Cultural Universals

One of the largest surveys of cultural life was undertaken by the Functionalist sociologist George Peter Murdock ("The Common Denominator of Culture", 1945), who claimed to have identified approximately 70 cultural features that could be considered universal in human societies. These included:

Age grading
Division of labour
Property rights
Family / kinship groups
Status differences
Body adornment
Music and dance
Incest taboos
Cleanliness training
Personal names
Magic / luck superstitions

Murdock's cultural universals are a mixture of what we have termed structural universals (family, division of labour, etc.) and cultural (gestures, joking, etc.) . Although these may or may not be regular practices that occur in all known societies (depending, as I've noted, on how we define and interpret the term "universal"), few societies address them in the same way. The "incest taboo" is a good case in point here.

However, while all societies develop an incest taboo, there is not a great deal of cultural evidence to show that this taboo is the same in all cultures