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Chapter 3: Biology and Culture

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Reading Assignment: Chapter 3: Biology and Culture

After completing this assignment you will understand the interplay of biology and culture. You will be able to explain the role of natural selection in human evolution and a discussion of the rise of Homo sapiens, you will be able to define racism, and explain its functions in society and why it lacks scientific validity. You will be able to explain how ideas about differences between men and women influence the ways in which social roles are assigned. You will understand the concept of supernumerary genders. You will be able to explain the causes of gender stratification.

Finally, you will be able to discuss sexual orientation, homophobia, and heterosexism.

Assignment Overview

MCQ   ::  Matching   ::  True/False  ::   Short Essay

MCQ - Chapter 3: Biology and Culture

1. Which of the following best characterizes the relationship between biology and culture?

a. Biology makes culture possible and determines its specific contents.
b. Biology makes culture possible but does not determine its specific contents.
c. Since culture is based on learning it is not made possible by biology.
d. The distinction between culture and biology is a false dichotomy, since culture is merely our species’ biological predisposition.

2. How is biological evolution defined?

a. A change in a living organism that can be biologically inherited by its offspring.
b. Changes in groups of organisms that they develop so they can survive more easily in their environment.
c. Cumulative change in the inherited characteristics of a species over successive generations.
d. Any change in a species.

3. Anatomically modern Homo sapiens first occur in ______________.

a. coastal regions along the Red Sea coast of Africa.
b. central Africa.
c. Europe.
d. Asia.

4. Anatomically modern Homo sapiens first appear about _______________.

a. 10,000 years ago.
b. 50,000 years ago.
c. 110,000 years ago.
d. 200,000 years ago.

5. Intelligence is best understood as

a. a biologically inherited capacity.
b. a stable characteristic throughout one's life
c. a measure of culturally desirable knowledge or skill
d. uninfluenced by culture

6. How does sex relate to gender?

a. Gender is a synonym for sex.
b. Sex refers to biological distinctions, gender refers to social statuses and roles.
c. The term “sex” encompasses both biological characteristics and gender characteristics.
d. Gender is the generic term for the combination of our sexual learned differences and our socially learned characteristics.

7. Sanday found that women’s rank was highest in:

a. foraging societies
b. pastoral societies
c. where men and women contributed more or less equally to the economy
d. where women were employed for salaries

8. Which of the following is true of masculinity and femininity?

a. All cultures characterize masculine and feminine roles in the same way.
b. Femininity is defined the same way in all cultures, but masculine roles are more variable.
c. Men are recognized to be naturally aggressive in all cultures, but feminine roles are quite variable.
d. there is diversity in how both masculine and feminine roles are defined in different cultures.

9. The Two Spirits (berdache) status _______________.

a. involved gender mixing.
b. was found primarily in West Africa.
c. was a stigmatized status.
d. was not practiced by females.

10. The percentage of persons whose life-long sexual orientation is towards other members of their own sex is approximately _______________.

a. about 30 percent.
b. about 15 percent.
c. about 10 percent.
d. about 4 percent.

Matching Exercise - Chapter 3: Biology and Culture

1. biological evolution
2. natural selection
3. anatomically modern Homo sapiens
4. bipedalism
5. races
6. racism
7. racist beliefs
8. IQ (intelligence quotient)
9. "culture-free" intelligence tests
10. sex

11. gender
12. gender stereotypes
13. sexism
14. gender stratification
15. patriarchy
16. purdah
17. female genital mutilation (FGM)
18. matrifocality
19. sexual orientation
20. homophobia
21. heterosexism



a form of social system in which high female status is maintained by the absence of men and female control of food production



an ordering of men and women that involves different access to social power and prestige



preconceived ideas about how women and men differ in their personality traits, behavioral skills, and predispositions



tests that are not biased in favor of the values and life experiences (the “culture”) of any one segment of a society



biological subdivisions of our species that share a cluster of genetic traits that distinguish them from other such human groups



the often unspoken assumption within a society’s customs and institutions that all members of society are heterosexual



fossil members of the human species that date from at least 80,000 years ago and that are fully modern in their skeletal characteristics



cumulative change in the inherited characteristics of a species over successive generations



a social identity that consists of the roles persons are expected to play because of their sex



a more radical form of female circumcision that typically involves at least partial or full removal of the clitoris and that is associated with patriarchal subordination of women



the ability to walk upright on two legs



affective and erotic attraction to other persons based on their sex characteristics, traits perceived as “male” or “female” traits



a form of society in which access to social power and prestige is unequally distributed by gender to men



a pattern of irrational fear, revulsion and distrust of homosexuals that was sometimes translated into hostility and even rage towards them




culturally mandated, institutionally-supported discrimination against members of minority races that is based on and supported by cultural beliefs about innate differences between the races



the seclusion of women from public view



beliefs that mistakenly attribute the causes of role differences to inborn racial predispositions rather than to social learning



change in the frequency of biological traits in a species that results from the fact that, in a given environment, the characteristics of different individual members of a species give some individuals a better chance of surviving and therefore passing on those helpful traits to the next generation



refers to biological distinctions such as the chromosomal, hormonal, or physical differences between males and females



rigid enforcement of gender stereotypes that prevents individuals from playing roles that are not those assigned to their own sex



a standardized score on an intelligence test

True/False - Chapter 3: Biology and Culture






1. Human behavior is not controlled by instincts.



2. Biological evolution is change that occurs in individuals.



3. Differences in racial biology account for differences in culture.



4. Racist beliefs function to support the political and economic goals of those who espouse them.



5. Gender is a synonym for sex.



6. There is evidence that women are instinctively better suited for rearing children than men.



7. Gender roles must be different because there are natural biological differences between the sexes.



8. Gender stereotypes are better understood as value statements or guidelines that encourage role conformity than as valid descriptions of how people behave.



9. So far, research has not been conclusive about the determinants of sexual orientation, but both biology and culture may be involved.



10. Homophobia is most likely to occur in societies where the gender roles of men and women are particularly distinct and the roles of women are ranked below those of men.

Short Essay Questions - Chapter 3: Biology and Culture

1. What does it mean to say that biology makes culture possible but does not determine its content?

2. How does natural selection influence the characteristics of species?

3. When and under what circumstances did anatomically modern Homo sapiens arise?

4. What distinctively human traits may have played a role in making culture possible?

5. How do experiences such as those of Greg Williams demonstrate the arbitrariness of social concepts of race?

6. In what sense can racism be more harmful than individual racial prejudice?

7. What is meant by the term "culture-free" intelligence tests? Why can culture still influence IQ scores, even on a "culture-free" test?

8. Explain the difference between sex and gender.

9. Why is it appropriate to define statuses such as the Two Spirits (berdache) as a gender?

10. What are the characteristics of homophobia and how may it be grounded in early gender socialization?

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, January 04). Chapter 3: Biology and Culture. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License