Flashcards for Human Culture
Topic 3:  Learning about and Understanding Cultural Behavior
(13 cards)

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

Anthropological research in which one learns about the culture of another society through fieldwork and first hand observation in that society. This is also the term used to refer to books or monographs describing what was learned about the culture of that society.


An anthropological study that systematically compares similar cultures. An example would be a comparison of what cultures are like in societies that have economies based on hunting and gathering rather than agriculture. The data for this sort of study would come from the existing ethnographies about these peoples. In other words, it would be essentially a synthesis of the work of many ethnographers.


The term for participating in the social interaction of another society in order to learn about its culture. In practice this usually requires living within the community as a member, learning their language, establishing close friendship ties, eating what they eat, and taking part in normal family activities.

participant observation

An indigenous society of American Indians living in southern Venezuela and Northern Brazil. The American Anthropologist, Napoleon Chagnon, spent more than 30 years learning about these Indians.


The term for what people believe they should do in their lives rather than what they think they are doing or what they actually are doing.

ideal behavior

A sample of people that is carefully chosen for study so that it will be representative of the entire community or population.

probability sample

A probability sample in which people are selected on a totally unbiased basis. This can be accomplished by assigning a number to everyone in a community and then letting a computer generate a series of random numbers. If a 10% sample is needed, then the first 10% of the random numbers will indicate who will be the focus of the research.

random sample

A probability sample in which people are selected because they come from distinct sub-groups within the society. This approach may be used by ethnographers if the information that is being sought is not specialized knowledge such as the esoteric activities of a secret organization with restricted membership.

stratified sample

A probability sample that includes only a limited number of key people selected by an anthropologist to be his or her informants based on the likelihood that they possess knowledge concerning the research questions and will be most able to communicate it. For example, religious leaders would be the most likely informants if research concerns religious beliefs and practices.

judgment sample

The kind of probability sampling that works best if the focus of research concerns cultural information that only some members of the host society possess.

judgment sampling

The simple kind of probability sampling approach that may be used in ethnographic field work when there does not seem to be much difference between the people in the population.

random sampling

Someone who is not only knowledgeable about his or her own culture but who is able and willing to communicate this knowledge in an understandable way to an anthropologist or some other outsider.


A feeling of confusion, alienation, and depression that can result from the psychological stress that commonly occurs during the first weeks or months of a total cultural emersion in an alien society.

culture shock