa major issueFewer teenagepregnanciesFrequent teenagepregnanciesLowest masculinityscoreHighest masculinityscoreDenmark AustriaThe Netherlands VenezuelaSweden ItalyNorway Japan
“emic” and “etic”
 In cultures, there are different things thatare considered to be normal, butsometimes they are the same. This isexplained by emic and etic concepts.
Emic concepts
Emic concepts are those that areconsidered to be right in one, or maybefew cultures (Berry). Examples of definiteemics are arranged marriage, as it is doneonly within certain cultures of the world.;

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