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A cultural universal
as discussed by George Murdock
George Peter Murdock was a notable American anthropologist. He is remembered for his empirical approach to ethnological studies and his landmark works on Old World populations.-Early life:...
, Claude Lévi-Strauss
Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer, the "father of modern anthropology"....
, 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
The human condition encompasses the experiences of being human in a social, cultural, and personal context. It can be described as the irreducible part of humanity that is inherent and not connected to gender, race, class, etc. — a search for purpose, sense of curiosity, the inevitability of...
. Evolutionary psychologists
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...
hold that behaviors or traits that occur universally in all cultures are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations. 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
Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology....
is an issue in the "nature versus nurture
The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities versus personal experiences The nature versus nurture debate concerns the relative importance of an individual's innate qualities ("nature," i.e. nativism, or innatism) versus personal experiences...
The emergence of these universals dates to the Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...
, with the first evidence of full behavioral modernity
Behavioral modernity is a term used in anthropology, archeology and sociology to refer to a set of traits that distinguish present day humans and their recent ancestors from both living primates and other extinct hominid lineages. It is the point at which Homo sapiens began to demonstrate a...
Language and cognition
- Language employed to manipulate others
- Language employed to misinform or mislead
- Language is translatable
- 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
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...
- Special speech for special occasions
- Prestige from proficient use of language (e.g. poetry)
- Units of time
- Personal names
- Family or household
- Kin groups
Kinship is a relationship between any entities that share a genealogical origin, through either biological, cultural, or historical descent. And descent groups, lineages, etc. are treated in their own subsections....
- Peer group
A peer group is a social group consisting of humans. Peer groups are an informal primary group of people who share a similar or equal status and who are usually of roughly the same age, tended to travel around and interact within the social aggregate Members of a particular peer group often have...
s not based on family
- Actions under self-control distinguished from those not under control
- Affection expressed and felt
- Age grades
- Age statuses
- Age terms
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...
: rights and obligations, rules of membership
- Moral sentiments
- Distinguishing right and wrong, good and bad
- Prestige inequalities
Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation...
- Statuses and roles
- De facto oligarchy
Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, commercial, and/or military legitimacy...
- Collective identities
- Cooperative labor
- Gender role
Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time...
- Males dominate public/political realm
Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination...
- Males more aggressive, more prone to lethal violence, more prone to theft
- Males engage in more coalitionist violence through rape
- Males on average travel greater distances over lifetime
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...
- Husband older than wife on average
- Copulation normally conducted in privacy
Incest is sexual intercourse between close relatives that is usually illegal in the jurisdiction where it takes place and/or is conventionally considered a taboo. The term may apply to sexual activities between: individuals of close "blood relationship"; members of the same household; step...
prevention or avoidance, incest between mother and son unthinkable or tabooed
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...
, but rape proscribed
- Collective decision making
Etiquette is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group...
- Inheritance rules
- Generosity admired, gift giving
- Redress of wrongs, sanctions
- Triangular awareness (assessing relationships among the self and two other people)
- Some forms of proscribed violence
Myth, ritual and aesthetics
- Magical thinking
Magical thinking is causal reasoning that looks for correlation between acts or utterances and certain events. In religion, folk religion, and superstition, the correlation posited is between religious ritual, such as prayer, sacrifice, or the observance of a taboo, and an expected benefit or...
- Use of magic to increase life or win love
- Beliefs about death
- Beliefs about disease
- Beliefs about fortune and misfortune
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...
- Attempts to control weather
- Dream interpretation
- Beliefs and narratives
- Proverbs, sayings
Physiological healing is the restoration of damaged living tissue, organs and biological system to normal function. It is the process by which the cells in the body regenerate and repair to reduce the size of a damaged or necrotic area....
- Childbirth customs
- Rites of passage
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...
Rhythm may be generally defined as a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time may be applied to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or...
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting....
- Toys, playthings
- Death rituals, mourning
- Sexual double entendres
- Body adornment
- Creation, end times
The end time, end times, or end of days is a time period described in the eschatological writings in the three Abrahamic religions and in doomsday scenarios in various other non-Abrahamic religions...
- Control of fire
- Tools, tool making
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...
Cooking is the process of preparing food by use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training...
- Tying material (i.e., something like string), twining (i.e. weaving or similar)