Chapter summary imageCulture is the language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors, and material objects that are important to a society.

What is Culture?

the language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors, and material objects that are important enough to pass on to future generations of a society.

What Differentiates One Culture from Another?

language, gestures, values, perception and categorization of experiences, actions, norms, interaction of social structures, and struggle for scarce resources.

How Does Culture Influence Sociological Theory and Study?

culture: affects how we perceive things; guides our thoughts and actions; must be studied while keeping these differences in mind.



  • culture (shared values and norms) holds society together through shared values and norms
  • interaction of social structures
  • society must have a balanced relationship between the community, the market, and the government
  • communitarians (free markets and private ownership of businesses)

Conflict Theory

  • society struggles for resources
  • societies win resources by using McDonaldization process (efficiency, calculability, predictability, and technology)

  • only the wealthy benefit: wages drop, inequality increases, short-term profits rise

Symbolic Interactionism

  • traditional vs. secular values
  • three hypotheses: trend, comparison, and distribution
  • individualist and traditional values result in higher rates if murder, poverty, and out-of-wedlock births
  • U.S. citizens becoming more traditional, not secular
  • it is important to consider the function of any issue
  • society is fairly stable, which means that things occur in society for a specific function

Key Terms


is the language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors, and material objects that are passed on to future generations of society.

Material Culture

consists of items within a culture that you can taste, touch, and feel.

Nonmaterial Culture

consists of the nonphysical products of society, including our symbols, values, rules, and sanctions.


represent, suggest, or stand for some- thing else.


is a system of speech and/or written symbols used to convey meaning and communicate.

Cultural Transmission

is culture passing from one generation to the next through language.

Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

is a hypothesis, first advanced by Edward Sapir in 1929 and subsequently developed by Benjamin Whorf, that the structure of a language determines a native speaker’s perception and categorization of experience.


are symbols we make using our bodies, such as facial expressions, hand movements, eye contact, and other types of body language.


are a part of a society’s nonmaterial culture that represent cultural standards by which we determine what is good, bad, right, or wrong.

Value Pairs

help us define values, usually in terms of opposites.

Value Clusters

are two or more values that support each other.

Value Conflict

occurs when two or more values are at odds.


are rules developed for appropriate behavior based on specific values that are conditional.


is a prize or punishment you receive when you either abide by a norm or violate it.


are informal types of norms.


are norms that represent a community’s most important values.


is an act that is socially unacceptable.


occurs when a person uses his or her own culture to judge another culture.


refers to fear and hostility toward people who are from other countries or cultures.


is perceiving other groups or societies as superior to your own.

Cultural Relativism

means making a deliberate effort to appreciate a group’s ways of life without prejudice.

Normative Relativism

is the evaluation of a society based on that society’s norms.

Cultural Lag

happens when social and cultural changes occur at a slower pace than technological changes.

Culture Shock

occurs when a person encounters a foreign culture and has an emotional response to the differences between the cultures.


is a subset of the dominant culture that has distinct values, beliefs, and norms.


are groups with value systems that are in opposition to the dominant group’s values.


is a concept supporting the inherent value of different cultures within society.


is the process by which minority groups adopt the patterns of the dominant culture.

Global Village

refers to the “shrinking” of the world through immediate electronic communications.


1. What aspects of Las Vegas culture may lead to the city’s culture death?

2. How does culture influence sociological theory and study?

3. How might individualism lead to conflict?

4. How can a business benefit from the McDonaldization process?

5. How did Wayne Baker determine whether a crisis of values really exists in the United States?

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