Understanding the Concept of Enculturation: Meaning and Examples

Enculturation: Meaning and Examples
We are what we are today because of enculturation. As we grow, we adapt to our surroundings and learn from it, and then behave and act accordingly. Enculturation definition, the process and few examples can help you understand its meaning and tell you how we so easily adopt our own cultures.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
"Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit."
- Jawaharlal Nehru
We always think about the difference in the cultures, behavior, appearances, and physique of people from different countries, or cities, or even different areas in the same city. This difference is due to a process called enculturation. It is what we adopt from our surroundings to build ourselves to be a part of it, blending in perfectly.

Enculturation does not always come from deliberate learning, but also by seeing and observing. As we observe our elders doing a particular thing, we do it too, sometimes without even thinking why we do a particular thing that way. There may be a reason behind it, but as we learn, we don't necessarily reason our elders, but just do things how they ask us to do them. This comes from having a sense of trust and respect for them, that they definitely know more than us.

Reason comes at a later stage in life, when we are curious to know how and why things work the way they do. We tend to learn this in schools as we grow. Now, every culture has a different atmosphere, a different way of learning, the language, the food we eat, the way we speak and our appearance, all differ from place to place. So every child learns his own culture as he grows in it. In a way, our whole life is a process of enculturation. We learn these little things that make us a member of our culture by repetitively seeing, observing and then doing them. This is how we don't even realize the significance of being civilized or being a part of what we are because all of this just becomes a part of our daily lives.
Enculturation in sociology
Business agreement
Enculturation is also known as socialization. Socializing gives a person more knowledge than what he would gain from books or his surroundings on his own. As he meets people of his culture he gets more and more information and deep understanding of real life situations which later help him in his own experiences.
Enculturation in anthropology
Mother and son reading book together
To be civilized citizens of a culture, we are taught from childhood, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior. Along with this, we are trained to become a part of our surrounding culture. Apart from what we are taught, we also learn from people, from situations and from our experiences, how to handle a problem. How to act or react, to be calm or angry, to think before we hurt others, or speak in a sensible way; all of this comes from enculturation. It teaches us morals, values, the language we can communicate in, expectations and rituals among many other things. This process can be brought about by formal learning, which we do in schools and colleges, i.e. education, and informal learning which we gain through our parents and family.
Conrad Phillip Kottak, an American anthropologist, wrote a textbook called 'Window on Humanity: A Concise Introduction to Anthropology', in which he has written: Enculturation is the process where the culture that is currently established teaches an individual the accepted norms and values of the culture or society where the individual lives. The individual can become an accepted member and fulfill the needed functions and roles of the group. Most importantly the individual knows and establishes a context of boundaries and accepted behavior that dictates what is acceptable and not acceptable within the framework of that society. It teaches the individual their role within society as well as what is accepted behavior within that society and lifestyle.
Enculturation examples
Woman with her son
Christian parents who are teaching their kids to say the rosary, are enculturating the kids.
Mother showing cutlery
An American mother teaching her child to eat with a fork and knife is enculturation.
Child student raising hand
A child learning a good habit of not stealing anything from anyone in school is enculturation.