Essay on the concepts of Cultural Trait, Cultural Complex and Cultural Pattern



All societies have a culture, i.e. a patterned whole consisting of the material and non material substances. All cultures have the same basic organization although the cultures developed by societies vary from another. The parts or components of culture are the following.

1. Cultural Traits

Cultural traits are the single elements or smallest units of a culture. They are “units of observation” which when put together constitute culture. According to Hoebel cultural trait is “a repeatedly irreducible unit of learned behaviour pattern or material product there of”. Any culture can be seen as to include thousands of such units.

Thus shaking hands, touching the feet, tipping hats, the kiss on the cheeks as gesture of affection, giving seats to ladies first, saluting the flag, wearing white ‘sarees’ at mourning, taking vegetarian diets, walking barefooted, drinking water on the idols, carrying ‘kirpans’, growing beard and hair, eating in brass utensils etc. are cultural traits.

Thus traits are the elemental units of a culture. It is these traits which distinguish one culture from another. A trait found in one culture may have no significance in other culture. Thus offering water to sun may have significance in Hindu culture but none in the western culture.

2. Cultural Complex

According to Hoebel, “Cultural complexes are nothing but larger clusters of traits organized about some nuclear point of reference”. Cultural traits, as we know, do not usually appear singly or independently. They are customarily associated with other restated traits to from cultural complex.

The importance of a single trait is indicated when it first go in to a cluster of traits, each one of which performs a significant role in the total complex.

Thus, kneeling before the idol, sprinkling sacred water over it, putting some food in its mouth, folding hands, taking ‘prashad’ from the priest and singing ‘arati’ form a religious complex.

3. Cultural Pattern

A cultural pattern is formed when traits and complexes become related to each other in functional roles. Each cultural complex has a role to play in society. It has got definite place within it. The cultural pattern of a society consists of a number of cultural complex.

Thus the Indian cultural pattern consists of Gandhism spiritualism, joint family caste, system and ruralism. So there is a cultural complex consisting of a numerous cultural traits. According to Clark Wissler there are nine basic cultural traits which give rise to cultural pattern.

These are;

1. Speech and Language

2. Material trails.

(a) Food habits

(b) Shelter

(c) Transportation

(d) Dress

(e) Utensils, tools etc.

(f) Weapons

(g) Occupations and industries.

3. Art

4. Mythology and scientific knowledge.

5. Religious practices.

6. Family and social systems.

7. Property.

8. Government.

9. War.