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Enculturation is the process by which people learn the dynamics of their surrounding culture and acquire values and norms appropriate or necessary to that culture and its worldviews.[1] As part of this process, the influences that limit, direct, or shape the individual (whether deliberately or not) include parents, other adults, and peers. If successful, enculturation results in competence in the language, values, and rituals of the culture.[1]

The process of enculturation, most commonly discussed in the field of anthropology, is closely related to socialization, a concept central to the field of sociology. Both roughly describe the adaptation of an individual into social groups by absorbing the ideas, beliefs and practices surrounding them. In some disciplines, socialization refers to the deliberate shaping of the individual. In others, the word may cover both deliberate and informal enculturation.[1]

The process of learning and absorbing culture need not be social, direct or conscious. Cultural transmission can occur in various forms, though the most common social methods include observing other individuals, being taught or being instructed. Less obvious mechanisms include learning one's culture from the media, the information environment and various social technologies, which can lead to cultural transmission and adaptation across societies. A good example of this is the diffusion of hip-hop culture into states and communities beyond its American origins.

Enculturation has often be studied in the context of non-immigrant African Americans.

Conrad Phillip Kottak (in Window on Humanity) writes:

Enculturation is the process where the culture that is currently established teaches an individual the accepted norms and values of the culture or society where the individual lives. The individual can become an accepted member and fulfill the needed functions and roles of the group. Most importantly the individual knows and establishes a context of boundaries and accepted behavior that dictates what is acceptable and not acceptable within the framework of that society. It teaches the individual their role within society as well as what is accepted behavior within that society and lifestyle.

Enculturation is sometimes referred to as acculturation in some literatures however more recent literature has signalled a difference in meaning between the two. Whereas enculturation describes the process of learning one's own culture, acculturation denotes learning a different culture, for example, that of a host. The latter can be linked to ideas of a culture shock, which describes an emotionally-jarring disconnect between one's old and new culture cues.

Famously, the sociologist, Talcott Parsons, once described children as "barbarians" of a sort, since they are fundamentally uncultured.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Grusec, Joan E.; Hastings, Paul D. Handbook of Socialization: Theory and Research, Guilford Press, 2007; ISBN 1-59385-332-7, ISBN 978-1-59385-332-7; p 547.
  2. ^ Soubhi, H. (2013). "Inching Away From the Barbarians". Journal of Research in Interprofessional Practice and Education. 3. doi:10.22230/JRIPE.2013V3N1A140. S2CID 153922481.

Further reading[edit]

  • School & Society: Learning Content through Culture. Henry T. Trueba (editor), Concha Delgado-Gaitan (editor). Praeger Publishers. New York. 1988. p. 167

External links[edit]