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Culture and Communication Essay Assignment
We are often unaware or not fully conscious of how culture influences our behavior and co mmunication, but it infuses almost every aspect of our lives. Culture influences how we dre ss, how we act, what and when we eat, what and when we celebrate, how we raise and educ ate our children, and even how we view life and death. It affects our concepts of time, whet her we prefer direct or indirect messages, and whether we view the world more as an indiv idual or as a member of a group.
\We are also often unaware of the extent to which culture acts as a perceptual filter on how we view the world. A perceptual filter is the mental structure t
hrough which we organize a nd assign meaning to new information (Jackson & Hogg, 2010). In fact, because our own cul tural norms are so ubiquitous, we are
likely not aware that even the way we think is influen ced by our culture. Let’s think about two coworkers: John and Kiera. John’s culture values c ertain table
manners. John attends a work lunch with his new coworker Kiera, and her food arrives before his does. Without checking with him, Kiera begins eating her
food, while con tinuing to chat, without waiting for John’s food to arrive as well. Because of his culturally de veloped perceptual filter— that waiting for
everyone’s food to arrive before eating is expected— John may perceive Kiera negatively as a result, and he may feel justified in doing so. He mig ht label her as
inconsiderate. His ability to get to know Kiera (and have a positive impressio n of her) was impeded by his culture’s perceptual filter about table manners.
Perceptual filters can be changed, both individually and within cultures overall. For exampl e, in a Trinidadian fishing village in the Caribbean, the hunting and
consumption of leatherb ack turtles—the largest of all sea turtles— was a cultural norm. Due to a worldwide declining population of these turtles, one man stra
tegically used interpersonal communication through storytelling to change his village’s cult ural norms (BBC Earth, 2017). He did this by shifting people’s
perception of the cultural val ue of turtles by highlighting that the turtles were good for tourism and by visiting local ele mentary schools to teach children about
the value of the turtles (BBC Earth, 2017). All of thi s was only possible by reshaping the perceptual filter of how his neighbors thought about t he turtles.
Instead of “turtle → food,” he helped the filter change to “turtle → tourist attracti on.”
Steve Raymer/Asia Images/Getty Images
Culture often seems instinctual because it is such an integral part of life, but its rules and no rms are learned from birth.
Essentially, all of the messages we receive are filtered through our cultural norms. Without reading a chapter like this one, people can remain unaware of these filters, experiencing bia s toward, misunderstanding of, or negative perceptions of others who act differently from t hem. Therefore, this knowledge is a crucial way that we can “acknowledge multiple views,” a key principle of competent communication covered in Chapter 1. Throughout this chapter , we will discuss various aspects of culture and how each affects interpersonal communicati on. As you read, try to identify how these components of culture have influenced your perce ption of, or communication with, a friend, acquaintance, classmate, or coworker from anoth er culture.
What Is Culture?
When you travel to a new country, to a different region in the United States, or even to an e vent or environment that is unfamiliar to you, you will likely encounter people who speak d ifferent languages, wear different clothing, and have different customs from your own. Ever y society has a culture, or a number of different cultures. Culture is a relatively specialized s et of traditions, beliefs, values, and norms, or standards of behavior that have been passed down from generation to generation by way of communication. Culture is often described a s “the way we learn to do things.” Everyday parts of our lives, such as etiquette, customs, la nguage, courtesy, and rituals such as shaking hands when you meet someone, are at least p artially formed, shaped, and changed by culture. Culture provides structure in a society by defining the roles of group members and the hier archy or status of groups within the culture. In this sense, culture is normative, which mean s that it provides the rules, regulations, and norms that govern society and the manner in w hich people act with other members of that society. Rules can be unsanctioned, meaning th at they are expected, implied, and unofficially- rewarded or punished behaviors. Think about the expected rules in the United States when checking out at a chain grocery store. We tend to expect a normalized and polite interaction (e.g., “Hello, how are you?” or “Thank you!”). It would be frowned upon to try to haggle, wh ich is a normal behavior in other cultures, such as in Nepal or India. These rules are not stri ctly followed but are very ingrained in American culture. On the other hand, there are also s trictly followed rules, which are organizationally or legally enforced, such as driving on a sp ecific side of the road. All societies have a system of social organization, and culture serves t o provide an ordered and organized system for dealing with people within that society thro ugh norms and rules (Novinger, 2001). Culture is learned, but it seems natural because it is such an integral part of life. People are conditioned by culture to fit into a particular society, and the rules for interacting with othe r people are learned from birth. These rules become hidden, subtle influences on our behav ior. You learn when to talk, when to keep quiet, and what tone of voice to use. You are taug ht which gestures are and are not acceptable. You learn what facial expressions are approv ed and which will earn a reprimand. You learn to sit up straight, cover your mouth to sneez e, and not to pick your nose (Novinger, 2001). At the same time, we use interpersonal com munication to reinforce our cultural norms (Shank et al., 2018). By casually discussing wha t we should be doing or gossiping about others, we reinforce what our culture defines as no rmal or expected (Shank et al., 2018). In these ways, culture and interpersonal communicat ion are reciprocal and build off one another
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Culture and Communication Essay Assignment
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