Cultural Values

Cultural Values


Cultural Values In this video we’ll review the concept of
values and how the values cultural groups hold can be used to understand human behavior. The information in this video provides a general
overview of values. Please consult assigned readings on this topic
for more in-depth information. As the course progresses, many of the ideas
discussed in this video will be covered in more detail. What are values? Values are shared ideas on what is good versus
bad, ethical versus unethical, just versus unjust, reasonable versus unreasonable, and
the like. Values are what people use to judge the rightness
or wrongness of what goes on in the world around them. In order to function and survive, societies
create a collection of shared rules and norms based largely on their shared cultural values. Adults pass down what they know about proper
communication behavior to their children and, as this this passing down of knowledge continues
through generations, cultural values can persist within cultures for hundreds of years or longer. Most cultural values are learned before the
age of 10, and once learned, it is difficult to unlearn them. The values we learn in childhood can influence
the way we move through the world for the rest of our lives. And, since they are mostly invisible to us,
we aren’t even aware they influence our views. People tend to be drawn to others who behave
similarly to them and who value and like the same types of things as they do. Humans have discussed this need for group
member similarity since ancient times, as the idea of “birds of a feather flock together”
is mentioned in Plato’s Republic. In fact, human connection is so important
that much of an individual’s time is dedicated to building relationships and maintaining
group membership. Group membership can be separated into two
general categories. Those who are in your group, and those who
are out of your group. Those in your group are perceived as sharing
similar ideas, likes, interests, beliefs, and values. The similarities among in-group members draw
them together. It is not uncommon for people in the same
in-group to feel related even if they are not from the same family. Those that are not considered part of your
group, out-group members, are perceived as not sharing the same principal ideas, likes,
interests, beliefs, or values. Dissimilarity can be perceived as so significant
and the idea in contention so fundamental, that people of out-groups are considered complete
outsiders. When it comes to making judgments on people’s
behaviors, humans tend not to use the same rules to judge in-group members as they do
to judge out-group members. Only members of the in-group deserve full
consideration, care, support, benefits, and the like. Those outside of the group are not entitled
to these things and are treated differently. Understanding how obligations and benefits
differ for in-group and out-group members, can help explain why contradictions seem to
exist in belief structures. For instance, a government may claim that
all people in their country deserve free health care (as it should be a fundamental right),
but then only make it available it to its citizens (immigrants without citizenship should
not receive the same benefit). A person may believe it’s important to be
polite when interacting with others, but is only polite to people who speak her or his
language and is rude or cold to people who speak a foreign language. Or, a group may believe that people who are
soul mates, and truly love each other, should live together, but only if the soul mates
are comprised of one woman and one man. As humans, we belong to many groups, and some
group ties are stronger than others. We can identify with national groups, ethnic
groups, intellectual groups, religious groups, regional groups, and even neighborhood and
family groups. And, when making decisions each of our in-groups’
values are considered, and only those for which we feel the most connected to are given
all benefits, rights, and considerations available. In summary, all human groups maintain values. The values are learned early in childhood
and endure throughout a lifetime, influencing how people understand and judge the world
and others around them. For the most part, the values we hold are
hidden to us and work in the background of our thinking influencing our responses to
things around us. We align ourselves with people who seem to
hold the same values as we do, forming in-groups, and see ourselves as different than those
who do not share the same values, keeping them in out-groups. People do not feel obligated to give people
in out-groups the same benefits, considerations, or fair judgments as those in their in-groups. Knowing the role of values in the formation
and maintenance of human societies and how value structures influence human behavior
is necessary to understanding why humans of different cultures perceive and move through
the world in very different ways. One way of comparing and understanding behavioral
differences among societal groups is through the analysis of cultural value patterns. Common themes that occur across all cultures
include a focus on categories of equality, extent of group allegiance, appropriate levels
of cooperation or competiveness, how to deal with the unknown, and perceptions of time. These themes and others will be examined more
closely as the course progresses.

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