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Acculturation is the process of cultural change and psychological change that results following meeting between cultures. The effects of acculturation can be seen at multiple levels in both interacting cultures. Acculturation is a direct change of one's culture through dominance over another's culture through either military or political conquest. At the group level, acculturation often results in changes to culture, customs, and social institutions. Noticeable group level effects of acculturation often include changes in food, clothing, and language. At the individual level, differences in the way individuals acculturate have been shown to be associated not just with changes in daily behavior, but with numerous measures of psychological and physical well-being. As enculturation is used to describe the process of first-culture learning, acculturation can be thought of as second-culture learning.
The concept of acculturation has been studied scientifically since 1918. As it has been approached at different times from the fields of psychology, anthropology, and sociology, numerous theories and definitions have emerged to describe elements of the acculturative process. Despite definitions and evidence that acculturation entails a two-way process of change, research and theory have primarily focused on the adjustments and adaptations made by minorities such as immigrants, refugees, and indigenous peoples in response to their contact with the dominant majority. Contemporary research has primarily focused on different strategies of acculturation and how variations in acculturation affect how well individuals adapt to their society.
The earliest recorded thoughts towards acculturation can be found in Sumerian inscriptions from 2370 B.C. These inscriptions laid out rules for commerce and interaction with foreigners designed to limit acculturation and protect traditional cultural practices.Plato also said that acculturation should be avoided, as he thought it would lead to social disorder. Accordingly, he proposed that no one should travel abroad until they are at least 40 years of age, and that travellers should be restricted to the ports of cities to minimize contact with native citizens. Nevertheless, the history of Western civilization, and in particular the histories of Europe and the United States, are largely defined by patterns of acculturation.
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