CULTURE AFFECTS BEHAVIOR
Ideas in this map about how culture shapes individual behavior develop along four interrelated strands of benchmarks about groups and subcultures, cultural influences, learning from others, and rewards and punishment. How associations with groups or subcultures can affect an individual's behavior is an important part of this map, but this map does not cover how groups themselves behave, a topic which will be mapped in the next edition of Atlas.
The K-2 benchmark "People are alike in many ways..." contributes to several of the strands on this map and does not belong to any one strand. This same benchmark also contributes to several of the strands on the Heredity and Experience Shape Behavior map, and appears in the Mental Health cluster (in Chapter 6).
The 3-5 benchmark "Human beings tend to repeat..." also plays an important role in the Heredity and Experience Shape Behavior map, where it is part of a strand on how beliefs, biases, and expectations affect perception.
In the cultural influences strand, the 3-5 benchmark "Each culture has distinct patterns..." and the 6-8 benchmark "What is considered to be acceptable behavior..." are in reverse order compared to their grade-level placement in Benchmarks. This change was made on the grounds that the idea that cultures have distinctive patterns of behavior should precede ideas about variations in those patterns over time and the existence of some invariant components.
Research in Benchmarks
Although lower elementary-school children do not have the capacity to see social conventions from another point of view, they can learn about and enjoy many concrete manifestations of cultural diversity (Ramsey, 1986).
Research also suggests that students under the age of ten may be more receptive than older students to learning about other people and more likely to develop a positive outlook toward people from other cultures and homelands (Stone, 1986).
Research into student thinking about people from the past indicates that students do not realize that values, beliefs, and attitudes may differ from culture to culture or that people from other cultures have different ideas because their situations are different. Before students can reason about different world views, they often have to abandon the belief that some human cultures are biologically subordinate (Shelmit, 1984).
Another complication is that students tend to impose contemporary values and ideas from their own culture upon other cultures (Shelmit, 1984).
As children try to understand biological and social phenomena, they often overgeneralize information about racial and cultural differences. One must be cautious, however, not to assume that children are prejudiced or deliberately using stereotypes when they overgeneralize. They may simply be thinking typically for young children trying to make sense out of their limited experience with other groups (Ramsey, 1986). Research indicates that stereotypic attitudes begin to develop about 7th grade (Stone, 1986).