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Kottak: Cultural Anthropology 9e
Cultural Anthropology, 9/e
Conrad P. Kottak, University of Michigan

What is Anthropology?


What is anthropology?
Anthropology is the scientific and humanistic study of human diversity through space and time. It concerns itself with all aspects of the human condition: past, present, and future; biology, society, language, and culture, and in that respect it is holistic, comparative, and cross-cultural.

What is culture?
Cultures are traditions and customs, transmitted through learning, that govern the beliefs and behaviors of the people exposed to them. All people have culture, there is no such thing as a person having more "culture" than another, because culture is the sum of human beliefs.

How is anthropology different from the other social sciences?
What distinguishes anthropology from the other social sciences is that it is holistic and comparative. It is holistic because anthropologists are interested in the whole of the human condition: past, present, and future; biology, society, language, and culture. In contrast to other social sciences, for example, it studies how economics, religion, history, psychology, political science, and sociology all interact and are expressed in culture. It is comparative because it studies all human cultures, past and present, not just Western cultures or those with written histories.

What do intelligence tests measure?
Intelligence tests are best at measuring the test-taker's similarity to the test-writer's culture and education. All intelligence tests are culturally biased, and reflect the experiences of the writer. Despite claims to the contrary, there is no conclusive proof that there are biologically based differences in intelligence between genders or races.

What do applied anthropologists do?
Applied anthropologists take anthropological data, perspectives, theory, and techniques and use this information to identify, assess, and solve contemporary social problems. This might include forensic anthropology, which is the application of biological anthropology to the law; development anthropology, which helps assess the social and cultural dimensions of economic and social development; medical anthropology, which applies anthropological knowledge to health systems; or environmental archaeology, which studies culture and the environment. Applied anthropologists often go to work for international development agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) or the World Health Organization (WHO), but increasingly applied anthropologists are being hired by many different organizations.