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Identify and define the seven basic elements of nonmaterial culture.

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writergirl1207 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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If culture can be loosely defined as the norms and social behaviors found in a society, then the term can be broken down further into material and nonmaterial culture. Nonmaterial culture concerns itself with abstract concepts rather than tangible items.

Nonmaterial culture is characterized by seven elements:

  • Gestures are defined as the nonverbal communication between individuals or groups, using all or part of the body.
  • Language is verbal communication between individuals and groups, using numbers, letters, and sounds.
  • Values are instituted by society into a group of "rules" that separate behavior considered normal or positive from behavior that is considered abnormal or negative.
  • If values can be considered the rules of a society, then norms can be defined as the expectations society places on its members.
  • Sanctions can be seen as both positive and negative consequences of the behavior of citizens within a society.
  • Folkways describe the casual, everyday interactions between citizens, either current or past.
  • Mores work to define the most important customs within a community.

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ncchemist eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Culture is defined as the entirety of the man-made environment that humans have created for themselves.  It is a term that covers a wide range of areas including both the material and non-material aspects of life. 

Material culture relates to actual physical objects that are a part of human culture including homes, transportation vehicles, and the devices like televisions and microwaves that are a part of daily life for most humans.

Non-material culture refers to ideas and ways of thinking that define a human culture.  The seven basic elements of non-material culture are outlined below.

1) Gestures are motions and signals that people use to communicate using their bodies.

2) Language is the development of a written and spoken set of characters that can be combined in different ways to communicate with each other.

3) Values are a set of defined moral standards designed to establish a general system of ethics for a society.

4) Norms are sets of standard behavior that are based on cultural values.

5) Sanctions are mechanisms for control over people's actions based on its norms and values.

6) Folkways are informal social norms designed to guide casual social interactions.

7) Mores are very important social norms that have great significance to a culture and are much more strictly enforced.

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