Diffusion and Acculturation


To understand the concept of Cultural Diffusion and Acculturation, one should know the concept of Culture. Cultural Diffusion is the process by which cultural traits discovered or invented at one place or society is spread directly or indirectly to other places or societies. Diffusion is a process that adopts through the copying of other’s cultural traits. The following factors are influential in the process of diffusion-

  1. Relation and Transportation
  2. Need for the desire for new traits
  3. Competition with old traits and their opposition
  4. Respect and recognition of those who bring new traits
Cultural Diffusion (photo- Sutori)

Conditions related to Cultural Diffusion

  1. Any cultural group will adopt a cultural trait of another cultural group, only when it should be meaningful and useful either economically or socially or both.
  2. In course of diffusion, the cultural trait may not remain in original form, but changes in it can take place due to different environmental situation.
  3. Process of diffusion of cultural traits always follows from high culture to low culture or developed culture to underdeveloped culture.
  4. The process of diffusion may create culture change in groups adopting a culture of other groups. Sometimes, borrowed cultural traits get assimilated easily, but sometimes, they are responsible for any changes.
  5. There are some obstacles in cultural diffusions, such as lack of transport and communication facilities, geographical barriers such as the ocean, river, mountains, desert etc.


Theory of Acculturation was given by Redfield, Linton and Herskovits in their joint paper “Memorandum on the study of acculturation”. This paper is published in the 38th act (1936) of the Journal of American Anthropologists. According to them, Acculturation is one of the processes in which two different culture come in contact and bring changes among both the culture.

There is a difference between the process of Diffusion and Acculturation. Diffusion is a one-way process while Acculturation is a two-way process.

Diffusion        ——————–>            Acculturation (one-way process)

Acculturation  ——————–>            Diffusion      (one-way process)

Diffusion      ——————–>             Acculturation     (two-way process)

When one cultural group come in contact with another group then because of hatred, bitterness and struggle these cultural groups try to destroy each other’s culture then this process is known as Contaacculturation.  

According to Herskovits- when a child born in a particular society then he learns his own society’s culture slowly and steadily. This process is known as Enculturation.

Neoculturation is a process where a person attains cultural traits which are not found in his own culture i.e. they adopt such cultural traits under the influence of other‘s culture.

When two culture comes in contact with each other by the process of acculturation and both culture adopt each other’s cultural traits then this is known as Transculturation. 

When a culture leaves its own cultural traits because of other cultures then it is known as Deculturation.

When any cultural traits consolidated with other cultures through acculturation in such a way that they become part of that culture and loses their own cultural part then it is known as Assimilation.

Acculturation and Assimilation (photo- Twitter)

Conditions for Acculturation

  1. Direct contact between two or more culture is important.
  2. There should be a similarity between the cultural pattern of both cultures.
  3. There should also be a similarity between the aims of both cultures.
  4. There should be interest in both cultures in attaining each other’s cultural traits.

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