Certain changes occur in the society and culture of a social group of community when it comes in first hand contact with other groups. Studies of acculturation have been of immense value in understanding the changes which take place when that group is open to outside influence. Such studies show the role of coercion and the characteristics of key personnel in social change. There have been comprehensive account of social and psychological stress which arise when a group is confronted with specific innovation.
Acculturation also goes along with contra-acculturation. When the acculturated people realise that the acquired cultural elements impinge on their social image, they try to eschew slowly and steadily such elements from their culture. This often occurs when a social group of community is on the path of revitalisation movement in order to refurbish its social image. In the acculturation process the recipients of alien culture traits invariably keep in mind the critical sociological values of the traits that are borrowed.
Simultaneously they also bear in mind the relative higher social position of status of the social group of the community whose cultural elements they borrow and try to emulate. This is done with an ulterior motive that in course of time they might achieve vertical social mobility through this process.
When we are interested in cultural dynamics rather than historical reconstruction per se it is said to be a study of acculturation. The committee of Social Science Research Council says that “Acculturation comprehends those phenomena which results where when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original cultural patterns of either or both groups.
The definition makes no attempt do specify the nature of the phenomena which are to be treated as the part of acculturation. The determinants under the definition, it was pointed out, are the particular situation under which the phenomena are present and suggested than clearly indicated limitation of the field of these phenomena which seem to be the results of a particular situation.
The other criticism was directed against the use of the phrase, “groups of individuals”. It can be assumed that “where contact between cultures is mentioned a certain human contact should be taken for granted as the only means by which culture can spread from people to people or from generation to generation. Yet while it is desirable to emphasise that culture is no mystical entity that can travel without its human carriers. It is also true that it is not a simple matter always to be known when groups of individuals are in contact” An instance cited to make this point can be taken from the Island of Tikopia.
Here certain elements of European culture, especially in the fields of material culture and religion, have been effective an invasion of aboriginal patterns. This question is raised;” Is the visit of the Mission Boat once or twice a year, and the work of a single missionary (a native of another island and not himself an European) to be regarded as an acculturating force. Certainly this person is not a group of individuals, nor can it well be intent that recurring visits of those on the Mission Boat constitute continuous contact”.
It is evident that neither duration nor intensity of contact can provide adequate criteria for differentiating acculturation from other mechanisms of culture change. Our concern is primarily with the processes of cultural change, and only secondarily with clarifying the situations in which change occurs from the point of view, it makes but slight difference whether a given case of cultural transmission is to be termed acculturation or diffusion.
Only as for as the circumstances in the particular instance affect the kind of reception accorded a given innovation to the circumstances come to be of consequence to us. We shall distinguish these definitions in terms of methodological considerations. Over the years, diffusion has come to mean the analyses of similarities and differences between existing non literate and non – historic cultures.
The contact that presumably took place between people are to be reconstructed, and the reshaping of borrowed elements inferred from the variations in their forms are manifest in me culture after another. Acculturation, on the other hand, has been applied chiefly to instances where transmission of cultural elements could be more fully documented either by study on the spot or by the use of documentary data or both.
In summary then diffusion is the achieved cultural transmission; while acculturation is the study of cultural transmission in process.