Cultural Institutions & Beliefs: Vocabulary

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  • 0:04 Culture
  • 0:53 SocioFact
  • 2:21 Beliefs & Traditions
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Have you ever thought about why government is formed the way that it is? In this lesson, we'll look at the way culture structures itself, as well as why people from different cultures eat and behave the way they do.

Culture

Jennie is from Boston and she loves clam chowder. It's a dish that a lot of people from her home state eat a lot, because there are a lot of clams off the coast of Massachusetts. On the other hand, her friend Mason is from Texas. He likes to eat chili that's hot and spicy and full of ground beef.

The beliefs, ideas, and traditions of a group of people, including what they traditionally eat, is called culture. So when Jennie craves clam chowder and Mason thinks of home whenever he chows down on chili, it's because that's part of their respective cultures. The structure and beliefs of a group are a central part of its culture. Let's look closer at some of the institutions and beliefs of culture.

Sociofact

Food isn't the only element of culture that Jennie has noticed. Where she lives, the government is organized into a hierarchical structure: there's the local government, the state government, and the national government, all of which have different (and sometimes overlapping) responsibilities.

That, too, is part of culture. Some places, for example, have only one central government. The way a culture organizes itself into social units is called its sociofact. Government is one example of a sociofact, but there are many others. Take family, for example. In Jennie's culture, family usually means a person's immediate family. The people who live together in a house are often parents and young children.

But in other cultures, it's common for many generations to live together. A family unit might include grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other parts of a person's extended family. In this way, family is a sociofact, just like government is.

When people talk about sociofacts, they are usually compared to artifacts, which are physical objects that represent a culture, like tools or clothing, and mentifacts, which are ideas or beliefs that have to do with a culture, like the idea that women should stay at home and take care of children. Together, sociofacts, artifacts, and mentifacts all make up the things that differentiate a culture from others.

Beliefs & Traditions

Sociofacts are a big part of culture, but that's not all there is to it. Beliefs and traditions are also a big part of culture. Remember Jennie and Mason? They are from two different cultures and they eat very different things. Jennie, from a place where there are a lot of clams, eats clam chowder very often. Mason, on the other hand, comes from a place where beef is plentiful and so he eats lots of chili with ground beef in it.

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