Symbols, Values and Norms

Summary of Video #10 of Crash Course Sociology.

Culture is the way that non-material objects, such as thoughts, action, language and values, come together with materials to form a way of life i.e. things (material culture) and ideas (non-material culture). Sociologists mainly focus on the culture of ideas and its 3 elements: symbols, values and beliefs, and norms.

Symbols include anything that carries a specific meaning that is recognised by people who share a culture, including language, non-verbal gestures, etc. Language allows us to share the things that make up our culture through cultural transmission. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis argues that a person’s thoughts and actions are influenced by the cultural lens created by the language they speak.

Values are the cultural standards that people to use to decide what’s good or bad, or right or wrong, whereas beliefs are specific ideas about what people think is true about the world. Values and beliefs can help explain why we see different social structures around the world, as well as form guidelines for behaviour within that culture.

Norms are the rules and expectations that guide behaviour within a society. There are 3 main types of norms: folkways, mores, and taboo. Norms can help societies function well, but can also be a social control that hold people back.

 

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