2.2.1 The Components of Culture: Symbols, Language, Values and Norms

You must have noticed that when you compare individuals in the way they behave and interact in society, there are differences but there exist some common characteristics too. The common components across cultures are symbols, values and norms.

All cultures include symbols which confer meanings to things and events.

These symbols are expressed through what we call language. Language conveys the beliefs and values of a culture.

Values are ideas. These ideas are translated into norms which give us in concrete terms how we should behave. Let's take an example: One of the values of a culture might be "Thou shalt not kill". This value can shape our behaviour in a number of ways. We can have norms condemning euthanasia, dangerous driving or abortion. Hence the idea of not killing guides our behaviour in a number of different circumstances.