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Culture: learned shared behaviour of members of society
Defining terms “cultural norms”
Culture is a complex concept used in many different ways. It can be explicit (written) or implicit (simply understood). As defined by Matsumoto (2004), it is “a dynamic system of rules, explicit and implicit, established by groups in order to ensure their survival, involving attitudes, values, beliefs, norms and behaviours”. Rohner defines culture as “an organised system of meanings which provides a shared way of making sense of different aspects of the world”. Hofstede describes culture as mental software, which is shared by the members of a socio-cultural group. Culture is dynamic; it changes over time and exists on many levels, two of which can be distinguished: First is the surface culture, which changes at a relatively rapid rate (music, fashion, entertainment). Second is the deep culture, which is slow to change (life, religious, philosophical beliefs, values in human relationships). Clearer culture boundaries may be seen at the “deep culture level”. Culture is not innate; it is a learned shared behaviour of members of society. Culture includes: Norms: accepted and expected ways of behaving. Beliefs: explanations for what happens, statements about what is true and real. Values: views of what is good, worthwhile and worth striving for.
marriage, forbidding alcohol consumption and child abuse are examples of cultural norms. 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 is considered a compliment to the host. Both do not conform to Western norms. Some of the reasons why most people conform to social/cultural norms are because human beings need social/cultural norms to guide their behaviour, provide order and to make sense and understand each others’ actions.
Examining cultural behaviour
the role of dimensions
individualism/collectivism power distance uncertainty avoidance Confucian dynamism masculinity/femininity
Cultural dimensions are the perspectives of a culture based on values and cultural norms.
Cultures and subcultures direct action, shape perception, influence thought and constitute world views. For most of psychology’s history, culture was ignored causing cultural bias, such as: Ignoring culture: it leaves out one of the most important consistuents of human behaviour. Culture doesn’t matter: crosscultural research shows that the assumption that findings from
Cultural norms are behaviour patterns that are typical of specific groups that are passed from generation to generation by observational learning by the group’s gate keepers – parents, teachers etc. Arranged
reseach conducted in the West are universally applicable is wrong. Cultural change doesn’t matter: cultures change over time and many psychologists assumed that their findings applied to past, present and future societies. Culture and psychology: a Western creation with a relatively short history will inevitably reflect Western culture and cultural changes over the past 150 years. Ethnocentrism: meaning seeing and evaluating other cultures in terms of the norms and values of your own culture, is something psychology has often been accused of as West has been seen as the centre of the world.
Markus and Kitayama (1991)
They characterized difference between US and Japanese culture by citing two of their proverbs: “In America, the squeaky wheel gets the grease” (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 that perceiving a boundary between individual and the social environment is distinctly western in its cultural orientation (individualism), while in non-western cultures, the sense of connectedness (collectivism) is more common.
Aim: find differences between the employees Method: he asked employees of the multinational company IBM to fill in surveys about morale in the workplace. Results: after carrying out content analysis, focusing on the key differences submitted by employees in different countries, he noticed trends that he called dimensions. Hofstede argues that understanding cultural dimensions will help facilitate communication between cultures.
Wei et al. (2001)
Aim: to investigate the extent to which the dimension of individualism/collectivism influence conflict resolution communication styles. Method: 600 managers from Singapore were randomly selected for a survey. Participants were divided into 4 groups: Japanese, American, Chinese and Singaporeans working in multinational companies and Chinese and Singaporeans working in local companies. Questionnaires and correlational analysis were used to find possible relationships between scores on cultural dimension and conflict resolution style. Results: the higher the score in the individualist dimension the more likely the manager was to adopt a dominating conflict resolution style. American managers (I) were generally more likely to adopt a dominating conflict resolution style, than Asian managers who adopted an avoid ant conflict resolution style. But as the companies were multinational, and other cultural factors played a role, there was some crossing over present.
Individualist society: ties between individuals are loose, for example, people are expected to look after themselves and their immediate family. Collectivist society: since birth, people are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often with their extended families providing support and protection. Not living up to family’s expectations can lead to severe results.
There is an on-going controversial debate in psychology about whether gender is
determined culturally rather than biologically. Biological side of the argument provides with evolutionary explanation for sexual behaviour. Crosscultural studies provide evidence for masculinity and femininity being cultural dimensions: cultural relativism supports the view that gender roles are culturally determined.
than females in most societies, regardless of whether such behaviour is encouraged by the society or not. Segall et al. suggested that since females are responsible for nurturing infants, males adopt aggression as a gender marker to distinguish themselves from females. However, hormones like testosterone might also influence aggressive behaviour.
Margaret Mead (1935)
Aim: investigate culture’s influence on gender role Method: study of three tribes in New Guinea. Results: there were substantial differences between the tribes: Arapesh: both sexes were gentle and feminine. Mundugumor: both sexes were aggressive and masculine. Tchambuli: females were more sexually assertive, males were vain, insecure and prone to gossip.
Low masculinity Single standard women and men
High masculinity for Women need to be virgins before marriage, men don’t. Ego-oriented sex Religion is the most important thing in life Homosexuality is a taboo Sex is only for procreation Sexual harassment is a major issue Frequent teenage pregnancies Highest masculinity score Austria Venezuela Italy Japan
Other-oriented sex Religion is not so important; optional Homosexuality is a fact of life Sex is for procreation and recreation Sexual harassment is not a major issue Fewer teenage pregnancies Lowest masculinity score Denmark The Netherlands Sweden Norway
The study has been shown to be influential and provided convincing evidence that gender is cultural. However, Freeman (1996) branded her study as based on hearsay, rather than real research.
According to van Leeuwen (1978), there are usually small in many hunter-gathering societies like Inuit/Eskimo and Australian Aborigines, while more pronounced in agricultural societies. Women are more likely to be expected to be compliant and docile in herding societies, which suggests that females lose status in those societies where the economic activities of males, such as herding the animals, are paramount. From Berry et al.’s (1992) findings, it was found that, in terms of cognitive abilities, males are more superior in visuo-spatial tasks in agricultural and urban societies but not among hunter-gatherers. Also aggression is higher among young males
In cultures, there are different things that are considered to be normal, but sometimes they are the same. This is explained by emic and etic concepts.
Emic concepts are those that are considered to be right in one, or maybe few cultures (Berry). Examples of definite emics are arranged marriage, as it is done only within certain cultures of the world.;
forbiddance of alcohol consumption, like for example in some in some Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia; or even spanking children for doing things wrong.
Etic concepts are those that are considered to be right everywhere (Berry). Moghaddam (2004) has made a list of etic concepts and they were as following: when people are talking they are speaking in turns and respond when are being addressed and if not something must be wrong; and also that people describe the world in negative and positive terms.
Some things, like for example driving on the left side of the road are considered by some people etics; however they are not etics, as in the UK and India people drive on the right side of the road. Things like that, which are considered etics but are in fact emics are called, imposed etics.
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