Enculturation vs Acculturation (Compare and Contrast)

Enculturation vs Acculturation (Compare and Contrast)Reviewed by Chris Drew (PhD)

This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

enculturation vs acculturation comparison

While enculturation is the process of learning the values and beliefs of one’s own culture, acculturation is the process by which individuals from different cultures come into contact and take on the values and beliefs of the new culture. 

Enculturation is the ingrained way individuals learn and adopt the social rules of their culture. It’s an internalization process that shapes people’s behavior within a certain cultural framework, allowing for assimilation into society.

From an early age and into adulthood, people are exposed to enculturation. As individuals grow up within a certain culture, they develop the values and beliefs of this cultural environment as their own.

On the other hand, acculturation refers to the process of adapting to a new culture when individual moves from one culture to another.

It involves acquiring new cultural values, behaviors, beliefs, and customs that are different from those of one’s own culture.

Enculturation vs. Acculturation: What’s the Difference?

Enculturation and acculturation are related concepts, but they refer to different processes. The former is the process of learning and adapting to a single culture (often your own, as you grow up), while the latter involves cultural exchange and adaptation when two cultures meet. 

Enculturation refers to the process by which individuals learn and internalize their culture’s values, norms, beliefs, and behaviors (Kirshner & Meng, 2012).

It begins at birth and continues throughout life, shaping the individual’s identity and socialization within their cultural group.

Acculturation, on the other hand, refers to the process of cultural exchange that occurs when individuals from different cultures come into contact with one another over an extended period (Kirshner & Meng, 2012).

It involves adopting and adapting elements of one culture by members of another.

In other words, enculturation focuses on learning and internalizing one’s culture, while acculturation involves exchanging and adapting elements between two or more cultures.

Enculturation vs Acculturation Table Summary

EnculturationAcculturation
The process of learning the values and beliefs of one’s own cultureThe process by which individuals from different cultures come into contact and take on the values and beliefs of the new culture, potentially developing a transnational culture.
It’s an internalization process that shapes people’s behavior within a certain cultural framework, allowing for assimilation into societyInvolves acquiring new cultural values, behaviors, beliefs, and customs that are different from those of one’s own culture
Lifelong journey of learning about one’s culture as it evolves over timeCultural exchange between two distinct cultures that occurs when individuals from different backgrounds come together over an extended period
Helps individuals create their identities, preserve and transmit cultural traditions, and provide a sense of continuityEnables members of one culture to embrace and assimilate elements from a different culture, resulting in subtle transformations for both societies
Can prevent an individual from being exposed to different thought patterns and ideas, hindering their creativityCan lead to conflicts and tensions between cultures
Reinforcing biases and stereotypes that lead to prejudice and discriminationCan lead to greater understanding and cooperation between cultures
Can promote cultural imperialism, resulting in the loss of cultural diversity
Can lead to an uncritical acceptance of traditional values and beliefs which may no longer be relevant and suitable in a changing world

Definition of Enculturation

From the moment of birth and throughout life, enculturation involves individuals taking on the beliefs, values, customs, and behaviors that define their culture.

It is a lifelong journey of learning about one’s culture as it evolves over time.

According to Kottak,

“…enculturation is the process where the culture that is currently established teaches an individual the accepted norms and values of the culture or society in which the individual lives” (Lane et al., 2009, p. 52).

Acquiring and embodying the culture of one’s society is a cornerstone of growth, propelling people to become active participants in their own development.

Through enculturation, people can grasp how their environment defines them and how best to exist within it.

Summers (2022) defines enculturation as

“…the gradual process in which the individual learns and acquires the accepted norms and values of a culture” (p. 93).

In simple terms, enculturation is the process by which an individual learns and adopts the accepted norms and values of their culture. 

Definition of Acculturation

The process of acculturation is an influential exchange between two distinct cultures, which occurs when individuals from different backgrounds come together over an extended period.

Acculturation enables members of one culture to embrace and assimilate elements from a different culture, resulting in subtle transformations for both societies.

According to Parray (2020),

“…acculturation is a process through which a person or group from one culture comes to adopt the practices and values of another culture” (p. 49)

Battle (2011) believes that

“…acculturation is the process by which newcomers assume the cultural attributes of the receiving country, including its language, cultural norms, behaviors, and values” (p. 8).

Acculturation can occur through various means, such as intermarriage, migration, and globalization. It can also involve acquiring new skills, beliefs, values, and behaviors. 

The process of acculturation can have both positive and negative effects, as it can lead to greater understanding and cooperation between cultures but also to conflicts and tensions.

10 Examples of Enculturation

See in Detail: Enculturation Examples

  • As a Muslim boy grows and matures, he learns to understand the significance of the Islamic faith and its values more deeply.
  • Raised in the Missionary faith, a young girl is instilled with traditional Christian values and beliefs.
  • A child in the United States learning about American customs, such as celebrating the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving.
  • In India, children are taught to use Hindi as their primary language, providing them with a unique opportunity for linguistic growth.
  • An immigrant in Spain learning Spanish culture, including traditional dance and music.
  • In China, a child’s education focuses on Confucian values, stressing the importance of knowledge and wisdom.
  • A boy from Nigeria learning about the traditional customs and values of his tribe.
  • An Italian youngster discovering the nuances of their cultural legacy – from gastronomy to art and architecture.
  • An American kid attending public school and learning about the country’s laws and values.
  • A foreign exchange student in France is learning the French language and culture. 

10 Examples of Acculturation

See in Detail: Acculturation Examples

  • A woman from Mexico moves to the United States and learns English to communicate with her new neighbors.
  • An immigrant from India adapts to the American way of life, such as food, clothing, entertainment, and American taboos.
  • Adjusting to life in their new Canadian home, a family from China seeks to understand and embrace the local culture and customs.
  • A student from India in a French university learns about French culture by attending lectures, taking French classes, and visiting museums.
  • A Japanese family embraced the unfamiliar culture by incorporating customary rituals such as exchanging presents and greeting into their lives.
  • A group of African immigrants learns about their new European home’s cultural norms and values.
  • A man from France adopts the practice of “happy hour” after living in the United States for several years.
  • A South American individual transplanted to Europe needs to acclimate and become familiar with the local customs of their new home in order to settle into life there.
  • A boy from the USA learns to speak Spanish and enjoys eating tacos after living with a host family in Mexico for a year.
  • A girl from Japan starts listening to hip-hop music after being exposed to it while studying abroad in the United States.

Pros and Cons of Enculturation

Enculturation Strengths

Enculturation helps individuals create their identities, preserve and transmit cultural traditions, and provide a sense of continuity.

Cultivating an understanding of one’s culture aids individuals in forming a distinct identity and feeling accepted by their community. It also serves as a guide for developing their ideals, views, and moral beliefs (Yoon et al., 2020).

Besides, enculturation helps to preserve and transmit cultural traditions, values, and beliefs from one generation to the next. If these cultural elements aren’t passed down, they may be lost in the sands of time.

Finally, enculturation helps to provide a sense of continuity and stability in the face of changing social, economic, and political circumstances (Yoon et al., 2020).

If an individual’s culture is well-preserved, it can serve as a source of strength and resilience in times of difficulty. 

Enculturation Weaknesses

By enculturating, one may inadvertently exclude themselves from other cultures. Additionally, it can prevent an individual from being exposed to different thought patterns and ideas, hindering their creativity.

Through the process of enculturation, people can become subject to reinforcing biases and stereotypes that lead to prejudice and discrimination. 

When individuals are only exposed to their own culture and values, it becomes difficult for them to empathize with members outside of their group.

Besides, enculturation can promote cultural imperialism, where dominant cultures impose their values and beliefs on other cultures, resulting in the loss of cultural diversity.

Finally, enculturation can lead to an uncritical acceptance of traditional values and beliefs which may no longer be relevant and suitable in a changing world. 

Pros and Cons of Acculturation

Acculturation Strengths

Acculturation can lead to the development of hybrid cultures, where individuals blend elements from different cultures.

It can be an incredible way of building bridges between different cultures and encouraging cooperation and collaboration among diverse social groups.

Exposure to different cultures can grant a person an enhanced understanding of human interactions, along with an expansive global outlook (Yoon et al., 2020).

Drawing on these new perspectives has the potential to spark creativity and innovation by offering alternate ideas for problem-solving.

Furthermore, acculturation can benefit individuals in terms of career opportunities, education, and professional advancement (Yoon et al., 2020).

Finally, acculturation can help to reduce discrimination and prejudice by encouraging empathy and understanding of different cultures.

Acculturation Weaknesses

Acculturation can have damaging consequences that lead to cultural imperialism, wherein one culture forcefully imposes its principles and ideals on another (Bhatia & Ram, 2001).

By going through this process, minority cultures are stripped of their unique identity and transformed into something completely unrecognizable.

In addition, acculturation can cause cultural confusion and conflict. When individuals grapple with multiple cultures simultaneously, they may find it difficult to distinguish between them and consequently become unsure of their own identity or beliefs.

Furthermore, it can lead to a loss of language. As individuals become more adept in multiple languages, they may find that their mother tongue is slipping away.

Besides, acculturation can create inequality between groups of people. For example, people from minority cultures may not receive the same benefits and opportunities as those from dominant cultures. 

Also Worth Reading: Acculturation vs Assimilation

Conclusion

Acclimating to different cultures and immersing oneself in one’s own culture are both essential components of forming an individual’s identity and how they interact within society. 

Enculturation is the act of learning about and embracing a culture’s values, norms, beliefs, and behaviors; meanwhile, acculturation involves adapting to new cultural surroundings.

Both processes involve acquiring new knowledge and skills, allowing individuals to function effectively within their respective cultural environments. 

Enculturation and acculturation can lead to greater understanding and cooperation between cultures but can also cause conflicts and tensions. 

Overall, it is important to understand and appreciate both enculturation and acculturation to promote cultural diversity and inclusivity.

References

Battle, D. E. (2011). Communication disorders in multicultural and international populations. New York: Elsevier/Mosby.

Bhatia, S., & Ram, A. (2001). Rethinking “acculturation” in relation to diasporic cultures and postcolonial identities. Human Development, 44(1), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1159/000057036

Kirshner, D. H., & Meng, L. (2012). Enculturation and acculturation. Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning, 1148–1151. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_773

Lane, D., Pumain, D., Der, V., & West, G. (2009). Complexity perspectives in innovation and social change. Netherlands: Dordrecht Springe.

Parray, T. A. (2020). An introduction to educational sociology. Los Angeles: OrangeBooks Publication.

Summers, L. M. (2022). Multicultural counseling. Springer Publishing Company.

Yoon, E., Cabirou, L., Galvin, S., Hill, L., Daskalova, P., Bhang, C., Ahmad Mustaffa, E., Dao, A., Thomas, K., & Baltazar, B. (2020). A meta-analysis of acculturation and enculturation: Bilinear, multidimensional, and context-dependent processes. The Counseling Psychologist, 48(3), 342–376. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000019898583

Viktoriya Sus

Viktoriya Sus (MA)

Viktoriya Sus is an academic writer specializing mainly in economics and business from Ukraine. She holds a Master’s degree in International Business from Lviv National University and has more than 6 years of experience writing for different clients. Viktoriya is passionate about researching the latest trends in economics and business. However, she also loves to explore different topics such as psychology, philosophy, and more.

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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

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