Acculturation is the process of adapting to, or adopting the practices of, a culture different from one's own.

Acculturation is the process of learning about and adapting to a new culture. A new culture may require adjustments in all or some aspects of daily living, including language, work, shopping, housing, children's schooling, health care, recreation, and social life. Some acculturation is minimal, such as moving from one city to another or from a suburban to a more urban area within the same region. Relocating, however, to a place where cultural norms are unfamiliar is destabilizing. For example, moving to a society where women's roles differ strongly from those of one's home culture can cause isolation and confusion for adult women.

Acculturation is different in subtle ways from assimilation: Assimilation involves being absorbed into the new culture. A popular metaphor for this process was introduced in 1908 by the playwright Israel Zangwill with his work The Melting Pot. Acculturation, by contrast, is the process of learning and engaging in the practices and customs of a new culture. People can assimilate without being acculturated. The distinctively dressed Hasidic Jews of Brooklyn are not completely acculturated to contemporary American society, but they are assimilated. Understanding the distinction between acculturation and assimilation is important for public policy and for people's ability to grow and function smoothly together in a community.

Cultural pluralism and multiculturalism

American sociologist Horace Kallen (1882–1974) argued that it is unrealistic and counterproductive to force new immigrants to abandon their familiar, lifelong cultural attributes when they arrive in the United States. Instead of the concept of the melting pot, Kallen prescribed what he called cultural pluralism. From a cultural pluralist viewpoint, U.S. society is a federation rather than a union. Sometimes referred to as multiculturalism, this approach suggests that each group of ethnic Americans has rights, such as representation in government according to their percentage of the total population, and the right to speak and work in their native language. English-language culture and social influences continue in the early 2000s to dominate, but African American, Hispanic, Jewish, Italian, Asian, and other ethnic influences are considered distinct parts of the culture of the United States.

See also Adaptation ; Affiliation ; Assimilation ; Cross-cultural psychology .



Deaux, Kay, and Mark Snyder. The Oxford Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Johnson, Tara M. Acculturation: Implications for Individuals, Families, and Societies. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science, 2011.

Keith, Kenneth D. Cross-Cultural Psychology: Contemporary Themes and Perspectives. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Pedersen, Paul. Multiculturalism as a Fourth Force. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor & Francis, 2013.