Acculturation – Definition

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Acculturation Definition

Acculturation involves the process of change in customs, belief base, and artifacts from contact by two or more cultures. This term also can be used to refer to the results of these changes.

A Little More on Acculturation

Acculturation is the term given to the process which involves the reception and integration of various cultural elements by one human group within another. What this involves is a group of people acquiring a traditional philosophy which is different from their own or incorporating different aspects of this discovered culture typically to the determent of their very own culture. The most common external cause of acculturation occurring is that of colonization.

The best and most historical example of this is the moment that Christopher Columbus discovered America. Because of this action, the indigenous people of the discovered areas started the process of acculturation. One of the most recognized adaptations they went through was learning to integrate the religious beliefs of Spain into their already established culture.

One nation that was in the same position the Americans mentioned above found themselves in was that of the arrival of the Roman Empire into the Iberian Peninsula. The citizens of this land were given no choice other than to acquire the traditions, beliefs and the fundamental functions of the society and turn them into their own.

There are many other similar and varied cases throughout history that have occurred. The most prominent of them is that of the African Aborigines during the 19th century. They were subjected to acculturation in customs, languages and religious beliefs. This was all due to the colonizing movements throughout their land.

When the intercultural process has already been started, the acculturation processes will encounter a different degree of domination, resistance, survival, modification, destruction and then adaptation from the native residents. The process considers the identification of cultural values, the valuation and the internalization.

The process of acculturation may be carried out through the influence of a consistent systematic ideological current, and well maintained over time. However, some more simplified cases have shown that the influence of the majority over this other cultural philosophy offers a large imposition.

The topic of transculturation which is the acculturation of one individual versus an entire group, has been debated throughout multicultural communities for some time. This is when descendants of immigrants are encouraged to adapt to all parts of the more dominant culture.

There are many other notions which are related to that of acculturation. These include syncretism (a philosophical system that is composed of various elements which arise from the union and conciliation of different doctrines), enculturation (a process in which traditional culture is taught to someone within the repetition of their own norms), accepted values, and intercultural communication. Intercultural communication is analyzed from different disciplines such as:

  • Psychology
  • Social communication sciences
  • Anthropology

Before we finalize the definition of this concept that occupies us all, it’s important to understand the precise time frame when the first mention and appearance of the word acculturation occurred. This was in 1880 within the above mentioned Anthropology. More specifically it was from the hands of very prominent figures in the area like that of McGee, Margaret Mead and Boas.

This phenomenon that we know as acculturation exists because many different human societies have come into contact with each other at different times throughout history, making acculturation virtually immemorial.

There was always a represented challenge when it came to human beings from one social norm or cultural interacting with another. Learning to communicate with someone outside your social class, standing or culture means that you must find a way to understand each other that is not similar to what you are used to. The difficulty has become even more increasing with the progressive development through a larger, global cultural system, like that of globalization, and the isolation of this process and maintenance system.

It is important to note that when we speak about acculturation we are strictly referring to the process in which someone acquires or adapts to the cultural features of another society or community. A great example of this may be in Japan. Japan is one of the most distant countries in the Eastern Hemisphere. It offers a millenary and rich culture that continues to assimilate wonderfully with many notable features that adhere great to a western lifestyle.

When a society of people adapt to and assume a foreign culture within their own, they have started the process of acculturation. This entire process may be conscious or even unconscious, done by force or through peace. Some historical examples of this include:

  • Upon arrival into the Americas, the Spanish conquerors imposed their religion, traditions, language and overall understanding of human life into the already established society.
  • The Romans offered and imposed a cultural model to the subjugated people that was different to their own.
  • The Nazi Ideology was entirely based on their supremacy and superiority of their aryan race and culture over others.

Some of the lesser known minority cultures face danger of extinction because of the result of the hegemony from the majority cultures. Certain communities and societies within Latin American have begun to experience a gradual lose of their identity as a people. An example of this is the Grarifonas in Central America. They have begun to try to form a society and community of people to try and maintain their roots, but the dominant institutions from outside cultures threaten this. Another clear example is when Australia was occupied by the British, the people were victim to a slow but surely cultural extermination.

Globalization and Acculturation

Globalization in itself presents with two different faces. In the most satisfactory face, it offers a large series of advantages such as: great access to more types of goods and services, elimination of the economic borders which burden some and hinder trade, and the reduction of many production costs. But not all of what globalization offers is beneficial. In terms of the disadvantage face side it creates the danger of losing some minority languages, and isolating other human societies and groups into losing their traditions, beliefs and way of life if they cannot adapt to the global market.

The most notable example within the binomial globalization and acculturation relation is through language. The English language is becoming the most recognized and used language within the human species. While this is positive and a huge advantage to the economic side of things it is unfortunately very harmful and dangerous to culture.

Cultural domination and the corresponding acculturation of a community usually present three phases:

1) The development of science and technology,

2) The change of the economic model and,

3) The gradual incorporation of the new culture.

References for Acculturation

Academic Research on Acculturation

  • Immigration, acculturation, and adaptation, Berry, J. W. (1997). Applied psychology, 46(1), 5-34. This article discusses the relationship between cultural context and individual behavior development. Specifically, it looks at individuals who develop in one cultural context before moving to another. It examines the psychological consequences of this process. It provides a framework for examining acculturation and adaptation of individuals.
  • Ethnic and racial identity: Ethnic identity., Phinney, J. S. (2000). Ethnic and racial identity: Ethnic identity. This article helps to discuss the components of both ethnic and racial identity. This includes various approaches like that of anthropological,sociological, social psychological as well as acculturation, cross-cultural and developmental approaches to ethnic identity.
  • Acculturation., Ward, C. (1996). Acculturation. This article discusses the process of acculturation which starts with introducing the framework for the study of acculturation. This includes the definition, measurement and the overall outcome. A working model of acculturation is then provided. Changes over time are then reviewed to take into account how it affects acculturation and the successful adaptation during these cross-cultural transitions. More emphasis is placed on the acculturative tragedies as well as the psychological and social consequences. The relevance of all these issues is then discussed for intercultural trainers.
  • Acculturation: Living successfully in two cultures, Berry, J. W. (2005). International journal of intercultural relations, 29(6), 697-712. This publication discusses how to live successfully within two separate cultures. The theme focuses around the conflict and negotiation involved in achieving this. Within the paper, one example of these issues is examined by looking at the psychological aspects which take place during acculturation. During this process, various groups of people as well as many individual members engage in negotiation to achieve an outcome that is feasible for both parties. Additional research on acculturation is explored to look at the different types of strategies used, changes in their behaviors and overall stress levels. We then take a look to discover how they adapt both socio culturally and psychologically to acculturation. Looking at integration we have discovered that those who choose this route typically experience less stress. However, integration requires a large deal of negotiation, but also results with less conflict.
  • Acculturation strategies, psychological adjustment, and sociocultural competence during cross-cultural transitions, Ward, C., & Kennedy, A. (1994). International journal of intercultural relations, 18(3), 329-343. This article takes a look at the psychological adjustment and sociocultural competence that people in acculturation societies go through during the cross-cultural transition. This is accomplished by researching a group of New Zealanders who completed questionnaires which included studying their acculturation measurements, social difficulty they had fitting in and any depression. Their interaction effects were also reviewed and researched to determine how their sociocultural adaptation occurred.
  • Research on the acculturation model for second language acquisition, Schumann, J. H. (1986). Journal of multilingual & multicultural development, 7(5), 379-392. In this article we take a look at the acculturation model for the acquisition of a second language. A model of a second language based on the psychology of acculturation shows how certain variables both social and psychologically then cluster into one single variable. The model then predicts that those learning this second language acquire it to a degree in which they then acculturate within their target language group.
  • Assessment of acculturation., Berry, J. W., Trimble, J. E., & Olmedo, E. L. (1986). In this article it is discussed on how to understand and measure the concepts and techniques related to conducting research on acculturation. The techniques reviewed include researching the framework used to identify the variables and relationships such as individual contact, participation variables, psychological consequences and an overall attitude towards the process of acculturation.
  • Towards an interactive acculturation model: A social psychological approach, Bourhis, R. Y., Moise, L. C., Perreault, S., & Senecal, S. (1997). International journal of psychology, 32(6), 369-386. In this journal we discuss and take a look at an interactive social psychological approach to acculturation. It is a two part document that offers a continuum of ideological reviews to account for the larger much broader range of the immigrant integration policy which was adopted by the Western democratic states. In the second part, a review of social psychological models of immigrant acculturation helps to explain in more detail the interactive view of immigrant relations. The model helps to predict which acculturation combinations are more likely to produce any problems or conflicts, and how these conflicts are resolved between the immigrants and the host community.
  • Acculturation in mergers and acquisitions, Nahavandi, A., & Malekzadeh, A. R. (1988). Academy of management review, 13(1), 79-90. This model focuses primarily on the adaptation of acculturation in mergers within acculturation acquisitions. It proposes that there is a degree of congruence between the one who is acquiring and the organization being acquired. That the preferred mode of acculturation will affect the stress levels. It continues to offer the position that the latter will either work well or hinder the merger implementation.
  • Achieving acculturation in mergers and acquisitions: An international case survey, Larsson, R., & Lubatkin, M. (2001). Human relations, 54(12), 1573-1607. This document discusses how to achieve acculturation within mergers and acquisitions. In order to understand the cases of cultural disputes and clashes an ideographic meta analysis had to be contacted. This took a few samples from those affected, in fact 23 US domestic, 12 Swedish cross border and 15 swedish domestic were all looked at. It was found that acculturation was best achieved when the firms that were acquiring others relied on social controls. Types of social controls included cross visits, retreats, as well as other types of employee socialization functions. All of this combined helped to make the integration process easier.
  • Making mergers and acquisitions work: Strategic and psychological preparation, Marks, M. L., & Mirvis, P. H. (2001). Academy of Management Perspectives, 15(2), 80-92. Here it is discussed how to make mergers and acquisitions work strategically and psychologically. This article looks at the authors combined experience in over 70 different mergers and acquisitions to help provide a better understanding on the actions taken by management to help provide a successful merger. The strategic concerns and challenges bring forth the focus of the the source of synergy. This involved a good deal of reality testing of potential synergies. Learning the structures and cultures helped to establish a relationship between the different companies. The psychological challenges were also looked at my looking at the mindset of people to bring forth awareness of their capacities to respond to the stress of such acculturation.
  • Integrating strategic, organizational, and human resource perspectives on mergers and acquisitions: A case survey of synergy realization, Larsson, R., & Finkelstein, S. (1999). Organization science, 10(1), 1-26. The idea of acquisitions and mergers are really very complex events which occur in organizational life. In this article we discuss the need for better understanding of these vents. The authors address the problems by creating a more conceptual framework which integrates theoretical perspectives from that of finances and economics to help you better understand human resource management. The approaches discussed differ from more traditional methods of learning to understand mergers. The data is reviewed and researched to create a better more successful way to learn how the key attribute of acculturation within business is learning to overcome the challenges and conflicts that occur through the process of integration.

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