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Components of Culture Continued Norms are the expectations or rules of behavior that develop out of a group s values Norms exert considerable force as actors consult them in order to anticipate how they are expected and not expected to act in a given situation Norms also therefore guide the distribution of sanctions both positive rewards and negative punishments Sanctions are the positive or negative reactions to subscribing or violating norms Norms vary in terms of their importance to a culture Folkways are norms that regulate superficial and largely inconsequential behavior Mores are norms that are believed to be essential to core values and we insist on conformity A person who steals rapes and kills has violated some of society s most important mores Taboos are norms so strongly ingrained that even the thought of them is greeted with revulsion Eating human flesh and having sex with one s parents are examples of such behavior Ethnomethodology Cultural Forms Dominant Culture The culture of the most powerful group in a given society that sets the cultural expectations that constitute the culture s or society s major belief system 1 The dominant culture often sets the standards by which other cultures in a society are judged Outmoded concept Subcultures Subcultures are groups whose values and related behaviors are so distinct that they set their members off from the dominant culture There are two types of subculture groups the Aesthetic Subculture one that simply differs from the wider culture U S society contains tens of thousands of subcultures Some are quite broad teenagers while others are narrow body builders Some ethnic groups form subcultures as do certain occupational groups Oppositional Subcultures resist particular social institutions or practices may also be labeled counterculture Countercultures are often perceived as a threat by the dominant culture because they challenge the culture s values For example the Mormons in the 1800s challenged the dominant culture s core value of monogamy Subcultures can live within dominant society or outside of it Subculture as Total Institution Subculture in Operation in Society 2 The purposes of subcultures and countercultures Gives people a place where they are empowered Connects likeminded people Makes invisible people visible Allows people to escape the identity they are born into Gives people a place to construct identity CULTURAL CAPITAL Symbols and Meanings Semiotics The study of how a society produces meanings and values in a communication system is called semiotics from the Greek term semion sign Here sign has a specialized meaning referring to our social and cultural vehicles for signification or meaning For instance in the human mind the word image tree is connected to a concept of a tree Communication through signs is two part 1 The level of expression like the bare acoustic impression of speech sounds a gesture or the visual impression of written marks and images is called the signifier 2 The level of content or value what is associated with the signifier in a language is called the signified What allows both parts to function as a whole unit of social meaning is a code 3 The code is the rule for combining a sensory impression with a mental content and the basic signifiers in a language into a system of meanings Another example is the visual language of universal signage such as road signs signs at airports or signs on car dashboards These can all be understood by people who do not share a common language but who do share an agreed understanding code of what these visual signs and signifiers mean So the meaning of signs is not directly transmitted to us We must learn the codes in order to convey meaning and to understand meaning A symbolic message An indexical message 4 An iconic message Signs can have polysemic interpreted in many different ways meanings Signs can be recoded by their context 5

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UB SOC 101 - Components of Culture, Continued

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