Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

13.4B: Cultural Transmission

  • Page ID
    8363
  • Cultural transmission is the way a group of people within a society or culture tend to learn and pass on new information.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Analyze the importance of cultural transmission, particularly in terms of learning styles

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • Learning styles are greatly influenced by how a culture socializes with its children and young people.
    • The process by which a child acquires his or her own culture is referred to as enculturation.
    • On the basis of cultural learning, people create, remember, and deal with ideas. They understand and apply specific systems of symbolic meaning.
    • A meme is “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. ” The term was coined by the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976).
    • Intercultural competence is the ability to communicate successfully with people of other cultures.

    Key Terms

    • Intercultural Competence: The ability to communicate successfully with people of other cultures.
    • Cultural Transmission: The way a group of people or animals within a society or culture tend to learn and pass on new information.
    • Symbolic Meaning: Meaning that is conveyed through language; when one knows that X means Y.

    Cultural transmission is the way a group of people or animals within a society or culture tend to learn and pass on new information. Learning styles are greatly influenced by how a culture socializes with its children and young people. The key aspect of culture is that it is not passed on biologically from the parents to the offspring, but rather learned through experience and participation. The process by which a child acquires his or her own culture is referred to as “enculturation. ” Cultural learning allows individuals to acquire skills that they would be unable to independently over the course of their lifetimes.

    Cultural Transmission for Humans

    Cultural learning is believed to be particularly important for humans. Humans are weaned at an early age compared to the emergence of adult dentition. The immaturity of dentition and the digestive system, the time required for growth of the brain, the rapid skeletory growth needed for the young to reach adult height and strength means that children have special digestive needs and are dependent on adults for a long period of time. This time of dependence also allows time for cultural learning to occur before passage into adulthood.

    On the basis of cultural learning, people create, remember, and deal with ideas. They understand and apply specific systems of symbolic meaning. Cultures have been compared to sets of control mechanisms, plans, recipes, rules, or instructions. Cultural differences have been found in academic motivation, achievement, learning style, conformity, and compliance. Cultural learning is dependent on innovation or the ability to create new responses to the environment and the ability to communicate or imitate the behavior of others. A meme is “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. ” A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. The term was coined by the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976).

    Intercultural Competence

    Intercultural competence is the ability to communicate successfully with people of other cultures. In interactions with people from foreign cultures, a person who is interculturally competent understands culture-specific concepts in perception, thinking, feeling, and acting. The interculturally competent person considers earlier experiences free from prejudices, and has an interest in, and motivation towards, continued learning.

    The development of intercultural competence is mostly based on the individual’s experiences while communicating with different cultures. While interacting with people from other cultures, the individual generally faces certain obstacles, which are caused by differences in cultural understanding between the two people in question. Such experiences motivate the individual to work on skills that can help him communicate his point of view to an audience belonging to a completely different cultural ethnicity and background. For example, showing the thumb held upwards in certain parts of the world means “everything’s okay,” while it is understood in some Islamic countries as a rude sexual sign. Additionally, the thumb is held up to signify “one” in France and certain other European countries, where the index finger is used to signify “one” in other cultures. In India and Indonesia, it is often regarded as wishing “all the best.”