brianowens.tv / Anthropological Theories A guide prepared by students for students / Cross-Cultural Analysis
The basic premise of Cross-Cultural Analysis is that statistical cross-cultural comparisons can be used to discover traits shared between cultures and generate ideas about cultural universals. Cross-cultural analysts create hypotheses and consult data into order to draw statistical correlations about the relationships among certain cultural traits. The approach was developed by early cultural evolutionists (namely E. B. Tylor and Lewis Henry Morgan) and was later greatly advanced by George Peter Murdock, who compiled the work of many ethnographic studies into one database that came to be known as the Human Relation Area Files (HRAF). Today, the journal of Cross-Cultural Research is the premiere locale for published works using cross-cultural analysis.
You are watching: Cross cultural analysis refers to the study of
Early approaches to cross-cultural analysis focused on the concept of cultural evolution , the notion that all societies progress through an identical series of distinct evolutionary stages. Among the cultural evolutionists, Edward Burnett Tylor proposed three basic stages of culture among humans: (1) savagery, (2) barbarism, and (3) civilization. Although this seems crude and ethnocentric, it offered an advance over the biological/theological belief that more primitive societies were at lower stages of development because they had fallen from grace(According to Comte Joseph de Maistre hunter-gatherers degenerated to their state, making them technologically as well as intellectbrianowens.tvlly inferior to other cultures . On the other end, European society, especially Victorian England, was seen as the prime example of civilization.
While Tylor (Primitive Culture, 1871) foregrounded cultural evolution in England, the American Louis Henry Morgan (1818–1881) arrived at his own ideas of the levels of society. Discontented with Tylor’s overly simplified classifications of the stages of cultural development, Morgan divided both savagery and barbarism into lower, middle, and upper periods, and he defined each period by the adoption of significant technologies. The stages of cultural development posed by Morgan in Ancient Society are shown below (Morgan 1877:12).
lower savagery: began with earliest humanity- fruits and nuts subsistencemiddle savagery: began with discovery of fishing technology and the use of fireupper savagery: began with bow and arrowlower barbarism: began with pottery makingmiddle barbarism: began in Old World with the domestication of plants and animals / in the New World with the development of irrigation cultivationupper barbarism: began with smelting iron and the use of iron toolscivilization: began with the invention of a phonetic alphabet and writing
While Morgan’s stages of cultural development postulated cultural universals, his greatest contribution to comparative studies (the basis of cross-cultural analysis) was his work Systems of Consanguinity (1877), which documented the kinship systems of Native Americans and other national groups in the United States. In this, Morgan highlighted universals in kinship terminology, and he noted that all societies he studied could fit into one of six basic patterns of kinship terminology (his list of six was later condensed to four). While the theories of Tylor and Morgan are now outdated, they laid the foundation for the use of cross-cultural comparison as a method for generating ideas about human cultural universals.
Cross-cultural survey is a comparative statistical study in which the “tribe”, “society”, or “culture” is taken as the unit and samples from across the globe are studied to test hypotheses about the nature of society or culture (Naroll 1961, 221). The most famous example of this method is Murdock’s Social Structure (1949). The methodology of cross-cultural analysis, which involves the use of testable hypotheses to establish (or not) statistical correlations, was greatly facilitated by the work of George Peter Murdock. Murdock compiled data from over 300 cultures and and organized under 700 different cultural subject headings collected from ethnographies by Boas, Malinowski, their students, and many, many others into the Cross Cultural Survey, which later became known as the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF). The trait lists of cultural universals, in “The Common Denominator of Cultures” from The Science of Man in the World Crisis, (Murdock 1945:123) were based on the HRAF (Ferraro 1992:74).
The comparative method was used by early cultural evolutionists such as Morgan and Tylor in reaction against the degenerationists, who placed hunter-gatherers and other less technologically advanced cultures in a class based on a supposed degeneration from perfection, which had made them less technologically and intellectbrianowens.tvlly capable, inferior to the European societies of the 19th century. The development of the comparative method as used in Cross-Cultural Analysis was a reaction against the deductive reasoning of the Boasian tradition, which treated each culture as the unique product of its own historical and geographical conditions and rejected cultural theories as a whole. Franz Boas, founder of the four-field approach to brianowens.tv, the preeminent figure in early 20th century American brianowens.tv, and mentor to an entire generation of American anthropologists, argued that more data was needed before any sort of universal theories could be posited. Moreover, Boas discarded the prejudices implicated by theories of cultural evolution, which ranked cultures. Boas had reacted against the comparative method as presented by Tylor before the turn of the century, and essentially, the comparative method had lain dormant in brianowens.tv for 40 years.
ADVANTAGES David Levinson argues that holocultural studies (the more modern term for studies done with cross-cultural analysis) have six major advantages in the realm of theory testing concerning human culture and behavior (Levionson, 1980:9):
samples cover a much wider range of variation in cultural activities than do studies based on single societies.this variation allows the assumption that “irrelevant variables” do not affect the results ofsuch studies.range of variation allows researchers to measure the degree and complexity of cultural evolution as variables in causal analysis.certain variables e.g., langbrianowens.tvge, religion, social structure, and cultural complexity, can be explained only at the societal level.holocultural studies are objective because the person who collects the data (ethnographer) and the theory tester (comparativist) are not the same individbrianowens.tvl, which gbrianowens.tvrds against the researcher’s conscious or unconscious biases toward particular theories.even the most rigorous holocultural studies are cost effective.
DISADVANTAGES Levinson also points out four major disadvantages of holocultural studies, but he states that these are outweighed by the six advantages listed above. They disadvantages are as follows:
Studies often ignore the variability within a single culture and the variation across cultures because neglecting these makes for easier, more uniform coding.Data is archival and therefore lacks the sensitivity seen in case study work.Since some topics are described poorly in the ethnographic literature, not all areas of interest can be studied easily and some perhaps not at all. Since the majority of samples are compiled from small-scale societies, large-scale societies are either under-represented or not represented at all (1980:9-10).
Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917) may be considered the father of the modern statistical cross-cultural approach to the study of culture for his paper On a Method of Investigating the Development of Institutions, Applied to Laws of Marriage and Descent(1889). Tylor was born Oct. 2, 1832, into a well-to-do British Qbrianowens.tvker family, and died. Jan. 2, 1917. He is considered the founder of social brianowens.tv in Great Britain. He is most known for his research on culture, cultural evolution, and the origin and development of religion. Though Tylor never earned a university degree, he gained acclaim through his research and writing. In 1856, when he was 24, waning health led Tylor to America and later to Mexico. In 1861, he returned to Great Britain and published his first book, Anahbrianowens.tvc: Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern (Tylor’s unilineal view of progressive cultural evolution included the concept that earlier stages of development were exhibited by what he termed “survivals,” which were the remnants of a paired set of ancient cultural traits that lingered on in more advanced cultures. In 1883, Tylor became keeper of the University Museum at Oxford and he later served as a professor of brianowens.tv at Oxford from 1896 to 1909. His other major works include Primitive Culture (1871) and brianowens.tv (1881) (Kowalewski 1995).
William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) was born in Paterson, N.J., Oct. 30, 1840, and died Apr. 12, 1910 before completing his major work- the four volume Science of Society, and the index for the volumes of comparative data. Sumner was a sociologist, economist, and Episcopal minister. As a Yale University professor (1872-1909), Sumner taught Albert Galloway Keller who in turn taught George Peter Murdock. Sumner introduced the classic concepts of Folkways and mores in Folkways (1906). He was also the foremost publicist of the theory of Social Darwinism in the United States. Social Darwinists asserted that societies evolved by a natural process, like organisms, and that among humans, as happens in other species, the most well adapted (often seen as the rich) should be allowed to flourish and the least well adapted (often seen as the poor) should be allowed to die out. This concept was roundly supported by political conservatism which argued that the most successful social classes also supposedly consisted of people who were obviously biologically superior (Hofstadter 1941). The importance of this concept is that the basis for cross-cultural analysis was rooted in the concept of cultural evolution, and this was Sumner’s view of the process.
George P. Murdock (1897-1985) was born in Meriden, Conn., May 11, 1897, and died Mar. 29, 1985. Murdock, the most influential and important figure in 20th century cross-cultural analysis, was an American anthropologist known for his comparative studies of kinship systems and for his cross-cultural analyses of the regularities and differences among diverse peoples. During the time he was teaching at Yale (1928-1960), he developed the Cross Cultural Survey, in the 1930s-1940s, which is now known as the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF). The HRAF is an index of many of the world’s ethnographically known societies. The HRAF is now available at over 250 institutional libraries worldwide. Murdock’s publications include Social Structure (1949), Africa: Its People and Their Culture History (1959), and Culture and Society (1965) (Kowalewski 1995). Murdock descended from an anthropological ancestry opposed to the Boasian anthropological school of thought in America Murdock hailed from the line descending from Tylor, Morgan, Spencer, Sumner, and Keller. Murdock was taught by A. G. Keller, who had earned his Ph.D. under William Graham Sumner at Yale in 1925 (Levinson and Ember 1996:262). Sumner wished to create a comparative social science based on a “centrally located cross-cultural sample” (Tobin 1990:473). Murdock accomplished that, based on the original idea of Sumner’s central index. Sumner had begun the work of several volumes, most influential to the eventbrianowens.tvl work of Murdock in compiling the HRAF was the index completed posthumously by Sumner’s successor, A.G. Keller.
Alfred Louis Kroeber (1876-1960) was born in Hoboken, N.J., June 11, 1876, and died Oct. 5, 1960. Kroeber’s comparative work emphasized similarities and differences between entire cultural groups. However, unlike Murdock, Kroeber did not focus on comparing cultural traits across a broad array of societies, and he actbrianowens.tvlly opposed the style of Murdock. He is often considered the most influential American cultural anthropologist after Franz Boas, who was one of his professors. He held tenure (1901-46) at the University of California at Berkeley. He advanced the study of California Indians and developed important theories about the nature of culture. Kroeber believed that human culture could not be entirely explained by psychology, biology, or related sciences, but that it required a science of its own, and he was a major figure in the emergence of brianowens.tv as an academic discipline. Kroeber published prolifically until the time of his death at the age of 85. His major works include brianowens.tv (1923; rev. ed. 1948); Handbook of the Indians of California (1925); Configurations of Culture Growth (1944); Culture; a Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions (1952), which he co-authored with Clyde Kluckhohn; and Style and Civilizations (1957) (Kowalewski 1995).
Harold E. Driver(1907-1992) was a Professor of brianowens.tv at Indiana University. His field research was concentrated in California and New Mexico. Comparative statistical methodology and culture area classifications were his areas of specialization. There is an excellent article by Driver in Readings in Cross-Cultural Methodology, entitled, “Introduction to Statistics for Comparative Research”, which looks at such methods as chi-sqbrianowens.tvre and phi for the correlation between culture features. This article is written for the fairly unsophisticated statistician and is useful for comparative studies with other applications than just cross-cultural analysis.
Clellan Ford(1909-1972)- was a professor of brianowens.tv at Yale and President of the HRAF. He took over the Human Relations program from Murdock. His field research areas were in the Northwest Coast of the United States, and the Fiji Islands. Comparative studies and human sexbrianowens.tvl behavior were his focus areas.
David Levinson (1947-present), has been a prolific producer of anthropological encyclopedias as well as cross-cultural work. He has edited guide books for the use and understanding of the HRAF as well as books and articles that explain the studies that have been done utilizing the HRAF.
Other leading figures include many students of Murdock’s at Yale such as John and Beatrice Whiting, who conducted The Six Cultures Project with Irvin L. Child and William Lambert, and Melvin Ember, who is co-editor with Levinson and a major contributor to the Encyclopedia of Cultural brianowens.tv (1996).