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Culture And Social Transmission

Human beings in the same geographical area share unique identity factors that differentiate them from others. Culture is the collective identity that defines people sharing a region. Culture entails norms, beliefs, attitudes, language, artifacts, customs, traditions, politics, economy, social systems, symbols, and any other co-occurring societal factor shared by a group within an identified region. From the definition, culture and society coexist, an interdependent relationship that introduces the element of social transmission. As much as people’s culture may change over time, there are constant attributes of group identity that remain constant because they have been passed down from generation to generation. Specifically, cultural elements like language, traditions, and artifacts remain constant throughout the community. Humans emerge as culture-transmitting instruments passing down the group attributes that make them human from one generation to another.

Culture comprises non-materialistic factors that inform conceptualized ideas passed from generation to generation. The unseen elements of a culture, including norms, beliefs, and attitudes, are conceptualized as ideas by a person or the community and then transmitted from one generation to another through family interaction and social learning (Algan et al.). An aspect of cultural learning defines the norms, beliefs, and attitudes of social transmission of a group’s unseen identity: affiliate members. For instance, children born in a community learn and integrate their cultural identity through enculturation. Every family within a society plays a role in social transmission. The younger generation learns a system of ideas and symbols from the older members that give them a group identity. Thus, the non-tangible aspects of culture transmitted through families from one generation to another constitutes a group identity.

An aspect of materials or visibly designed objects is definitive of a culture. The material aspect of it entails the seen elements of a culture that is tangibly identifiable in society. Human beings coexist and preserve handmade objects, referred to as artifacts representing an omnipresent source of social information (Hurwitz et al.). Most communities have unique artifacts that define the individual’s norms, beliefs, attitudes, and practices. The artifacts transfer the identity of the ancient cultural identity of the community’s ancestors to the current generation. Hurwitz et al. reveal that as an instrument of social information and transmission, people interpret artifacts as elements of a person’s or community’s interests, traits, and social affiliation. For instance, archeological evidence of wall paintings in African societies, with handmade tools for cultivation, speaks about their way of life. Specifically, the tools portray farming, hunting, and gathering as definitive aspects of their culture. In that case, artifacts emerge as vital cultural elements of social transmission.

Furthermore, the performance and celebration of living archives constitute social transmission. “Societies are defined by ritualized social and cultural practices where the act of transmission of knowledge and memory to consolidate identities occur through performance” (Sabiescu 498). The living archives may take the form of folk songs and dances, storytelling, and any other operational performance that connects and transmits cultural values to people. For example, in conservative communities, children learn their cultural identity through the storytelling rituals performed by their grandparents. The narrations embody the vital identity factors that define the group. Thus, culture consists of material and non-material aspects that gives people identity. Social transmission can be artifact interpretation, cultural rituals, and traditions, or direct social learning.


Algan, Y., Malgouyres, C., Mayer, T., & Thoenig, M. “The economic incentives of cultural transmission: Spatial evidence from naming patterns across France.” The Economic Journal, vol. 132, no. 642, 2022, p. 437-470,

Hurwitz, E., Brady, T, F., & Schachner, A. “Detecting social transmission in the design of artifacts via inverse planning.” The Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 2019,

Sabiescu, A, G. “Living archives and social transmission of memory.” Curator: The Museum Journal, vol. 63, no. 4, 2020, p. 497-510,

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