(noun) The ideas and self-concepts of a group or society (e.g., artifacts, attitudes, beliefs, customs, norms, symbols, and values) in a particular place and time, passing from one generation to the next.

Example: The culture of a nonprofit that promotes community activism as a method of curbing violence against women.

Audio Pronunciation: (cul·ture)

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  • “[C]ulture is a kind of knowledge, not behavior: It is in people’s heads. It reflects the mental categories they learn from others as they grow up. It helps them generate behavior and interpret what they experience. At the moment of birth, we lack a culture. We don’t yet have a system of beliefs, knowledge, and patterns of customary behavior. But from that moment until we die, each of us participates in a kind of universal schooling that teaches us our native culture. Laughing and smiling are genetic responses, but as infants we soon learn when to smile, when to laugh, and even how to laugh. We also inherit the potential to cry, but we must learn our cultural rules for when crying is appropriate” (Spradley and McCurdy 2008:2).
  • “Cultures do not generally remain static. There are many forces working toward change and diversity. Some societies and individuals adapt to the this change whereas others suffer culture shock and succumb to ethnocentrism” (Kendall 2006:57).
  • “Whereas a society is composed of people, a culture is composed of ideas, behavior, and material possessions. Society and culture are independent; neither could exist without the other” (Kendall 2006:42).

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Kendall, Diane. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Spradley, James P., and David W. McCurdy. 2008. Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. Boston: Pearson Education.