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Beyond Culture

A Journey of self-discovery

By Edward Hall
12-minute read
Audio available
Beyond Culture by Edward Hall

Beyond Culture (1976) explores how people across cultures display such diverse patterns of behavior, from resolving conflict to perceiving the passage of time. These blinks highlight the contrasts among cultures, showing us why we need to look beyond our culture to better understand other people.

  • Readers interested in the influence of culture on human behavior
  • Travelers or adventurers who want to learn more about cultural subtleties
  • Students eager to explore the work of famous anthropologist Edward Hall

Edward Hall (1914-2009) was a renowned American anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher. He received his PhD from Columbia University, conducted groundbreaking field research across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and authored a number of lauded books on culture and communication.

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Beyond Culture

By Edward Hall
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Beyond Culture by Edward Hall
Synopsis

Beyond Culture (1976) explores how people across cultures display such diverse patterns of behavior, from resolving conflict to perceiving the passage of time. These blinks highlight the contrasts among cultures, showing us why we need to look beyond our culture to better understand other people.

Key idea 1 of 7

Your actions and thoughts are shaped by the culture in which you grow up.

Human beings are cultural by nature. Regardless of where a person is born and raised, her culture – the ideas, customs and social mores of her community – will inevitably have an effect on the way she acts and thinks throughout her life.

From birth, we begin to learn from the people around us. In this way, a person’s actions are changeable, as they suit the cultural context in which the person exists. Over time, learned actions develop into ingrained habits. Eventually, these habits become second nature, almost automatic.

By the time we’ve reached adulthood, these learned actions have become internalized, unconscious behaviors, specific to the culture in which we were raised.

A good example of this can be found in the way people greet each other. While the Japanese bow, Inuits rub noses. Such behaviors are taken for granted within each culture and are performed automatically. Both actions, however different, convey respect or gratitude, yet only when performed in the context of each respective culture.

So what other practices does a culture carry with it? Different cultures usually speak different languages. Some researchers have argued that the language a group speaks has a big effect on the way a group thinks.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, formulated in 1929 by anthropologist Edward Sapir and linguist Benjamin Whorf, supposes that the way people see the world is significantly influenced by the language a people speaks.

In English, you can tell someone, “It rained yesterday.” Yet from that statement, it’s unclear whether you know it rained because you got caught in a downpour; whether you saw puddles on the ground last night; or whether someone told you that it had rained, and you were just passing on that information.

In contrast, the Hopi of Arizona encode such details through verbs in its spoken language. This communicates to the listener not only information, but the source of the information.

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