Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
  • Material Culture
  • Nonmaterial Cultural Elements
  • Nonmaterial Culture
  • Oss0212
  • Personal Space
  • Sociology
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    Education Standards

    Identify material and nonmaterial cultural elements and explain their relevance in society.


    OER Text material

    What Is Culture?

    Chapter 3, subsection 3.1. A subsection of this section notes that culture consists of thoughts (expectations about personal space, for example) and tangible things (bus stops, trains, and seating capacity). Then material culture is defined as the objects or belongings of a group of people. Examples of material culture are given as metro passes, bus tokens, automobiles, stores, and the physical structures where people worship. Nonmaterial culture, in contrast, consists of the ideas, attitudes, and beliefs of a society. Material and nonmaterial aspects of culture are linked, and physical objects often symbolize cultural ideas. A metro pass is a material object, but it represents a form of nonmaterial culture, namely, capitalism, and the acceptance of paying for transportation. Clothing, hairstyles, and jewelry are part of material culture, but the appropriateness of wearing certain clothing for specific events reflects nonmaterial culture. It is noted that material and nonmaterial aspects of culture can vary subtly from region to region. As people travel farther afield, moving from different regions to entirely different parts of the world, certain material and nonmaterial aspects of culture become dramatically unfamiliar.

    Supplementary Material (Videos and Reading)

    Intro to Sociology: Material and Nonmaterial Culture (Video)

    According to Prof. Hahn, material and nonmaterial elements define the boundaries and characteristics of culture. He goes on to use examples to explain material and nonmaterial cultures

    Culture: Material and Nonmaterial (Video)

    In this video, Gerald Titchener breaks down culture into two categories of material and nonmaterial cultures. He gives examples of both elements of culture. He also talks about cultural shock, and ethnocentrism, and cultural relativism

    What Is Culture? - Material and Nonmaterial Culture (Video and Article)

    In this article, culture is defined as the language, norms, values, beliefs, and others that, together, form a people's way of life. It is a combination of elements that affect how people think, how they act, and what they own. Culture also includes our history, architecture, accepted behavior, and so much more. After defining culture, the author defines and uses examples to explain the material and nonmaterial elements of culture.