INTRODUCTION TO UNDERSTANDING CULTURE AND BEHAVIOUR LESSON 1 Key Terms: Evoked Culture, Transmitted Culture, Individualism- Collectivism, Uncertainty Avoidance, Power Distance, Masculinity Femininity, Long and Short Term Orientation Understanding of culture is the first step towards improving intercultural communication. This lesson aims to understand why culture develops, highlights its essential features, define culture and examine numerous culture patterns that influence intercultural communication. Basic Functions of culture: 1.
To improve the adaptation of members of the culture to a particular ecology and social environment. 2. Fulfills the basic needs; food shelter, physical protection 3. Fulfills the derived needs; organization of work, distribution of food, social control. 4. Fulfills the integrative needs; psychological security, social harmony and purpose in life. Culture has certain elements which mark a collection of people as a culture. These are history, religion, values, social organization and language. Defining Culture: There are about 164 definitions of culture in the anthropology literature!
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However, for all practical purposes we will focus on Marsella’s definition: “Culture is shared learned behavior which is transmitted from one generation to another for purposes of promoting individual and social survival, adaptation and growth and development. Culture has both external (e. g. artifacts, roles, institutions) and internal representations (e. g. values, attitudes, beliefs, cognitive styles, consciousness patterns and epistemologies). ” The most important characteristic of culture is that is learned.
It is learned through the transmitting of proverbs, stories, art etc. and through numerous channels such as family, peer, media, church etc. Also, culture is passed on from one generation to the next through communication. Communication makes culture a continuous process. Various symbols are used to transmit culture. These symbols are carried in books, pictures, films and non verbal actions such as hand shaking and bowing as symbols to greet someone. Another important characteristic of culture is that it is not static; cultures change and evolve over time.
Innovation through discovery of new practices, tools and concepts produce slight changes in social habits and behavior, for instance, cellular phones have reshaped cultures almost all over the world. Cultures may also change as a result of environmental upheavals, war, migration, influx of immigrants and growth of new technologies. THREE MAJOR APPROACHES TO CULTURE 1. Evoked Culture- is defined by cultural differences created by differing environmental conditions activating a predictable set of responses. Environmental conditions can activate some behaviors, such as cooperation and sharing.
Everyone has the capacity to share and cooperate, but the degree to which groups do share and cooperate depend upon the external environmental conditions, such as variance in the food supply. 2. Transmitted Culture- consists of ideas, values, attitudes and beliefs that are transmitted from one generation to the next through interaction. The view that is it wrong to eat beef is an example of transmitted culture because this value must have originated in the mind of one person who then transmitted it to others.
Different cultures transmit different self concepts to children. 3. Cultural Universals- this approach tries to identify aspects of culture that are universal and are found in all groups. These cultural universals unite all people in a common bond of humanity. Examples of cultural universals would be language, religion, education, beliefs about personality characteristics of men and women, the experiencing of certain basic emotions etc. PERCEPTION AND CULTURE Perception is defined as the means by which we interpret the physical and social world around us.
Perception is selective and what is allowed in to our conscious mind is determined through culture. For instance, how delighted one feels at the thought of eating the flesh of a cow, fish, dog or snake depends upon what one’s culture has taught them about food. Perception is culturally determined…people are not born knowing what clothes to wear, what games to play, what foods to eat or which Gods to worship. Cultures give meaning to most of our experiences. Every culture has its own belief system and values.
People from cultures where Christianity is predominant usually believe that salvation is attainable only through Christ. People who are Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu do not share this belief. They have their own set of beliefs regarding salvation and what happens to the human spirit after the body dies. Beliefs therefore, are mostly determined by culture. Values are normative and evaluative rules which teach a member of a culture what is good or bad, right or wrong, morals etc and is embedded into our socio-cultural milieu.
However, the value of a culture may not be the value of all individuals within that culture. Age, gender, personal experience, occupation may also shape the individual’s view of the environment. Hofstede’s Value Dimensions The lack of precision, and the lack of a universally applicable framework for classifying cultural patterns, has been addressed by a number of researchers. The most famous and most often cited work in this area is the research by the Dutch organizational anthropologist Hofstede.
Hofstede derived his culture dimensions from examining work-related values in employees of IBM during the 1970s. Hofstede’s work was one the earliest attempts to use extensive statistical data to examine cultural values. He proposed five value dimensions; A. Individualism- Collectivism: In Individualistic cultures such as the cultures in the west, the individual is the single most important unit in the social setting, independence rather than dependence is stressed, individual achievement is rewarded and personal goals take over the group goals.
In collectivistic cultures such as those in the eastern parts of the world and south America, people count on their in groups to look after them, there is greater readiness to cooperate with the in-group members, identity is based on the social system and individuals are emotionally dependent on the group or organizations such as the family, school, religious institutions etc. Both individualism and collectivism can take different forms in different societies. B.
Uncertainty Avoidance: This term defines the extent to which people within a culture are made nervous by situations which they perceive as unstructured, unclear or unpredictable, situations which they therefore try to avoid by maintaining strict codes of behavior. Cultures with high uncertainty avoidance express a strong need for written rules, planning, regulations and ceremonies which add structure to life. On the other hand, cultures with low uncertainty avoidance need are not threatened by deviance and unconventional ideas, they prize initiative, dislike structure associated with hierarchy and are more willing to take risks.
There is a greater desire for clear company rules, precision and punctuality. C. Power Distance: Power distance defines the extent to which the less powerful person in society accepts inequality in power and considers it as normal. People in high power distance countries such as India, Africa, Brazil, and Singapore believe that power and authority are facts of life; these cultures teach their members that people are not equal in this world and social hierarchies are present. Low power distance countries such as Austria, Norway, United States, New Zealand and Israel hold that inequality in society should be minimized.
People in these cultures feel that they are close to power and they should have access to that power. Subordinates consider superiors to be the same kind of people as they are and vice versa. D. Masculinity Femininity: Hofstede used the term masculinity and femininity to refer to the degree to which masculine and feminine traits are valued and revealed. Masculine cultures are male oriented, they expect men to be assertive, ambitious and competitive and women are meant to be home makers and submissive.
A classic example of such a society in spite of its economic development is Japan. Cultures that value femininity as a trait stress nurturing behaviors. A feminine world view maintains that men need not be assertive and that they can assume nurturing roles and promotes sexual equality. E. Long and Short Term Orientation: This dimension came about as a result of the criticism Hofstede faced for collecting data with a western bias. This survey used a form called the Chinese Value Survey which included teachings of Confucius.
Cultures who favor long term planning such as those in India, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Brazil place importance in personal stability and respect for tradition. They tend to value long range goals. However, those cultures that rank low on long term orientation index such United States, Great Britain, Canada and Philippines, often do not place a high priority on status, try to postpone old age, are concerned with short term results and as such seek immediate gratification of their needs. DEEP STRUCTURE OF CULTURE
Nobles (1980) identifies the deep structure of culture as the philosophical assumptions underpinning and reflected the in the culture’s world view, ethos and ideology. To better understand any culture, you need to appreciate that culture’s deep structure. The deep structure includes issues such as God, Loyalty, Family and Community. Religion forms the single most important element of the deep structure of a culture. This is because religion serves a number of important psychological and social needs. It provides comfort through the belief that super natural aid is available in times of crisis.
Through rituals, religion may be used to enhance the learning of oral traditions and plays an important role in maintaining social solidarity. Dominant religious traditions of the world We have chosen Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism as these religions have lasted for centuries and shaped millions of people across the world. Christianity: Christianity is followed by a billion people scattered throughout the world. The basic assumption behind Christianity is the belief in God and Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.
Jesus came to this planet to save the human kind. Christians believe in organized worship and God’s message is shared with others. This is because Jesus’ view of self was relational. Even at the Last Supper, Jesus shared his final meal with his twelve leading disciples rather than being alone. The ethical principles intended to give direction to the followers of the faith are found in the Ten Commandments and scattered throughout the bible. However, the central ethic of Jesus was love. “Love your neighbor as yourself. What you would like people to do to you do to them. Even though membership in the church community is important to Christians, most religious scholars maintain that each individual has a unique relationship with God and salvation, particularly for the Protestants is achieved by an individual’s own efforts and deeds. Activity and Christianity are bound together, this is because Jesus was an active man and urged his followers to be energetic. Even though gender inequality has stayed in many cultures of the world, the modern interpretation of the Bible is more consistent with current perceptions.
The Romans, before the coming of Jesus, regarded women as inferior to men, men could divorce their wives but not vice versa. Jesus banned all divorce. The new religion offered women not only greater status and influence within the church but also more protection as wives and mothers. Last but not the least, Jesus was courageous and was not intimidated by his opponents. These traits are valued by all Christians and they strive to be courageous in their pursuits. Judaism: Judaism is the oldest of the religions being practiced today and smallest of all the major religious traditions.
However, it has had a profound effect on the entire world. As a religion, Judaism has three essential elements; God, Torah and Israel. They believe in one universal eternal God who has entered into a special relationship or covenant with one people, the Jews and Israel and given them the task of being the ‘nation of the nations’. Torah refers to what’s commonly known as The Five Books of Moses. “A Torah” is that handwritten parchment scroll written in Hebrew and many English translations are also now available. It serves as an nstruction manual for various subject areas. There is no part of life the Torah doesn’t have an opinion on. Israel is considered the Holy Land; the only land which receives its blessing from G-d without the services of any intermediaries is the holy land of Israel. God’s added (revealed) presence in Israel is what gives it its extra measure of holiness. The holiness of the Land has many practical applications. Judaism is not only a religion that serves spiritual needs but a guide to worship, ceremonies, justice, friendship, kindness, intellectual pursuits and diet.
According to the teachings of the Torah the woman is the one who sets the foundation of every Jewish home. It is the woman’s primary job to ensure that the home is a place of peace and harmony, a conducive atmosphere for spirituality and Godliness. Her God given nature is suited for this purpose. Women are by nature more nurturing, patient and compassionate. Judaism places great regard for higher education and intellectual pursuits and teaches a firm system of justice. Islam: Islam is one of the most widespread and most misunderstood religions of the world.
Islam emerged in the Arab world thousands of years ago with the arrival of Prophet Muhammad- who was considered the messenger of God by the Muslim people. Muhammad delivered the religious message, established the social order and formed a city-state known as Madinah. Islam believes in one God Allah and has five pillars of faith and practice which are cardinal principles that outline prescriptions for social conduct, practical ethics in the fabric of society. Muslims believe that God wishes to communicate with human beings and he uses prophets for this purpose.
Abraham, Moses, Jesus were all prophets but the final prophet Muhammad revealed God’s eternal message. Islam believes that God revealed scriptures to humanity as guidance for them and hold that the Quran is God’s final word and supersedes all previous writings. Muslims believe in praying (Salat or Namaaz) five times a day: on rising, at noon, in the midafternoon, after sunset and before retiring. Fasting in the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims do not eat, drink or engage in sexual activities and neither do they smoke between sunrise to sunset.
The Pilgrimage (Hajj) means that once in a lifetime every Muslim, if financially able, is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia as evidence of his/her devotion to Allah. The pillar of Jihad is one of the most misinterpreted concepts of Islam. Jihad has two meanings: The first is the inner Jihad or ‘struggle with oneself’ a battle all individuals wage with their own baser instincts in order to achieve a virtuous life. The second connotation is the outer Jihad that includes all activities that either defend Islam or further its cause.
Political extremists who want to forward their own cause refer to their guerilla or terrorists wars as Jihad. Hinduism: Hinduism is a conglomeration of religious thought, values and beliefs. Amongst the Hindus, one may find magic, nature worship, animal veneration and an unlimited number of deities. They find divine in everything, from the Himalayan peaks to the Ganges to the several inconspicuous sites where the gods and goddesses lived. Rituals are important in showing that God is in everything and ritual significance can be found in everyday activities such as the lighting of incense, bathing, and eating and marriage ceremonies.
The sacred texts of the Hindus include and oldest Vedas, of which the Upanishads are the most influential as it teaches the knowledge of God and records the spiritual experiences of the sages of ancient India. The Bhagvad Gita is an eighteen chapter book which teaches how to achieve union with the supreme reality through the paths of knowledge, devotion, selfless work and meditation. The path towards Nirvana or spiritual enlightenment is influenced by one’s karma.
According to the theory of Karma, the present condition of each individual’s life is a product of what one did in the previous life and one’s present acts, thoughts and decisions determine one’s future states. Buddhism: Buddhism was founded by an Indian prince named Siddhartha Gautama in about 563 B. C. Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of life. Buddhist practices such as meditation are means of changing oneself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom.
The experience developed within the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource for all those who wish to follow a path — a path which ultimately culminates in Enlightenment or Buddha hood. Because Buddhism does not include the idea of worshipping a creator god, some people do not see it as a religion in the normal, Western sense. The basic tenets of Buddhist teaching are straightforward and practical: nothing is fixed or permanent; actions have consequences; change is possible.
Thus Buddhism addresses itself to all people irrespective of race, nationality, or gender. It teaches practical methods (such as meditation) which enable people to realize and utilize its teachings in order to transform their experience, to be fully responsible for their lives and to develop the qualities of Wisdom and Compassion. There are around 350 million Buddhists and a growing number of them are Westerners. They follow many different forms of Buddhism, but all traditions are characterized by non-violence, lack of dogma, tolerance of differences, and, usually, by the practice of meditation.
Confucianism: Confucianism is more than a religion, it’s a system of social, political, ethical and religious thought based on the teachings of Confucius and his successors. It has had a profound impact on the cultures of Korea, Japan, Vietnam and especially China. It has no priests, no temples and religious rituals, only a rational ethical system with strict norms, stressing loyalty to the ruler, obedience to one’s father and proper behavior. Confucius did not write down his philosophy, therefore the details of his teachings have been passed on by his disciples.
However, the most influential of the books written was the Analects which contained aphorisms, sayings and proverbs that were believed to be the most salient ideas of Confucian philosophy. The essence of all its teachings may be summed up under this one word ‘Jen’. The nearest equivalent to this difficult word is “social virtue”. All those virtues which help to maintain social harmony and peace like benevolence, charity, magnanimity, sincerity, respectfulness, altruism, diligence, loving kindness, goodness are included in Jen.
Confucius laid great stress on the cultivation of character, purity of heart and conduct. He exhorted the people to develop a good character first, which is a priceless jewel and which is the best of all virtues. The nature of man, according to Confucius, is fundamentally good inclined towards goodness. His teaching was largely concerned with the problems of good government. He said, “The Ruler himself should be virtuous, just, honest and dutiful. A virtuous ruler is like the Pole-star which, by keeping its place, makes all other stars to evolve round it. As is the Ruler, so will be the subjects. CONCLUSION It is clear from this lesson that culture is a complex and dynamic process, its roots very deep and branches far reaching. Individuals well informed in cultural knowledge have a significant edge over others due to their deeper understanding of how culture influences our lives. REFERENCES Samovar, L. A. , Porter, R. , & Stefani, L. A. (1998). Communication between cultures (3rd Ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. POINTS TO PONDER: ? Do personalities differ from culture to culture? ? Are there universal aspects of personality? ? What are the prominent features of Singapore culture?