Culture (Sociology)

Learning objectives:

  • Undersand the nature-nurture debate in sociology
  • Assess the importance of socialisation in shaping behaviour
  • Explain the differences between calues, norms, mores and roles.
  • Created by: Jessica
  • Created on: 28-11-10 10:42


Concept of culture.

Values, norms, and mores.

We are born into a society that already exists and begin to learn the culture of our society in a very early stage of our lives. Some aspects of human behaviour are genetics, for example our physiological (bodily) need for food. However, as we get older we learn to respond to the physical need for food in ways that are seen as acceptable in our culture, for example eating at specific times.  

Our culture acts as a template for shaping how we meet our physiological needs.

  • Language is another example of how we adapt - humans are born with the capacity to use language but there are thousands of different languages in the world today.                        
  • Non verbal communication is also influenced by culture. sitting with legs crossed is often used to communicate someone is relaxed in Britain, but is offensive in Ghana and Turkey!

Anything we learn can be understood as cultural and all societies have ways of teaching culture to their members, sometimes through direct instruction in schools or religious institutions. Behaviour that is seen as 'correct' is also taught informally, for example, by smiles or frowns from those we interact with. The media is becoming more and more important in the secondary socialisation process.

Through the socialisation process we learn values. examples of widely held values in comtemporary society include the belief that human life is sacred and it is important to work hard at school. We also learn norms through the socialisation process. For example, in a job interview it is appropriate to dress smartly and not swear; however, when relaxing with friends we can behave differently. Mores are behaviours that are seen as completely unacceptable within a culture, for example incest; if these are broken a strong and swift punishment can be expected. We understand social-roles - for example a mother is expected to be loving and a judge is expected to be authoritative. We learn these roles through the socialisation process.

The nature-nurture debate in sociology is focused on the extent to which our behaviour is shaped by nature or culture.

As a result of the socialisation process and our experience of interacting with others we all develop our own sense of identity. Without the socialisation process social life would be impossible as we would be unable to predict what other people would do. For any society a shared culture that allows us to predict what other people will do is essential. We internalise behaviour patterns and culture rules through the social relationship we engage in.



Values : are beliefs about what is good and bad, some values are based on religious beliefs while others may be based on the needs of the social system.

Norms : are guidelines for behaviour in specific social settings.

Mores : are internalised attitudes towards cetain social behaviours that are seen as taboo or completely morally unacceptable by members of a culture.

Social roles : are patterns of behaviour that are expected from people holding certain positions in society.

The nature-nurture debate : this debate is about how much of our behaviour is genetic and how much is learned.

Sociologists would argue that culture is more powerful in shaping our bahviour than nature

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