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Cultural Model Applied to Smaller Groups

Cultural Model Applied to Smaller Groups

Author: Sophia Tutorial

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that any group which remains consistent over time will develop rules, assumptions et al similar to culture

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What's Covered

In this lesson, we’ll discuss how smaller groups can adapt the components of culture.

The particular areas of focus include:

  1. Group norms
  2. Subculture
  3. Organizational culture


We are all influenced by the culture that we live in, but we're also influenced by the groups we belong to. Many times, these groups take on their own identities, and there are certain behaviors and ways of thinking about the world that result from those groups.

Whenever people come together in a group and stay together for a significant period of time, they develop group norms.

These norms are the kind of behavior that the group expects, or the ways of seeing or thinking about the world that become normal. In other words, group norms signify what is right, true, or proper in a particular group.

Most groups that join together for a significant period of time do so because they have a common goal or purpose.

Term to Know

    • Group Norms
    • The variety of behaviors and perceptions considered "right", "true" or "proper" by a group.


A group that shares a common goal or purpose then becomes a subculture, or a culture that's embedded within the larger culture.

  • There are a lot of different subcultures. In today's world, you don't even have to meet others to be part of a subculture; you can often join a subculture through social networking on the internet
  • Couponing has become a subculture in which people actually get together around the issue of saving money through coupons, and come up with innovative ways of doing that.
  • “Trekkies,” whose whole purpose is to honor Star Trek. They have a particular language, and they even hold conventions.
  • In the 1960s, there were the hippies, then grunge in the 1990s.
  • Gangsta is a movement that came out of rap; a bit of a rebellion against mainstream culture.  Individuals part of the gangsta movement by the baggy jeans, the hats on backwards, lots of bling jewelry, a certain walk

Subcultures can sometimes be recognized by their dress, but also by their particular attitudes towards the world.


The Amish in particular have been around for a long period of time; they are a sect of the Mennonite Church, which is a Christian sect. The Amish believe that their whole purpose in being together is to live simply on the land without modern technological advances. It’s very easy to recognize the Amish if you see them. They use horses and carriages, and they dress the way people dressed in the early part of the 19th century. They have lived as a subculture very successfully within this larger culture for years.

Today we also have the green movement. There is a range of norms or behavior that may be considered appropriate within the green movement, but the focus of everybody who would identify with this subculture has to do with preserving the environment.

For example, there are vegetarians and vegans. Vegans have stricter rules around what they will eat and what they won't eat when it comes to animals. Vegetarians, of course, will not eat meat, but they will still have milk and other kinds of products that might come from animals. There’s also the Sierra Club, which is a club focused on preserving the outdoors. This club promotes a lot of outdoor activities, such as hiking and rafting. Getting involved in the outdoors brings people together to join this organization.

Term to Know

    • Sub-Culture
    • A group with a different cultural orientation than the larger culture around it.


Organizations themselves develop their own cultures. Organizational culture refers to the rules and the norms governing the behavior in any given organization, or type of organization.

Example Some organizations are more formal. A law firm, for instance, is going to fall more into the formal kind of culture. You can see that just in the way the office is arranged when you walk in, and the way people dress. A tech start-up company, on the other hand, might be more casual in terms of the way the office is laid out, and how people are dressing.

Any particular company or organization has its own culture. Sometimes this might be called corporate culture, or it could be more hierarchical and structured.

There may be other times when management is quite involved with the people who work in the organization. Part of the culture might be to send cards for birthdays or special occasions; there might be a lot of customer service recognizing key customers involved in the community.

Those would all be considered part of the organizational culture of a particular company.

Term to Know

    • Organizational Culture
    • The rules and norms governing behavior in a given organization or type of organization.

Think About It

Consider where you work and the subcultures or social groups you belong to:

    • What are the group norms, expectations, or views?
    • How can the cultural model be applied to these groups?
    • Which aspects of the group influence your own behavior and worldview?


In this lesson, you learned that the cultural model can also be applied to smaller groups within a larger culture. These groups are called subcultures, and they have their own group norms, or accepted behaviors and ways of viewing the world.

You also learned that each organization has its own culture. This organizational culture could be more formal, or more casual, depending on the norms for that type of environment. You now understand that an awareness of the subcultures and organizations you belong to can help you understand what influences your own behavior and worldview.

Good luck!

Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.

Terms to Know
Group Norms

The variety of behaviors and perceptions considered "right", "true" or "proper" by a group.

Organizational Culture

The rules and norms governing behavior in a given organization or type of organization.


A group with a different cultural orientation than the larger culture around it.