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The Role of Cultural Norm in Formulating a Person’s Identity

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Culture, one of the most ambiguous words in the dictionary, is seen in day-to-day life no matter where you are or what you’re doing. It can be considered to be the “outline” of life. Culture consists of different values, beliefs, and practices that many see influencing behaviors. It is a common belief that culture is only something you are born into, however in reality everyone is truly involved in some type of cultural norm whether through the way people dress, the types of foods they eat, the way they alter behavior depending on social settings, etc. With that being said, culture has a significant impact on formulating a person’s identity because it is automatically instilled on children at a young age, cultural stereotypes are very prevalent within society, and some take it into their own hands to branch off into other cultural aspects such as with behavior.

To begin with, through basic sociological concepts it is understood that from a young age, people are unconsciously conditioned to behave certain ways and learn specific ideals. Therefore, culture begins to formulate judgments in individuals from their childhood years and is then associated with their self-identities as they grow older. Alli Joseph provided a personal experience where her children were taken to see Moana, “overall an uplifting, beautiful film. But the films achievements are not enough for some to cite progress toward more accurate, less stereotypical portrayal of other cultures in films”. Children are easily entertained and influenced due to their vulnerability and the amount of space in themselves to learn and grow. This then allows them to take it among themselves to replicate actions and views of others around them such as that of Moana and the portrayal of her idealized lifestyle. With technology having such an influence on modern times especially, pop and media culture have many positive and negative influences on younger generations due to the constant exposure to “perfect” lives. In a more formal setting, Wigden was born into a very religious culture where coming out gay was not easy and blamed as “…stage interventions…”. Within this instance, Wigden was born into a specific culture but then began to detach from it and form judgments on how he identified all religious cultures. During his detachment period however, Wigden was still apart of some culture if it was through his possible education route or how he identifies himself initially. He was able to find his own ways into being involved in an accepting culture because without cultures existing, life would be practically impossible.

In connection to the previous point, culture comes in the form of stereotypes which is considerably inevitable to avoid the use of such an idea. The self-fulfilling prophecy can help explain how these stereotypes will influence personal identity. This prophecy states that whatever labels/stereotypes are placed on individuals, creates a need for the individual, either consciously or unconsciously, to fulfill that role they were placed on. For instance, Berkowitz highlights how, “These negative associations can trigger negative effects, which in turn prompts impulsive aggressive reactions” (Burgess et al. 570). To clarify, within the video game content analysis on racial prejudice, it was recorded that black figures associated with violence felt obligated to demonstrate those actions in real-life. It only feels like an obligation because those who are not associated with the stereotype would feel confused if behavior was not properly replicated. Nowadays, people have become more aware of the unwariness in stereotype usage however it still influences identity even if it is simply through telling a boy that he should play with cars and telling a girl that she should play with dolls. From the same study, Appel and Richter identified how “…those exposed to false information are persuaded by it”. As noticed, popular culture serves as a leading way to influence identity even if some concepts/ideas are too good to be true. Through a lack and fear of judgment, uniformity is very prevalent in today’s society which is why those who step out of this bubble of conformity, are seen as odd. Stereotypes are like a domino-effect because once one person starts applying it to individuals every day, others will follow along.

Although culture does have a significant impact on personal identity, individuals are not bound by preconceived ideas. Culture is very broad, but in terms of stereotypical influences, you are not a slave to bias. In an article covering transgender issues faced in society, Morrison introduces how “transgender people…have increasingly entered public consciousness”. The transgender community has completely defied all stereotypes and “pre-set” cultures. They serve as a clear example of being your own person in your most comfortable form because instead of following main-stream media, they constructed their own community. This also demonstrates how cultures can formulate out of anything. Caitlyn Jenner, one of the most well-known pop culture celebrities today, is a striking example of not allowing common culture to predestine the way you are portrayed as a person. Ultimately, although this seems like it may be opposing the idea of culture having a significant impact on identity, it is further proving that everyone has a different cultural application to their lives whether through conformity or nonconformity. The individualness formed by and within a person is all seen by their different cultural applications.

All things being considered in this essay, culture takes many forms and can be considered to be unavoidable due to it being the foundation of everyone’s lifestyle. Whether you were born into a religious culture or learned to adapt to societal cultures, personal identity being impacted by this everyday topic is practically inevitable. Culture is truly considered to be the identity of the nation. 

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The Role Of Cultural Norm In Formulating A Person’s Identity. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from
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