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Cultural Universals and Being Human

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How does the identification of cultural universals impact our understanding of what it means to be human? How does the search for universals help us better understand human cultural behavior? What examples from your own culture can illustrate the ideas that our behaviors are impacted by our culture more than our biology? Use terminology from the text and ideas from your own life to support your answers.

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The topic of cultural universals is discussed and explored. References are listed.

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OTA 105878/Xenia Jones

Cultural Universals

What are cultural universals? Also known as human universals, Claude Levi-Strauss proposes cultural universals to be those elements, traits, institutions, practices or traits that are common to social groups/human cultures all over the world. All the cultural universals identified when put together defines the human condition (for a complied list of cultural universal, see: http://condor.depaul.edu/mfiddler/hyphen/humunivers.htm). There are traits and behaviors in human beings all over the world despite the fact that they belong to different cultures that are common and similar. As such psychologists who study the evolution of human thought, mind and personality consider them to be of great importance as they can be the basis for exploring the origins of the human mind and adaptation. When we look for cultural universals, we look throughout the human experience. The past and the present come into play here and what we build is a view of the human experience unfettered by cultural barriers. We are not limited by the differences as the differences do not play a part. Stripped of what separates us all, we see what unites as human beings, our ancestors and us today. This is how cultural universals allow us an understanding of what it means to be human. ...

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  • MPhil/PhD (IP), Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  • MA, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  • Certificate, Geva Ulpan (via Universita Tel Aviv)
  • BA, University of the Philippines
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