How Does Culture Influence Lives?

Karl Baron/CC-BY 2.0

Culture influences individuals’ lives in many ways, including shaping where they want to live, their views on education, their accents, what books they read, what music they listen to and other considerations.

Culture affects many facets of people’s lives, ranging from individual decisions to interpersonal interactions and shaping a society’s worldview. Culture is a complex subject with many components. Essentially, it is a set of learned behaviors and patterns that a certain group of people develop. These shared commonalities unite these individuals as a group and help to distinguish them from other groups. This can include customs like what food people eat, what religion they practice and what language they speak.

Culture and Communication

While humans are born with innate drives like hunger and thirst, culture influences how they act on those instincts. As people grow, they learn skills and techniques from others around them. This influences what work they do and how they perform it. People also learn to communicate with one another as they develop, which means learning a common language and expressing thoughts and feelings orally and in writing. Culture also influences nuances in a language such as accents and regional differences in dialects. Music, stories and dances are other means of communication that a culture shapes.

Cultural Adaptations

In addition to affecting how people behave, culture influences how they adapt to an environment. Starting from their shared origins in Africa about 2.5 million years ago, humans have branched off to inhabit a variety of geographical locations. However, the human body is still largely adapted to life in hotter, more tropical environments. Therefore, people have developed tools and techniques for adapting to their environments, such as learning to hunt, create warm clothing, build fires and construct warm homes. These cultural adaptations have enabled the existence of populations around the world and the expansion of the human race, as people depend on those critical cultural adaptations for survival.

Cultural Evolution

Although cultures are ingrained in societies, they can evolve and be passed along to others. Each successive generation can adopt new tools and techniques to perform a task more efficiently. This can help others within the community and beyond. The knowledge that ancient Greek mathematicians and philosophers developed in ancient times, for example, shapes the knowledge that humans learn in the present. This successive learning is called cumulative culture. It also exists in activities like farming, where previous cultures developed ways to produce a sustainable food supply. Over time, other societies have improved on those methods to protect against crop failure, pests and other maladies.


While people learn the nuances of culture as they grow, they become so accustomed to certain behaviors and norms that they are largely unaware of the extent to which their cultural beliefs shape their lives. Individuals learn to accept the standards established by their group as normal or right. They may disagree with the way that another culture performs the same task or the views that it has on certain parts of life. Dogs, for example, are welcomed into homes as family members in some parts of the world, such as North America. However, dogs are considered dirty in parts of the Middle East, and they are consumed as food in Asia. Cultural standards can also cause the development of ethnocentrism, which is a society’s belief that it is superior to another.