Flashcards for Human Culture
Topics 1-2:  What is Culture and Characteristics of Culture
(17 cards)

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Copyright © 2004 by Dennis O'Neil. All rights reserved.

The full range of learned human behavior patterns.


That complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

Edward Tylor’s definition of culture

The term for a regional, social, or ethnic group that is distinguishable from other groups in a society. Members of such groups often share a common identity, food tradition, dialect or language, and other cultural traits that come from their common ancestral background and experience.


The kinds of societies that are most likely to have subcultures.

complex, diverse societies, such as the U.S. and Canada, in which people have come from many different parts of the world

The term for cultural traits that are shared by all of humanity collectively. Examples of such general traits are communicating with a verbal language, using age and gender to classify people, and raising children in some sort of family setting.

cultural universals

A group of interacting organisms. In the case of humans, it would be a group of people who directly or indirectly interact with each other. People in such human groups generally perceive that their group as being distinct from others in terms of shared traditions and expectations.


When the first humans evolved. (Hint: the answer is in terms of years ago.)

about 2.5 million years ago

Where the first humans evolved in terms of geographic and climatic regions.

tropical and subtropical parts of East and South Africa

A behavior, strategy, or technique for obtaining food and surviving in a particular environment. For humans, culture is the most important behavior of this sort. It gives us a selective advantage in the competition for survival with other life forms.

adaptive mechanism

The movement of cultural traits and ideas from one society or ethnic group to another.


The deep felt belief that your culture is superior to all others.


Suspending one's ethnocentric judgments in order to understand and appreciate another culture. Anthropologists try to learn about and interpret the various aspects of the culture they are studying in reference to that culture rather than to their own. This provides a better understanding of how such practices as polygamy and cannibalism can function and even support other cultural traditions.

cultural relativity

Marriage of one woman to one man at a time.


Marriage to more than one spouse at the same time. (Hint: this is a general term for having multiple husbands or wives.)


The number of societies still existing in total isolation from the outside world.


The view that the people and nations of the world should become more economically and politically integrated and unified. Those who advocate this generally believe that ethnocentrism, nationalism, and tribalism are obstacles that must be overcome.


A profound loyalty to one's tribe or ethnic group and a rejection of others. Those who promote this generally believe that globalism is a threat that must be overcome.