AskDefine | Define acculturation

Dictionary Definition



1 the adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture; "the socialization of children to the norms of their culture" [syn: socialization, socialisation, enculturation]
2 all the knowledge and values shared by a society [syn: culture]
3 the process of assimilating new ideas into an existing cognitive structure [syn: assimilation]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. the process by which the culture of an isolated society changes on contact with a different one
  2. the process by which a person acquires the culture of the society that he/she inhabits
Some social scientists reverse the meanings of enculturation and acculturation. Primary socialization is sometimes called enculturation, while secondary socialization is sometimes called acculturation.


process by which the culture of an isolated society changes
  • Croatian: akulturacija
process by which a person acquires the culture
  • Croatian: akulturacija

Extensive Definition

Acculturation is the exchange of cultural features that results when groups come into continuous firsthand contact; the original cultural patterns of either or both groups may be altered, but the groups remain distinct. (Kottak 2007)
However, anthropologist Franz Boas (1888, pp. 631-632) argued that all people acculturate, not only "savages" and minorities: "It is not too much to say that there is no people whose customs have developed uninfluenced by foreign culture, that has not borrowed arts and ideas which it has developed in its own way", giving the example that "the steel harpoon used by American and Scotch whalers is a slightly modified imitation of the Eskimo harpoon".
Subsequently, anthropologists Redfield, Linton and Herskovits (1936, p.149) developed the oft quoted definition: "Acculturation comprehends those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups".
Despite definitions and evidence that acculturation entails two-way processes of change, research and theory have continued with a focus on the adjustments and changes experienced by aboriginal peoples, immigrants, sojourners, and other minorities in response to their contact with the dominant majority.
Thus, acculturation can be conceived to be the processes of cultural learning imposed upon minorities by the fact of being minorities. If enculturation is first-culture learning, then acculturation is second-culture learning. This has often been conceived to be a unidimensional, zero-sum cultural conflict in which the minority's culture is displaced by the dominant group's culture in a process of assimilation.
The traditional definition sometimes differentiates between acculturation by an individual (transculturation) and that by a group - usually very large (acculturation).
Additionally, "acculturation" has been used by Matusevich as a term describing the paradigm shift public schools must undergo in order to successfully integrate emerging technologies in a meaningful way into classrooms (Matusevich, 1995). The old and the new additional definitions have a boundary that blurs in modern multicultural societies, where a child of an immigrant family might be encouraged to acculturate both the dominant also well as the ancestral culture, either of which may be considered "foreign", but in fact, they are both integral parts of the child's development.
Beginning perhaps with Child (1943) and Lewin (1948), acculturation began to be conceived as the strategic reaction of the minority to continuous contact with the dominant group. See Rudmin's 2003 tabulation of acculturation theories., there are several options the minority can choose, each with different motivations and different consequences. These options include assimilation to the majority culture, a defensive assertion of the minority culture, a bicultural blending of the two cultures, a bicultural alternation between cultures depending on contexts, or a diminishment of both cultures. Following Berry's (1980; 2003) terminology, four major options or strategies are now commonly called assimilation, separation, integration, and marginalization.
Acculturative stress refers to the psychological, somatic, and social difficulties that may accompany acculturation processes. This was first noted by Redfield, Linton and Herskovits (1936, p. 152), calling it "psychic conflict" that may arise from conflicting cultural norms. Born (1970) and Berry (1980) have theorized that acculturative stress is a fundamental psychological force in acculturative processes. Ausbel (1960) first measured "acculturative stress", and many have since claimed that it is a significant problem for many minority people (e.g., Berry, Kim, Minde & Mok, 1983; Burnam, Hough, Karno, Escobar & Telles, 1987; Hovey, 2000). However, many studies have found no evidence that acculturation is distressful (e.g., Inkeles, 1969; Rudmin, 2006 In fact, in a study of 55 samples in 13 nations, Sam, Vedder, Ward and Horenczyk (2006, pp. 127-130) found that immigrant adolescents had better mental health than their non-immigrant classmates.

Group foreign-origin acculturation

Massive intake of another culture's traits is the most classical and narrow definition of "acculturation". Such acculturation may be adequately adapted into another's, modernizing and advancing it through the inflow of technology or the enrichment of literature. For example,
  • The Chinese written language (Hanzi) was taken, with various degrees of modification by places that previously have no written records: Japan (as Kanji), Korea (as Hanja), and Vietnam (as Chữ-nôm). In addition, Chinese vocabulary had also been taken throughout the history. They have therefore developed a linguistic affinity in several, though not nearly all, aspects -- called the CJKV language family in computer science.
But sometimes, the acculturation has irreversible impact of damaging the recipient culture, as in the cases of:
Such later detrimental case is related to assimilation.
The term has most often described Westernization Natives having adopted to Western cultures.
  • The founders of Liberia were the descendants, just a few generations removed, of African ancestors who had a completely African culture; yet they have fully taken up the white-dominated cultural values of the early 19th Century United States (specifically, of the then dominant Whig Party), to the extent that their settlement in Africa and rule over the native population there were clearly in the manner of foreign colonisers rather than of "Africans returning home".
Pidgin is a mixed language that has developed to help communication between members of different cultures in contact. This usually occurs in situations of trade or colonialism. Pidgin English is a simplified form of English. It blends English grammar with that of a native language. This was first used in Chinese ports and similar pidgins have developed in Papua New Guinea and West Africa.
In situations of continuous contact, cultures have exchanged and blended foods, recipes, music, dances, clothing, tools, and technologies.


Main article: Transculturation
Transculturation, or individual foreign-origin acculturation, is on a smaller scale with less visible impact.
This most often occurs to first-generation immigrants, for whom transculturation is most difficult, due to the lack of precedents in the family. The speed of transculturation varies, depending on the recipient's interest and the presence of a motivation.
Another common, but less lasting, acculturation effects occur after a traveller spent a while in a foreign place. S/he may pick up some regional vocabulary, especially if the languages are in the same family.

Native-origin acculturation

A child may learn one or more traditions(multicultural family of immigrants) from birth, usually from the family (blood or adopted), in particularly the parents.
Inevitably, with each generation, the dominant culture becomes more and more the dominantly accultured one for the immigrants' descendants. A good example of native origin acculturation would be the Inuit, these people started to share their traditions when the Canadian Governement went to the Artic.

History of acculturation

Early written codes of law, for example, the Old Testament law of Moses, or the Babylonian law of Hammurabi, acted to stabilize cultural practices and reduce acculturative changes. Probably the first academic account of acculturation appears in Plato's, Laws in the 4th century BC, in which he argued that humans have a tendency to imitate strangers and a tendency to like to travel, both of which introduce new cultural practices. Plato argued that this should be minimized to the degree possible.
J.W. Powell is credited with coining the word "acculturation," first using it in an 1880 report by the US Bureau of American Ethnography. In 1883, Powell defined "acculturation" to be the psychological changes induced by cross-cultural imitation. The first psychological study of acculturation was probably Thomas and Znaniecki's 1918 study of The Polish Peasant in Europe and America.
Since then, scholars in different disciplines have developed more than 100 different theories of acculturation. Campisi, in 1947, was the first to make a "A Scale for the Measurement of Acculturation".
Histories of acculturation theory have been written (in chronological order) by Sarah Simons (1901), Isaac Berkson (1920), W. D. Borrie (1959), Guido Baglioni (1964), Abramson (1980), and Floyd Rudmin (2003a; b; 2006).

Cultural appropriation

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or behavior. These elements are typically imported into the existing culture, and may have wildly different meanings or lack the subtleties of their original cultural context. Because of this, cultural appropriation is sometimes viewed negatively, and has been called "cultural theft."

Cultural imperialism

Cultural imperialism is the practice of promoting the culture or language of one nation in another. It is usually the case that the former is a large, economically or militarily powerful nation and the latter is a smaller, less affluent one. Cultural imperialism can take the form of an active, formal policy or a general attitude.

Interactive acculturation

Interactive acculturation is an amalgam of theories that attempt to explain the acculturation process within a framework of state policies and the dynamic interplay of host community and immigrant acculturation orientations. In the late 90’s a team comprised of Richard Y. Bourhis, Lena Celine Moise, Stephane Perreault, and Sacha Senecal… first postulated a theory in a journal of psychology article entitled Towards an Interactive Acculturation Model: A Social Psychological Approach. The premise of the model expounds on some of the earlier work by academics like Young, Padilla and Graves but emphasizes a new angle of interest; the structural host nation policies and subsequent socio-psychological effect as well as the dynamics between immigrant populations and the host culture they move into.


  • Abramson, H. (1980). Assimilation and pluralism. In S. Thernstrom (Ed.), Harvard encyclopedia of American ethnic groups (pp. 150-160). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Baglioni, G. (1964). Trends in the studies on the socio-cultural integration of immigrants. International Migration Digest, 1, 125-128.
  • Berkson, I. B. (1969). Theories of acculturation: A critical study. New York: Arno Press. (Original work published in 1920.)
  • Berry, J. W. (1980). Social and cultural change. In H. C. Triandis, & R. W. Brislin (Eds.), Handbook of cross-cultural psychology: Social psychology (vol. 5, pp. 211-279). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Berry, J. W. (2003). Conceptual approaches to acculturation. In K. M. Chun, P. B. Organista, & G. Marín (Eds.), Acculturation: Advances in theory, measurement and applied research (pp. 17-37). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Assoc.
  • Berry, J. W., Kim, U., Minde, T., & Mok, D. (1987). Comparative studies of acculturative stress. International Migration Review, 21, 491-511.
  • Boas, F. (1940). The aims of ethnology. Reprinted in F. Boas, Race, language, and culture (pp. 626-638). New York: Macmillan. (Originally published in 1888.)
  • Born, D. O. (1970). Psychological adaptation and development under acculturative stress. Social Science and Medicine, 3, 529-547.
  • Borrie, W. D. (1959). The cultural integration of immigrants: A survey based upon the papers and proceedings of the UNESCO Conference held in Havana, April 1956. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Burnham, M. A., Hough, R. L., Karno, M., Escobar, J. I., & Telles, C. A. (1987). Acculturation and lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders among Mexican Americans in Los Angeles. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 28, 89-102.
  • Child, I .L. (1970). Italian or American? The second generation in conflict. New York: Russell & Russell. (Original work published 1943.)
  • Hovey, J. D. (2000). Psychosocial predictors of depression among Central American immigrants. Psychological Reports, 86, 1237-1240.
  • Inkeles, A. (1969). Making men modern: On the causes and consequences of individual change in sex developing countries. American Journal of Sociology, 75, 208-225.
  • Kottak, Conrad Phillip (2005) Windows on Humanity, pages 209, 423. McGraw Hill, New York.
  • Lewin, K. (1948). Resolving social conflicts. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Metusevich, Meliss. "School Reform: What Role can Technology Play in a Constructivist Setting?." May 1995 1-8. July 18 2006
  • Redfield R., Linton R., Herskovits M.J. (1936) Memorandum for the Study of Acculturation. American Anthropologist, Vol. 38, No. 1, 149-152.
  • Rudmin, F. W. (2003a). Critical history of the acculturation psychology of assimilation, separation, integration, and marginalization. Review of General Psychology, 7, 3-37.
  • Rudmin, F. W. (2003b). Field notes from the quest for the first use of "acculturation". Cross-Cultural Psychology Bulletin, 37 (4), 24-31.
  • Rudmin, F. W. (2006) Debate in science: The case of acculturation. In AnthroGlobe Journal. Retrieved March 17, 2007 from
  • Sam, D. L., Vedder, P., Ward, C., & Hoarenczyk, G. (2006). Psychological and sociocultural adaptation of immigrant youth. In J. W. Berry, J. S. Phinney, D. L. Sam, & P. Vedder. (Eds.), Immigrant youth in cultural transition: Acculturation, identity and adaptation across national contexts ( pp. 117-141). London: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Simons, S. (1901). Social assimilation. Parts I, II, III, IV & V. American Journal of Sociology, 6, 790-822; 7, 53-79, 234-248, 386-404, 539-556.
acculturation in Bengali: সাংস্কৃতায়ন
acculturation in Catalan: Aculturació
acculturation in Czech: Akulturace
acculturation in Danish: Akkulturation
acculturation in German: Akkulturation
acculturation in Spanish: Aculturación
acculturation in French: Acculturation
acculturation in Galician: Aculturación
acculturation in Indonesian: Akulturasi
acculturation in Italian: Acculturazione
acculturation in Lithuanian: Akultūracija
acculturation in Japanese: アカルチュレーション
acculturation in Polish: Akulturacja
acculturation in Portuguese: Aculturação
acculturation in Russian: Аккультурация
acculturation in Serbian: Акултурација
acculturation in Finnish: Akkulturaatio

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Americanization, admission, adoption, affiliation, assimilation, citizenship by naturalization, citizenship papers, civility, civilization, complex, cultivation, cultural drift, culture, culture area, culture center, culture complex, culture conflict, culture contact, culture pattern, culture shock, culture trait, education, enculturation, enlightenment, ethos, folkways, key trait, mores, nationalization, naturalization, naturalized citizenship, papers, polish, refinement, socialization, society, trait, trait-complex
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