Cultural Differences as Influences on Approaches to Obesity Treatment
Culture influences all human behavior and dialectically shapes social institutions and social interactions among populations groups and individuals. Culture has many definitions, but all embody the underlying concept of implicit and explicit guidelines that are inherited and shared by members of a particular society or societal subgroup (6,7). These guidelines define "how to view the world, how to experience it emotionally, and how to behave in it in relation to other people, to supernatural forces or gods, and to the natural environment" (7). These cultural perspectives are identifiable and transmitted from one generation to the next through distinctive symbols, language, and rituals. Of particular relevance to cross-cultural treatment issues, cultural influences on behavior tend to be relatively invisible. Certain types of behavior seem universal, natural, and nonnegotiable to those influenced by a given culture (7). In fact, the influence of culture often becomes evident
only when cultural differences are encountered, e.g., in interactions between individuals or groups that have contrasting beliefs, expectations, or values related to a particular issue; that is, one might not perceive that one is operating within a culture until one has to operate outside of it.