According to Edward Tylor, "Culture . . . is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, arts,
morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."
Enculturation is the process by which a child learns his or her culture.
What is Culture?
Culture is Learned
Cultural learning depends on the uniquely developed human capacity to use symbols, signs that
have no necessary or natural connection to the things they stand for or signify.
Clifford Geertz defines culture as ideas based on cultural learning and symbols, and he
characterizes cultures as "control mechanisms" or "programs" that govern behavior.
Through enculturation, people gradually internalize a previously established system of
meanings and symbols, which helps guide their behavior and perceptions throughout their
Culture is learned through direct instruction as well as observation, experience, interaction with
others, and conscious and unconscious behavior modification.
Culture is Shared
Culture is transmitted in society; it is an attribute not of individuals per se, but of individuals as
members of groups.
Enculturation tends to unify people by providing them with shared beliefs, values, memories, and
Parents become agents in the enculturation of their children, just as their parents were for them.
Culture is Symbolic
Symbolic thought is unique and crucial to humans and to cultural learning.
A symbol is something verbal or nonverbal, within a particular language or culture, that comes
to stand for something else.
While human symbol use is overwhelmingly linguistic, there are also myriad nonverbal symbols
(e.g., flags, the golden arches) that have arbitrary and conventional associations with the
things they symbolize.
Every contemporary human population has the ability to use symbols and thus to create and
Although chimpanzees and gorillas have rudimentary cultural abilities, no other animal has
elaborated cultural abilities to the extent that humans do.