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  • Understand how values and beliefs differ from norms
  • Explain the significance of symbols and language to a culture
  • Explain the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
  • Discuss the role of social control within culture

Values and beliefs

The first, and perhaps most crucial, elements of culture we will discuss are its values and beliefs. Values are a culture’s standard for discerning what is good and just in society. Values are deeply embedded and critical for transmitting and teaching a culture’s beliefs. Beliefs are the tenets or convictions that people hold to be true. Individuals in a society have specific beliefs, but they also share collective values. To illustrate the difference, Americans commonly believe in the American Dream—that anyone who works hard enough will be successful and wealthy. Underlying this belief is the American value that wealth is good and important.

Values help shape a society by suggesting what is good and bad, beautiful and ugly, sought or avoided. Consider the value that the United States places upon youth. Children represent innocence and purity, while a youthful adult appearance signifies sexuality. Shaped by this value, individuals spend millions of dollars each year on cosmetic products and surgeries to look young and beautiful. The United States also has an individualistic culture, meaning people place a high value on individuality and independence. In contrast, many other cultures are collectivist, meaning the welfare of the group and group relationships are a primary value.

Living up to a culture’s values can be difficult. It’s easy to value good health, but it’s hard to quit smoking. Marital monogamy is valued, but many spouses engage in infidelity. Cultural diversity and equal opportunities for all people are valued in the United States, yet the country’s highest political offices have been dominated by white men.

Values often suggest how people should behave, but they don’t accurately reflect how people do behave. Values portray an ideal culture    , the standards society would like to embrace and live up to. But ideal culture differs from real culture    , the way society actually is, based on what occurs and exists. In an ideal culture, there would be no traffic accidents, murders, poverty, or racial tension. But in real culture, police officers, lawmakers, educators, and social workers constantly strive to prevent or repair those accidents, crimes, and injustices. American teenagers are encouraged to value celibacy. However, the number of unplanned pregnancies among teens reveals that not only is the ideal hard to live up to, but the value alone is not enough to spare teenagers the potential consequences of having sex.

One way societies strive to put values into action is through rewards, sanctions, and punishments. When people observe the norms of society and uphold its values, they are often rewarded. A boy who helps an elderly woman board a bus may receive a smile and a “thank you.” A business manager who raises profit margins may receive a quarterly bonus. People sanction certain behaviors by giving their support, approval, or permission, or by instilling formal actions of disapproval and nonsupport. Sanctions are a form of social control    , a way to encourage conformity to cultural norms. Sometimes people conform to norms in anticipation or expectation of positive sanctions: good grades, for instance, may mean praise from parents and teachers. From a criminal justice perspective, properly used social control is also inexpensive crime control. Utilizing social control approaches pushes most people to conform to societal rules, regardless of whether authority figures (such as law enforcement) are present.

Questions & Answers

what is social change?
Sandra Reply
the nature of social change
Sandra
what is the nature of social change?
Gizzie
Social change is way human interactions and relationships transform cultural and social institutions over time .
sooner or later the course rural sociology be out of place
Bulama Reply
what are the effects of isolation to the development of social self?
Richard Reply
demonstrate the relevance of the knowledge of culture socialization to the nursing practice?
Richard
what are the key concept of socialization?
Richard Reply
gender roles
Onias
according to haralambus textbook of sociology, sociologist identified; high culture, folk culture, mass culture, popular culture, subculture and global culture as the types of culture. How legit is this?
Ojewande Reply
challenges elderly face
Ifeanyi Reply
Meaning?
Hamisu
what is the type of sociology
Haider Reply
Norms
Good
please how can you know someone behavior through sociology
ernest Reply
what's the meaning of paradigm
ernest
It means that perspectives of sociology..
Qamar
A new perspective given by sociology which can give you broader outlook regarding society.
Ayushman
Our personal ideology and our personal experience accordingly based on sociology..
Qamar
on how sociology socilize a society
Good Reply
Using public sociology, by showing people the features of society to bring reforms in their structures.
Ayushman
Interaction nd good ideology ..
Qamar
what is the contribution of August comte in sociology
Wikireh Reply
What's sociology?
Hamisu Reply
is the scientific field of studying human social life, groups,and society
Mashudu
Agents of socialization
Good
is the science study of human social life,groups and society
Samkelo
would to know urban sociology in deatail plz help me
just Reply
Examples of sociology
Talatu Reply
Traditional culture of the people
Good
what are the population policy of Pakistan 2020
Babar Reply
what is the difference between sociology in medicine and sociology of medicine
Miheret Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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