Culture Encyclopedia

Culture Encyclopedia

If you would like to prepare for school subjects or simply increase your general knowledge, then enjoy our culture encyclopedia. We tried to focus only on very important terms and definitions. We also kept our terminology very brief so that you absorb the concept more quickly and easily.

Culture Glossary (Page 1)


ACCULTURATION: Culture change resulting from contact between cultures. A process of external culture change.
ACCULTURATION DIFFICULTY: A problem stemming from an inability to appropriately adapt to a different culture or environment. The problem is not based on any coexisting mental disorder.
ACHIEVED STATUS: Social status and prestige of an individual acquired as a result of individual accomplishments (cf. Ascribed status).
ACTION THEORY: Social theory in which action, its purposive nature and its meaning to people, is taken to be of central importance. Action theory is often associated with the name of Max Weber, who developed the interpretive tradition in social science.
ACTOR-OBSERVER EFFECT: The tendency for actors to weigh any situation more heavily when explaining their behaviour, while observers weigh the actor's dispositions more heavily when explaining the same behaviour.
ADAPTATION: Is a process of reconciliation and of coming to terms with a changed socio-cultural environment by making "adjustments" in one's cultural identity. It is also a stage of intercultural sensitivity, which may allow the person to function in a bicultural capacity. In this stage, a person is able to take the perspective of another culture and operate successfully within that culture. The person should know enough about his or her own culture and a second culture to allow a mental shift into the value scheme of the other culture, and an evaluation of behaviour based on its norms, rather than the norms of the individual's culture of origin. This is referred to as "cognitive adaptation." The more advanced form of adaptation is "behavioural adaptation," in which the person can produce behaviours appropriate to the norms of the second culture. Adaptation may also refer to patterns of behavior which enable a culture to cope with its surroundings.
ADAPTATION LEVEL: Individual standards of comparison for evaluating properties of physical and social environment such as crowding and noise.
ADJUDICATION: Mediation with the ultimate decision being made by an unbiased third party.
ADVOCACY VIEW: Of applied anthropology is the belief that as anthropologists have acquired expertise on human problems and social change, and because they study, understand, and respect cultural values, they should be responsible for making policies affecting people.
AESTHETICS: Appreciation of the qualities discernible in superior works of art; the mind and emotions in relation to a sense of beauty.
AFFINAL: Members of one's kindred who are related through a marital linkage.
AFFINAL KIN: Persons related by marriage. Direct affinity is the relationship between the husband and his wife's relations by blood or between the wife and the husband's relations by blood. Collateral affinity is the relationship between the husband and the relations of his wife's relations.
AFFINALS: Relatives by marriage, whether of lineals (e.g., son's wife) or collaterals (e.g., sister's husband).
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Affirmative action refers to positive steps taken to increase the representation of minorities (racial, ethnic minorities and women in general) in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded.
AGE DISCRIMINATION: Is discrimination against a person or group on the basis of age. Age discrimination usually comes in one of two forms: discrimination against youth, and discrimination against the elderly.
AGE GRADE: A social category or status based on an age range.
AGE SET: Group uniting all men or women born during a certain historical time span.
AGGREGATE: Any collection of individuals who do not interact with one another.
AGGRESSION: Acts or threats designed to cause injury.
AGRICULTURE: Nonindustrial systems of plant cultivation characterized by continuous and intensive use of land and labor.
ALTRUISM: A voluntary form of behaviour motivated by a desire to improve another person's welfare rathe than the expectation of reward for oneself.
AMBIENT ENVIRONMENT: Changeable aspects of an individual's immediate surroundings, e.g., light, sounds, air quality, humidity, temperature etc.
AMBIENT STRESSORS: Factors in the environment that contribute to the experience of stress.
AMBILINEAL: Principle of descent that does not automatically exclude the children of either sons or daughters.
AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION (AAA): The major professional association for anthropologists in the United States.
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE OR ANOVA: A method for analysing the relationship between two or more variables where the dependent variable is interval-level and the independent variable(s) is or are nominal. It proceeds by testing the significance of any differences between the mean values of the dependent variable within the different groups described by the independent variable. ANOVA is useful where the independent variable has three or more categories, and can then be understood as an extension of the logic of the t-test.
ANCHOR: A reference point for making judgements. In social judgement theory, anchor is the point corresponding to the centre of the latitude of acceptance.
ANDROCENTRISM: Ideas or methods of research which prioritize men's views of the world, excluding the experience of women.
ANIMATISM: Belief in an impersonal and divisible supernatural force or forces, which reside in living or unliving things.
ANIMISM: Is the belief that souls inhabit all or most objects. Animism attributes personalized souls to animals, vegetables, and minerals in a manner that the material object is also governed by the qualities which compose its particular soul. Animistic religions generally do not accept a sharp distinction between spirit and matter.
ANTHROPOCENTRICITY: The belief that humans are the most important elements in the universe and reality can be approached exclusively in terms of human values and experience.
ANTHROPOLOGICAL LINGUISTICS: The branch of anthropology that studies human language. Linguistic anthropology is mainly concerned with the technical analysis of language.
ANTHROPOLOGICAL STRANGENESS: The art or mental trick of making a social setting and behaviour within it appear as if the observer is encountered it as a stranger. If applied to mundane 'taken-for-granted' events, this can lead to unusual and original insights.
ANTHROPOLOGY: The study of the human species and its immediate ancestors. Anthropology is the comparative study of past and contemporary cultures, focusing on the ways of life, and customs of all peoples of the world. Main sub-disciplines are physical anthropology, archaeology, linguistic anthropology, ethnology (which is also called social or cultural anthropology) and theoretical anthropology, and applied anthropology.
ANTHROPOLOGY AND EDUCATION: Anthropological research in classrooms, homes, and neighborhoods, viewing students as total cultural creatures whose enculturation and attitudes toward education belong to a larger context that includes family, peers, and society.
ANTICONFORMITY: Any behaviour, which is directly antithetical to or contradicts group norms. Also called counterconformity.
ANTI-ESSENTIALISM: See essentialism.
APARTHEID: Was a system of racial segregation used in South Africa from 1948 to the early 1990s. Though first used in 1917 by Jan Smuts, the future Prime Minister of South Africa, apartheid was simply an extension of the segregationist policies of previous white governments in South Africa. The term originates in Afrikaans or Dutch, where it means "separateness". Races, classified by law into White, Black, Indian, and Coloured groups, were separated, each with their own homelands and institutions. This prevented non-white people from having a vote or influence on the governance. Education, medical care and other public services available to non-white people were vastly inferior and non-whites were not allowed to run businesses or professional practices in those areas designated as 'White South Africa'.
APPLIED ANTHROPOLOGY: The application of anthropological data, perspectives, theory, and methods to identify, assess, and solve contemporary social problems.
AQUATIC APE THEORY: This hypothesis or theory suggests that the ancestors of humans went through periods of living in aquatic settings and this was responsible for the development of many of the characteristics of Homo genus that are not seen in other primates. This hypothesis has been criticized as well as supported in mainstream paleoanthropology.
ARBITRATION: Third-party assistance to two or more groups for reaching an agreement, where the third party or arbitror has the power to force everyone to accept a particular solution.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY: (PREHISTORIC ARCHAEOLOGY) The study of human behaviour and cultural patterns and processes through the material remains and artefacts of that culture.
ARCHAEOLOGY: Study of material culture.
ARCHAEOMAGNETIC DATING: A method of dating artefacts from the past. Sometimes also called paleomagnetic dating. It is based on the fact that changes in the earth's magnetic field over time can be recorded as remnant magnetism in materials such as baked clay structure (ovens, kilns, and hearths used much earlier).
ARCHETYPE: The original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a prototype. Also (in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.
ARCHIVAL RESEARCH: Any study of data in records being studied, which were not collected specifically for the study itself.
ARCHIVES: Repositories of a variety of materials, such as documents, photographs and films, often of an historical nature, catalogued and filed for the use of researchers, scholars and other investigators. See also data archives.
AROUSAL: A state of physiological or psychological excitation.
AROUSAL/COST-REWARD MODEL: A model of helping, which predicts that people will help if they are aware of a need for help, experience physiological arousal, label that arousal as a response to the victim, and decide that cost and reward favour intervention on their part.
ARRANGED MARRIAGE: Any marriage in which the selection of a spouse is outside the control of the bride and groom. Usually parents or their representatives select brides or grooms by trying to match compatibility rather than relying on romantic attraction.
ART: Human endeavor thought to be aesthetic and have meaning beyond simple description. Includes music, dance, sculpture, painting, drawing, stitchery, weaving, poetry, writing, woodworking, etc. A medium of expression where the individual and culture come together.
ARTS: The arts include the visual arts, literature (written and oral), music, and theater arts.
ASCRIBED STATUS: Social status which is the result of inheritance (cf. Achieved status).
ASSIMILATION: Is a process of consistent integration whereby members of an ethno-cultural group, typically immigrants, or other minority groups, are "absorbed" into an established larger community. If a child assimilates into a new culture, he/she gives up his/her cultural values and beliefs and adopts the new cultural values in their place. Originates from a Piagetian (Swiss Developmental Psychologist JEAN PIAGET, 1896-1980) term describing a person's ability to comprehend and integrate new experiences.
ASSIMILATION EFFECTS: Shifts in judgements towards an anchor point in social judgement theory.
ASSOCIATION: See correlation.
ASSORTATIVE MATING: Nonrandom coupling of individuals based on resemblance of one or more characteristics.
ATTACHMENT THEORY: A theory of the formation and characterization of relationships based on the progress and outcome of an individual's experiences as an infant in relation to the primary caregiver.
ATTITUDE: Evaluation of people, objects, or issues about which an individual has some knowledge.
ATTRIBUTION THEORY: Attribution theory is a social psychology theory developed by Fritz Heider, Harold Kelley, Edward E. Jones, and Lee Ross. The theory is concerned with the ways in which people explain (or attribute) the behaviour of others or themselves (self-attribution) with something else. It explores how individuals "attribute" causes to events and how this cognitive perception affects their usefulness in an organization.
AUGMENTATION PRINCIPLE: In Kelley's attribution theory, the idea that the existence of difficulties in performing a behaviour results in a stronger conclusion that the actor is the cause of the event.
AUTOETHNOGRAPHY: An ethnographic description written by a member of the culture.
AUTOKINETIC EFFECT: A stationary light, when viewed in an otherwise completely dark room, would appear to be moving.
AVAILABILITY HEURISTIC: The tendency to be biased by events readily accessible in our memory.
BAAK GWAI: A derogatory term meaning "White devil" or "white ghost" used by the Chinese in Mainland China and Hong Kong to refer to Caucasians.
BALANCE THEORY: A theory of attitude change based on the principle of consistency among elements in a relationship. Psychologist Fritz Heider, proposer of this model suggested that unbalanced states create tension, so people try to reduce tension by changing some attitude.
BALANCED RECIPROCITY: A mode of equal value exchange in which the worth of a good or service and time for its delivery is known.
BANANA: Derogatory term for an East Asian person who is "yellow on the outside, white on the inside" used by other Asian Americans to indicate someone who has lost touch with their cultural identity and have over-assimilated in white, American culture.
BAND: Basic unit of social organization among foragers. A band includes fewer than 100 people; it often splits up seasonally.
BARGAINING: The process by which two or more parties attempt to settle what each shall give and take in their mutual transactions.
BEHAVIORISM: A theoretical perspective, also called learning perspective, made famous by Ivan Pavlov, John B. Watson, B.F.Skinner, Edward Lee Throndike, in which behaviour is explained by external stimuli and learning processes.
BEHAVIOURAL CUE: A stimulus, either consciously or unconsciously perceived, that elicits or signals a type of behaviour. In other words it is a stimulus that provides information about what to do in a particular situation.
BELIEF IN A JUST WORLD: The tendency of people to want to believe that the world is "just" so that when they witness an otherwise inexplicable injustice they will rationalize it by searching for things that the victim might have done to deserve it. Also called the just-world theory, just-world fallacy, just-world effect, or just-world hypothesis, Famous proponent is Melvin Lerner.
BELIEF SYSTEM: Is the way in which a culture collectively constructs a model or framework for how it thinks about something. A religion is a particular kind of belief system. Other examples of general forms of belief systems are ideologies, paradigms and world-views also known by the German word Weltanschauung. In addition to governing almost all aspects of human activity, belief systems have a significant impact on what a culture deems worthy of passing down to following generations as its cultural heritage. This also influences how cultures view the cultural heritage of other cultures. Many people today recognize that there is no one correct belief system or way of thinking. This is known as relativism or conceptual relativism. This contrasts with objectivism and essentialism, both of which posit a reality that is independent of the way in which people conceptualize. A plurality of belief systems is a hallmark of postmodernism.
BIAS: A realist approach to bias depicts this as consisting of any systematic error that obscures correct conclusions about the subject being studied. Typically, such bias may be caused by the researcher, or by procedures adopted for data gathering, including sampling. The concept makes little sense from a relativist standpoint, though provision of a reflexive account of the research process can help in addressing issues of trust that the concept of bias was intended to resolve.
BICULTURALISM: The simultaneous identification with two cultures when an individual feels equally at home in both cultures and feels emotional attachment with both cultures. The term started appearing in the 1950s.
BIETHNIC: Of two ethnic groups: belonging or relating to two different ethnic groups. Usually used in reference to a person. For example: if a person's father is French and mother English, she is biethnic though not biracial. See also biracial.
BIFURCATE COLLATERAL KINSHIP TERMINOLOGY: Kinship terminology employing separate terms for M, F, MB, MZ, FB, and FZ.
BIG MAN: In anthropology the most influential man in a tribe of horticulturalists and pastoralists; a person with power in a community. The big man usually occupies no formal office and has no coercive authority but creates his reputation through skills, wisdom, entrepreneurship and generosity to others. His wealth or his position may not pass to his heirs.
BIG-MAN: A form of leadership in tribes where the leader achieves power and influence based on ability.
BILATERAL KINSHIP CALCULATION: Is a system in which kinship ties are calculated equally through both sexes: mother and father, sister and brother, daughter and son, and so on.
BILINEAL: Descent in which the individual figures kinship through both the father's and mother's descent group.
BILINGUAL EDUCATION: Teaching a second language by relying heavily on the native language of the speaker. The background theory claims that a strong sense of one's one culture and language is necessary to acquire another language and culture.
BIOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY: The study of human biological variation in time and space; includes evolution, genetics, growth and development, and primatology.
BIOLOGICAL DETERMINISTS: Are those who argue that human behaviour and social organization are biologically determined and not learnt.
BIRACIAL: Of two races. Usually used to refer to people whose parents come from two different races, e.g., father is Chinese and mother English.
BLACK ENGLISH VERNACULAR (BEV): A rule-governed dialect of American English with roots in southern English. BEV is spoken by African-American youth and by many adults in their casual, intimate speech-sometimes called "ebonics.".
BOOLEAN SEARCHES: Searches for material (such as references or segments of coded text) using combinations of keywords linked by operators such as 'and', 'or' or 'not.' Databases (for example, library catalogues) and qualitative analysis software (such as NVIVO) commonly support such searches.
BOTTOM-UP DEVELOPMENT: Economic and social changes brought about by activities of individuals and social groups in society rather than by the state and its agents.
BOURGEOISIE: Describes a social class of people who are in the upper or merchant class, whose status or power comes from employment, education, and wealth rather than from aristocratic origin. They are the owners of the means of production (factories, mines, large farms, and other sources of subsistence).
BRACKETING: Used in semiotics to indicate the suspension of interest (for analytic purposes) in the relationship between signs and their referents. The term is also helpful in understanding the mental attitude required when doing discourse analysis or any analytic approach that treats text as a topic rather than a resource. Instead of considering the claims made in texts about reality outside the text, bracketing forces the analyst to consider the 'reality' the text constructs.
BRIDE PRICE: Is the payment made by a man to the family from whom he takes a daughter in marriage.
BRIDEPRICE: An economic exchange by the groom's family to compensate the bride's family upon marriage.
BRIDEWEALTH: See progeny price.
BUREAUCRACY: Government based on a specialized set of offices usually hierarchically organized.
BUSH DOCTRINE: The Bush Doctrine describes various foreign policy principles of United States president George W. Bush. According to this doctrine, the United States had the right to aggressively protect itself from countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups, which was used to justify the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Further, it contains the controversial policy of preventive war, which held that the United States should depose foreign regimes that represented a potential or perceived threat to the security of the United States, even if that threat was not immediate; a policy of spreading democracy around the world, especially in the Middle East, as a strategy for combating terrorism; and a willingness to pursue U.S. military interests in a unilateral way even without the sanction of allies or international bodies.
BYSTANDER EFFECT: The finding that a person is less likely to offer help when in the presence of witnesses than when alone. The bystander effect was first demonstrated in the laboratory by John Darley and Bibb Latane in 1968.
CALL SYSTEMS: Systems of communication among nonhuman primates, composed of a limited number of sounds that vary in intensity and duration. Tied to environmental stimuli. Cultural transmission-A basic feature of language; transmission through learning.
CANNIBALISM: Consuming human flesh. This is reported to occur in the context of warfare, as part of a funeral rite or, rarely, in cases of extreme stress.
CAPITAL: Wealth or resources invested in business, with the intent of producing a profit for the owner of the capital.

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