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How Has Culture Changed Over Time?

Culture has been defined as the way of life of a group of people, so it’s safe to say that culture changes over time in many ways, including the way people communicate with each other and how they interact with one another.

Whether you’re looking at American culture or French culture, you’ll see some significant differences if you look closely enough. Continue reading to discover how culture has changed over time in these two countries and others.

Cultural shifts in music

How have musical tastes shifted in recent years? To get a better sense of how our musical tastes change over time, you can look at the popularity of music by genre and year. For example, according to Spotify’s Year in Music 2016, one popular song from 1986 was Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. In 2016, that same song topped Billboard magazine’s list of most popular themes for two weeks straight.

Now, how did it get there? Looking back at history shows that Leonard Cohen had struggled for decades before writing Hallelujah, yet it became his biggest hit. Whether or not it becomes a hit again remains to be seen; however, its prevalence in 2016 means something is different about our current music tastes compared to 1986 when it was released.

Cultural shifts in food

To get an idea of how our eating habits have evolved, let’s examine some historical trends. When certain foods were scarce during World War II, rationing was introduced by governments worldwide. This led to dramatic changes in consumption, including a decline in red meat consumption (which fell by 50%) and an increase in grain-based products. Overall calorie intake declined as well; however, because of vitamin and mineral deficiencies—as well as a decline in fibre intake—diseases like scurvy began to reemerge.

Cultural shifts in entertainment

With so many entertainment options available today, it’s no surprise that our preferences for what we want to do or watch have also changed. For example, in 2016, nearly 65 per cent of U.S. consumers watched streaming video either on a computer or mobile device in an average month. Compare that to 1999 when just 16 percent of consumers did that, Statista data shows.

That’s a 600 per cent increase! More and more people are choosing to stream entertainment instead of using other options like cable TV or DVDs because streaming is generally easier than accessing these older content sources.

Cultural shifts in beauty

from body size to gender-related traits to exercise habits, there’s no doubt that contemporary beauty standards are different than what they were even 20 years ago. Society today values an athletic body type significantly more than it did just a decade ago. Working out is widely seen as an important component of staying healthy (or looking good).

And when we look back to previous decades, trends in popular music and fashion play an enormous role in dictating which pop stars and movie stars are considered attractive at any given time. But despite how fickle our tastes can be when it comes to physical attractiveness, one common element of our culture remains constant: family.

Cultural shifts in fashion

There have been fashion trends throughout history (such as medieval knights and renaissance-era kings) that we may look back on and wonder why people thought they were a good idea. This could apply to both societal-wide directions and more personal ones, such as deciding to wear a tuxedo with white sneakers.

As people change, so do their cultural tastes; therefore, it’s probably safe to assume that our style preferences will continue to evolve. What was popular in our grandparents’ generation might be considered an ugly style today—or vice versa! The same thing is true for some of today’s most popular fashions; they might seem timeless in 20 years.

Cultural shifts in beliefs

There’s a simple reason our understanding of certain things like marriage, sex, and gender have evolved: as we learn more about ourselves, as our society evolves, so too does its understanding of what marriage is, what gender means (or doesn’t mean), and how to best navigate sex. Culture in America is not static; it changes based on popular opinion or mass movements—and even individual people can help drive these cultural shifts.

It isn’t about political correctness; it’s about evolving your beliefs when you know that they are unfair or outdated. For example, once upon a time, women were only allowed to enter university if they were to be teachers because colleges were an all-male bastion.


It may be impossible to make a definitive list of ways that culture changes over time, but we can note a few trends. Our desire for privacy—specifically in relation to how we look and how much money we make—is more vital than ever before, which could account for things like our infatuation with social media (an extension of our individualism) and our increased access to higher education (which reflects greater emphasis on intellect).

We’re also experiencing more social diversity than ever before—the more people live in proximity with one another, the more likely they are to recognize differences among them. The result is greater acceptance, whether that means widespread embrace of gay marriage or widespread disapproval of fat-shaming.



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