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Culture plays an important role in everyone, in every society, and in every nation. A person’s behavior influences his place in society. Culture and behavior go together, as the latter is an element or a compound within the cultural concept. Any person belongs with a particular culture, thus, culture is universal.
Cultures are human-made concepts. They are abstract though they consist of material aspects. Their increasing complexities arise from the growing participation of the entities in meta-contingencies (Glenn, 2004).
It is possible that people can alter some elements of their culture, but unless there is a deep understanding of how cultures form and evolve, it would be difficult for one to know what can or should be changed in a culture. The act of changing a culture can only be minimal because of the complexities of the study complexity
Culture, serving as a categorical idea of people, is a school of thought that has anthropologists all over the word dedicated to studying its many intricacies.
What we do in our everyday lives are a result of the culture we grew up with and the environment we interact in. We usually are not fully aware of our actions and behaviors, thus they are humanly natural to us. Upon observation by different researchers and scholars, the culture people belong to is the reason behind people’s attitudes towards a certain event or happening.
Definition of Culture and Human Behavior
Sociologists define culture as the values, beliefs, behavior, and material objects that, together, form a people’s way of life (Macionis, 2001/2002). It includes what we think, how we act, and what we own. Culture is considered a link to the past and a guide to the future, since it is the product of human influences throughout history and a field studied and forecasted upon by those studying humans.
Culture shapes what we do and forms our personalities. The world includes different and varied cultures. There are ethnic groups in the Brazilian rainforest who consider aggression as natural in human beings. The Semai people of Malaysia, however, live in peace and cooperation. People in the United States praise achievements, individuality, and hard work, people in Japan stress group-orientation, and tradition.
Human behavior pertains to the actions, ideas, feelings and sentiments that have a symbolic form. A symbol is a thing, an action, a sound, a color whose meaning is determined by those who use it (White, 1947). Humans give symbols meanings, thus creating their particular culture.
Human behavior is a central aspect of culture because of this. Behavior defines culture and culture, in turn defines behavior. There are different approaches to the study of culture. We categorized culture based on race, ethics, religion, or social groups. As people adapt to their changing environment, so does their culture.
Two factors are necessary for culture to emerge. These are the learning potentials and sociality of humans (Glenn, 2004). Glenn states that culture begins with the transmission of behavioral content, learned by one during his lifetime.
The idea that one’s behavior comes before the formulation of one’s culture is already confusing in itself. Take into account one is an aspect of the other and vice versa. Glenn calls this a “superorganismic phenomenon.” Culture is based on people’s behaviors, among other aspects. Human behavior is also loosely based on their cultures.
Hence, people then create their own culture. Subsequently, their culture creates them. People, however, cannot singularly create or change their culture because it is a group concept and requires all if not most members of a culture to adhere to it.
Culture in Human Behavior and Daily Life
Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd’s dual-inheritance theory states that culture has become a major factor in human evolution for its relatively fast adaptation to changing environment by imitation (Irons, 2009). According to them, culture is learned through imitation of anyone from high-status individuals to the most common practices to the human primal instinct of surviving, creating our behaviors in the process.
The act of kissing, for example, differs throughout different cultures. For Western societies, kissing in public is acceptable. For the Chinese, kissing is only done in private. Showing affection in public for Americans can mean kissing the other person on the lips. The French kiss each other on both cheeks, while in New Zealand’s Maoris, they rub their noses together (Macionis, 2001/2002).
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Another example of behavior creating culture and vice versa is the culture of competition. Children in most societies learn to compete with other children at an early age. They compete in intelligence in school; they compete in physical appearance when they enter beauty pageants or when mothers praise them by belittling other children. Children go on to grow up with the behavior to compete and be better than the next person. The culture of competition grows and prevails as a result.
Society accepts this because our culture, our society, our media and our laws allow these behaviors to surface. Acceptance of behavior then creates a culture that tests time. Only when people accept the opposite of the established that culture may shift.
Transmission of culture is also a key to understanding human behavior (Smith, Kalish, Griffiths, & Lewandowsky, 2008). Many aspects of human behavior are influenced by social learning, as described earlier and in the examples above. Once the majority accepts a particular behavior, it can influence and leave a mark in one’s culture and in the society’s culture.
Conclusively, culture affects people whether they want it to or not. It affects their behaviors in any setting, whether it is in their daily life, in an organization, or in other social settings.
There are factors that make cultures similar to each other. These are when factors outside the influence of human behavior happen. The human instinct of survival requires social coordination (Matsumoto, 2007). Humans are social animals and because human social life is complex, cultures will still differ in their survival through social coordination.
Culture is a known concept to the general and academic world. It has played a significant role in shaping people’s behaviors and ultimately, in human evolution. Culture is a mound that shapes people, influencing all individuals under it, whether consciously or subconsciously.
The relationship of culture and human behavior is complex if viewed from different standpoints. The diversity of culture and the study of it brings to light the complexities of human beings, especially in our behaviors. Generally, culture affects an individual’s behavior and an individual’s behavior affects the culture he is part of.
Culture evolves when people incite change on an aspect of their culture, resulting in a change throughout time. Changes in culture are usually minimal because of several limiting factors, such as geographical reach and acknowledgement of the majority in the same culture.
Glenn, S. S. (2004). Individual behavior, culture, and social change. The Behavior Analyst, 27(2), 133-151.
Irons, W. (2009). The intertwined roles of genes and culture in human evolution. Zygon: Journal Of Religion & Science, 44(2), 347-354.
Macionis, J.J. (2002). Sociology (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice- Hall, Inc. (Original work published 2001)
Matsumoto, D. (2007). Culture, context, and behavior. Journal Of Personality, 75(6), 1285-1320.
Smith, K., Kalish, M. L., Griffiths, T. L., & Lewandowsky, S. (2008). Introduction – cultural transmission and the evolution of human behavior. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society, 363, 3469-3476.
White, L.A. (1947). Culturological vs. psychological interpretations of human behavior. American Sociological Review, 12(6), 686-698.