Products of Culture

In cultural psychology, material culture refers to the objects or belongings of a group including food, fashion, architecture or physical structures. These objects reflect the historical, geographic, and social conditions of the culture. For instance, the clothes that you are wearing right now might tell researchers of the future about the fashions of today.

Nonmaterial culture (subjective), by contrast, consists of the ideas, attitudes, and beliefs of a society.

Norms are things that are considered normal, appropriate, or ordinary for a particular group of people and guide members on how they should behave in a given context. In Western cultures wearing dark clothing and appearing solemn are normative behaviors at a funeral. In certain cultures, they reflect the values of respect and support of friends and family.

Values are related to the norms of a culture, but they are more global and abstract than norms. Norms are rules for behavior in specific situations, while values identify what should be judged as good or evil. Flying the national flag on a holiday is a norm, but it exhibits patriotism, which is a value.

Beliefs are the way people think the universe operates. Beliefs can be religious or secular, and they can refer to any aspect of life. For instance, many people in the United States believe that hard work is the key to success, while in other countries your success is determined by fate.

Norms, values, and beliefs are all deeply interconnected. Together, they provide a way to understand culture.

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Culture and Psychology by L D Worthy; T Lavigne; and F Romero is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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