Elements of Culture: Vocabulary

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  • 0:01 Culture
  • 0:34 Mentifacts
  • 1:42 Popular vs. Folk
  • 2:54 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.

What makes a culture unique? What do people within a culture believe and think? In this lesson, we'll take a look at the elements that make up a culture, including the intangible aspect of mentifacts and the difference in popular and folk cultures.


Mike and Matt are good friends. They are very different, though. Mike grew up in a very religious place and is very devout. Matt, on the other hand, grew up in a place where religion wasn't a major part of society.

The beliefs and traditions of a group of people is called culture. Religion is one example of culture: Mike's from a highly religious culture, while Matt isn't.

Let's look closer at some of the elements of culture, including mentifacts, popular culture, and folk culture.


So Mike and Matt grew up in cultures that are very different when it comes to religion. Sometimes, they have a hard time understanding each other. Mike, for example, can't understand why Matt doesn't believe in God. Matt, meanwhile, doesn't understand why Mike believes in something he can't see.

The ideas and beliefs that express what a culture is are called mentifacts. Sociologists sometimes refer to mentifacts as 'things in a culture's head' because a person's ideas and beliefs are in their head. Think of the word 'mental,' and you can remember 'mentifact.'

Religion is an example of a mentifact. Different religions are associated with different cultures, and some cultures, like Mike's, aren't religious at all. Other examples of mentifacts are language and folklore.

Note that mentifacts are intangible. A culture's tools or food are things that you can touch, but its mentifacts aren't. They are, instead, things that involve thought processes. Again, they are part of the culture's thinking, as opposed to part of its physical nature.

Popular vs. Folk

Mentifacts aren't the only element of culture, though. In fact, despite the difference in their religion, Matt and Mike have some things in common. They both like the same bands, for example, and they both love to eat cheeseburgers!

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