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Cultural universals

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A cultural universal (also called an anthropological universal or human universal), as discussed by Emile Durkheim, George Murdock, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Donald Brown and others, is an element, pattern, trait, or institution that is common to all human cultures worldwide. Taken together, the whole body of cultural universals is known as the human condition. Evolutionary psychologists hold that behaviors or traits that occur universally in all cultures are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations.[1] Some anthropological and sociological theorists that take a cultural relativist perspective may deny the existence of cultural universals: the extent to which these universals are "cultural" in the narrow sense, or in fact biologically inherited behavior is an issue of "nature versus nurture".

In his book Human Universals (1991), Donald Brown defines human universals as comprising "those features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exception", providing a list of 63 items.

GeneralEdit

The emergence of these universals dates to the Upper Paleolithic, with the first evidence of full behavioral modernity.

List of cultural universalsEdit

Among the cultural universals listed by Brown (1991) are:

Language and cognitionEdit

Main article: Linguistic universal
  • Language
  • Abstraction in speech and thought
  • Antonyms, synonyms
  • Logical notions of "and," "not," "opposite," "equivalent," "part/whole," "general/particular"
  • Binary cognitive distinctions
  • Color terms: black, white
  • Classification of: age, behavioral propensities, body parts, colors, fauna, flora, inner states, kin, sex, space, tools, weather conditions
  • Continua (ordering as cognitive pattern)
  • Discrepancies between speech, thought, and action
  • Figurative speech, metaphors
  • Symbolism, symbolic speech
  • Synesthetic metaphors
  • Tabooed utterances
  • Special speech for special occasions
  • Prestige from proficient use of language (e.g. poetry)
  • Planning
  • Units of time

SocietyEdit

Myth, ritual and aestheticsEdit

Further information: Myth and ritual
  • Magical thinking
  • Use of magic to increase life and win love
  • Beliefs about death
  • Beliefs about disease
  • Beliefs about fortune and misfortune
  • Divination
  • Attempts to control weather
  • Dream interpretation
  • Beliefs and narratives
  • Proverbs, sayings
  • Poetry/rhetorics
  • Healing practices, medicine
  • Childbirth customs
  • Rites of passage
  • Music, rhythm, dance
  • Play
  • Toys, playthings
  • Death rituals, mourning
  • Feasting
  • Body adornment
  • Hairstyles

TechnologyEdit

  • Shelter
  • Control of fire
  • Tools, tool making
  • Weapons, spear
  • Containers
  • Cooking
  • Lever
  • Tying material (i.e., something like string), twining (i.e. weaving or similar)

ReferencesEdit

  1. Schacter, Daniel L, Daniel Wegner and Daniel Gilbert. 2007. Psychology. Worth Publishers. pp. 26 - 27

BibliographyEdit

Template:ISBN

Template:Culture

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