Universal/Cultural/Personal: Suggested Answers


Universal behaviors: 

 2. Running from a dangerous animal

 8. Eating regularly

12. Regretting being the cause of an accident

13. Feeling sad at the death of your mother

All of these are common behaviors found in every human society. While the content may vary (e.g., food choices and meaning of "regularly" for #8) as well as the intensity (how much you "regret" being the cause of an accident for #12) they are widespread enough to constitute examples of universal behaviors.

Cultural behaviors:

3. Considering snakes to be "evil"

4. Men opening doors for women

5. Respecting older people

9. Eating with knife, fork, and spoon

10. Being wary of strangers

11. Calling a waiter with a hissing sound

14. Wearing white mourning robes for 30 days after the death of your mother

These behaviors are not "natural," like sadness at the loss of a relative, but a product of learning attitudes and values from one’s elders. This means that the specific content of the behavior or idea is a product of human perception. It is derived from the specific history and circumstances in that society. For example, take #3: snakes are considered sacred to many Hindus in India and by many others in Asian societies, while in Western traditions the snake is often identified with the devil and, therefore, evil. These are learned behaviors and considered “cultural” because they are shared by large groups of people and supported by the institutions of the society.

Personal behaviors:

1. Sleeping with a bedroom window open

6. Liking spicy food

7. Preferring playing soccer to reading a book

15. Not liking to wear mourning clothes for 30 days after the death of your mother

These behaviors are largely based on individual personality and preferences. Although "iking spicy food" might be correlated with the kind of ethnic foods that one is exposed to in childhood, developing such preferences (or not!) is more a matter of idiosyncratic choice than cultural rules. Many people adopt new favorite foods as adults or experiment with new cuisines. Even though jeans and T-shirts are a widely adopted "uniform" by US-American teenagers, there are often highly individualized "fashion touches" which make it recognizably different and unique. While wearing a veil in an Islamic country may be "cultural" in the sense that it is an enforced norm in the society, there are often small variations by which an individual asserts some personal touch.  

Knowing the differences among Universal, Cultural, and Personal expressions of culture, including your own, is a good start towards understanding why specific cultural expressions vary so widely across the globe. It also helps to avoid stereotyping when you realize that while people often conform to society's cultural rules, they also find ways to assert their individuality, and no individual embodies the totality of their culture. Conformists and non-conformists are everywhere, but when you enter another culture it is best to aim for the cultural average, modeling your behavior on the general norms of that society.

      INSIGHT..!!  Some behaviors are shared by us all, while some others are unique to individuals.