Culture Meaning, Definition and Characteristics

Table of Content:-

  1. Meaning of Culture
  2. Definition of Culture
  3. Characteristics of Culture
  4. Factors Affecting Culture

Meaning of Culture

Culture is something that individuals within a society learn through social interactions and collective experiences. It pertains to both materials as well as non-material components. Material components involve resources, spaces and physical objects that describe the people’s culture like homes, neighbourhoods, cities, schools, religious places, factories shops, etc. Non-material culture may include a wide array of intangible elements, such as the ideas and beliefs held by individuals, their acquired habits, and the words they employ in their daily lives. Thus, culture reflects the personality that a society holds. Determining the boundaries of culture prevailing in a particular society is very difficult.

Related Article:- determinants of personality

Culture is the sum of all knowledge, experiences, values, beliefs, perceptions, attitudes, spatial relations, roles, hierarchies, religion, and possessions acquired by individuals in a societal group. It passes on through generations from one person to the other through individual and group endeavours

Definition of Culture

According to E.B. Tylor – “Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”.

According to Lonner – “Culture can be defined as the common rules that regulate interactions and behaviour in a group as well as several shared values and attitudes in the group”.

Culture includes patterns that can manifest themselves in both explicit and implied forms. It consists of behaviours which are acquired and passed through symbols including embodiments in artefacts, distinctive achievements of human groups, etc. Traditional values and ideas form the essence or core of culture. Cultural systems are the consequences of actions, yet they also function as influential factors that shape the context for forthcoming activities.

Culture emerges as a complex hub of different traits, forming trait by trait in a continuous process. Incidents such as contact, diffusion, or accommodation introduce traits from other cultures into the current cultural context. This culture passes from one generation to another. All such processes continued for hundreds and thousands of years leading to a culture of a complete nation.

Characteristics of Culture

Culture has the following characteristics:

1) Culture is Invented

It doesn’t exist in obscurity, necessitating revelation; it actively impacts societal dynamics. On the contrary, cultures are not the result of mere chance, but rather the ingenuity of individuals. The process of culture requires three types of interdependent states:

i) Organisational System

It comprises the family and the social systems. This system describes how it is possible for people to effectively coordinate their behaviour with the activities of other people.

ii) Ideological System

“Cognitive culture” is the designation for the mental dimension of culture. It comprises the ideas. beliefs, value systems, the logic behind the way society behaves, etc.

iii) Technological System

It comprises the skills, expertise and know-how of human beings due to which they are capable of developing material goods.

2) Culture is Learned

It is not inborn or something that the individual learns instinctively. Rather, people learn about culture at an early phase of their life with an emotional experience. The transfer of culture from one generation to the next involves passing down the baton, and young children become steeped in societal cultural norms. This has major implications for how a consumer behaves.

3) Culture is Socially Shared

It is a group activity. This group may be large as a community or a simple family. Individuals residing in an organised community share a common cultural heritage that is upheld by the influence of social pressure.

4) Cultures are Similar but Different

A set of shared traits characterizes every cultural group. There are some activities which are universally shared by all communities such as sports, athletics, culinary skills, appreciation of beauty, calendar, courtship and wooing, education, religious norms, law and rituals, language, etc. However, there is a great disparity in these characteristics as they create differences in consumer behaviour.

5) Culture is Gratifying and Persistent

It leads to the fulfilment of both natural and learned needs. Cultures encourage habits that result in fulfilling outcomes. Individuals practising such habits will feel gratified. As a result, these habits will be passed down from one generation to the next. This further makes individuals feel more comfortable as their culture allows them to do things persistently.

6) Culture is Adaptive

Though people resist the forces of change, cultures tend to change with time. Some cultures have not changed much and have adopted a rigid stance while others may have a very encouraging outlook towards change which occurs rapidly in a positive way.

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Factors Affecting Culture

Culture is greatly influenced by the following factors:

1) Social Factors

Social factors that affect culture are:

i) Reference Groups

Reference groups are all those groups which have a direct or indirect bearing on the way an individual acts or behaves. A membership group directly influences a person’s behaviour. These can be primary groups with whom a person spends most of his time or interacts regularly. For example, friends, colleagues, family, neighbours, etc.

ii) Family

Consumer buying organizations regard the family as a highly significant component. It constitutes to be an important reference group, influencing the buying decisions of their family members. This can be seen in joint families where the influence of grandparents can still be seen in major purchase decisions and also in the lifestyle of the children present in the family.

iii) Roles and Status

An individual is usually part of several groups, which can include family, clubs, and organizations. The group provides insights that shape the anticipated behaviour of individuals across different situations. Individuals usually make purchasing decisions that mirror their anticipated societal roles. Marketers need to keep this in mind while crafting their marketing campaigns.

2) Personal Factors

Personal factors, such as the buyer’s age, lifecycle stage, profession, income, personality, self concept, lifestyle, and values, play an important role in shaping the prevailing culture within society. 

i) Age and Stage in the Lifecycle

The purchasing patterns of individuals differ greatly over a lifetime. The purchase of food, clothing, furniture, etc., is often based on the lifecycle stage of the individual. Similarly, the family lifecycle has a direct impact on the consumption pattern. Societal patterns such as delayed marriages, the focus of students pursuing higher education abroad, career-oriented youth on diverse lifestyle aspirations, and the rise of double-income families investing in consumer durables have created tremendous opportunities for marketers across various stages of the consumer lifecycle.

ii) Occupation and Economic Circumstances

The type of job someone holds directly affects their consumption preferences. The purchasing behaviour of a blue-collar worker will differ vastly from that of the chief executive officer of a company. For example, the former will buy work clothes, work shoes, and lunchboxes while the latter will buy dress suits, air travel, and country club memberships. This trend can also be seen in the computer software companies that design different products for various classes of professionals.

iii) Personality and Self-concept

Every individual has some personality traits and self-concept which have a direct bearing on the culture of the individual. Personality refers to a set of traits in an individual which decide how he will react to stimuli from the environment. Various aspects of personality can be self-confidence, diffidence, aggression, sociability, flexibility, autonomy, etc.

iv) Lifestyle and Values

A lifestyle is a way a person likes to conduct his living in terms of various activities interests, behaviours and opinions. An individual’s lifestyle is a reflection of how they engage with their surrounding environment. Financial resources play a decisive role in shaping the lifestyle of consumers. In a society where people do not have much money, companies will aim to focus on producing affordable goods. The best example of this can be Walmart which targets its “Everyday Low Pricing” technique on consumers who are not willing to spend much money and appreciate bargaining. To deliver on its commitment to consumers, Wal-Mart has strategically developed a lean supply chain and also extracts the best deal from its suppliers so that these can be passed on to customers in the form of price discounts.

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