In simple language, context means the setting of an event. You can think of context as all the information you need to know to truly understand something.
For example, when you watch a movie from the very start, you learn about the names of the characters, where the movie is set, and what the plot line is. You can follow the movie’s storyline because you’ve learned about the context.
But when someone walks into the movie half-way through, they don’t really know what’s going on. They don’t know the characters’ names, the storyline, where it’s set, or what the relationships between the characters are. They’re confused because they don’t understand the context of the movie.
Often times, when thinking about the context of a situation, it’s a good idea to think about what you’d need to explain to an alien about a situation to get them caught-up on what’s going on.
Everything you need to tell the alien forms the context of the situation.
This article takes a look at a variety of examples of contexts, including social contexts, cultural contexts, historical contexts, political contexts, and educational contexts.
Social Context Examples
Social contexts are all about society and what you need to know about your society in any situation. Society has rules around behavior and interaction.
Many people in a society will have different cultures, but we all generally agree on a way to behave in society that’s usually based on the dominant culture in that society.
1. At School
School is a social context. It has its own rules and policies that inform how we should behave. Think about what you’d tell the alien in this situation. You might have to tell the alien that this school requires students to wear school uniforms. You could also tell them which teachers are mean and which are nice. Actually, you might even need to tell them what a teacher is and why all the students seem to be obeying what the teachers say!
2. In a Supermarket
A supermarket context is very different from a school context. If there are children in a supermarket, they’re probably not all playing together like at school. It might seem a little more disorganized. People are moving about in family groups and taking things off the shelves. Imagine what you’d explain to the alien here. You might have to tell them how to use a shopping cart, how to stand in a line to pay a cashier, and what currency you need in order to pay.
3. At a Backyard Barbecue
A backyard barbecue is also a very different context to a school. At school, the children are probably given structured tasks to complete. The adults are all working hard and focusing on educating the children. And sometimes there are bells ringing to tell everyone to change their activities. But, at the backyard barbecue, the children are all playing while the adults are all talking to one another! The adults might also be drinking beer and wine, something that they certainly wouldn’t be doing in the school context.
4. At Church
The church context seems to differ depending on the church. There are some similarities: everyone is talking about God. There is a priest or minister who is conducting proceedings, and there might be a lot of people praying. But there are also many differences: some charismatic churches might be boisterously singing while solemn Catholic churches might be more silent and reflective. What is the context of your church?
5. On the Bus
Think about the sorts of things you need to know in order to ride the bus. One thing might be that you should wait in an orderly line before boarding. You might also need to know how to pay. In one society, you might have to pay with a special transport card while other societies might require you to pay using cash. Here, riding the bus differs depending on the context. There are also cultural contexts involved here, such as the cultural idea that you should stand to allow elderly and pregnant people to get a seat.
Cultural Context Examples
Cultural contexts are all about what your own culture expects of you – its beliefs and values. It’s different from social context because it’s specific to you and your family’s values, not the values of your society as a whole.
While you might live in a society, your values might differ from those of your society. You might be culturally Christian (cultural context) but your society is secular (social context), for example.
Cultural contexts often inform and underpin social contexts. The dominant culture’s values are often part of the social context, so, these two things overlap a lot. But remember, cultural contexts are about values and beliefs while social contexts are about rules and expectations that everyone in society must follow.
6. In a Sacred Space
Some cultures have very sacred spaces. An example is a cemetery or gravesite. A place where your relatives are buried is probably really important to you. You want to respect their memory. Similarly, a military cemetery is respected by many Americans because those people died for your freedoms. So, you wouldn’t make a lot of noise here or have a party. Native Americans also have sacred places for their cultures, such as places for traditional ceremonies. This cultural context is a reason why we might choose not to develop new buildings in these sacred locations.
7. In a Holy Space
A holy space has religious significance. Of course, the most famous of these is Mecca, a holy space for Muslims. Holy spaces like Mecca have certain rules, like the fact that only Muslims are allowed in Mecca, and you must dress modestly. You need to understand the cultural context of Mecca (specifically, that you must adhere to Islamic cultural practices) before you go there. Muslims might need to teach the Islamic cultural context to non-Muslims to help them understand what it’s like to be in Mecca.
8. Conservative Cultural Context
A conservative cultural context is a situation where the dominant cultural group in a space is conservative. You can think of societies like Indonesia and Saudi Arabia as places with much more conservative cultural contexts than the United States or England. Think about what you might need to teach the alien before they go to Saudi Arabia. You might be reminded that there are certain rules for women’s behavior, dress codes, and when you’re allowed to drink alcohol.
9. Liberal Cultural Context
A liberal cultural context, by contrast, is going to be very different. The United States, as one of the most liberal places in the world, protects your freedoms to practice your own cultural and religious beliefs. You’d need to explain to an alien coming to the USA about how you’re allowed to behave in the US, and how you shouldn’t. But, you’d also need to explain that different cultures within the US will also have their own cultural contexts, governing their own personal behavior.
10. A Western Context
A western cultural context is the cultural context that underpins western places like Europe and the United States. In a Western cultural context, you’d traditionally be expected to fit into western cultural norms within western countries. The cultural context in the West includes beliefs in individual freedom and freedom of religion. These cultural contexts inform social contexts in many Western countries, like the rules of behavior and laws of the nations. In other words, the western culture (cultural context – underlying beliefs and values) informs the western society (social context – rules and interactions between people).
11. In the United States
There are many different cultural contexts in the United States. Go to the conservative South and people may be much more polite and religious. Go to liberal Seattle and people might be much more open-minded. So, you need to know the cultural context of where you’re going. But this is all underpinned by an overarching social context – the rules of behavior in America. (See also: American Taboos).
- 19 Examples of Culture
- 21 Examples of Cultural Contexts
- Examples of Cultural Capital
- Examples of Cultural Taboos
- The 4 Stages of Cultural Adaptation
- 6 Types of Cultural Diffusion
- Examples of Ethnocentrism
Historical Context Examples
Historical contexts are all about what was unique or specific about a certain time in history. This can include cultural and social contexts that are now in the past.
Think about what you’d need to tell an alien about the following times in history to help them understand what was happening. Sometimes, different moments in time had different cultural and social contexts to today – so when talking about historical context, consider the social and cultural factors that were dominant at a specific time.
12. During the 1990s
When you watch a TV sitcom from the 1990s, they’re very different from today’s sitcoms. There’s a lot less racial and gender diversity in sitcoms like Friends than in newer American sitcoms, for example. We can deduce that in the 1990s there were some cultural context factors specific to that era, and they’ve changed now. All those factors are now considered historical contexts.
13. During the 1950s
The 1950s was even more conservative than the 1990s. Looking at the historical context of the USA in the 1950s, you’ll notice that its social and cultural factors were very different then. There were less women in the workforce, a lot more people attending church, and a lot of babies being born (we call them the ‘baby boomers’).
14. In the Middle Ages
Looking way back to the Middle Ages, life was very different. There wasn’t any electricity, for one thing! Societies weren’t industrialized, and many people didn’t know how to read. This means that information was mostly shared by word of mouth. Religion was much more important to life than it is in today’s Western countries. And society was ruled by kings and queens! All these factors influenced the historical context.
15. The Spanish Inquisition
During the Spanish Inquisition, there were several social and cultural factors that together form the historical context of the Inquisition. For the social context, Spain was ruled by Kings and Queens who had ultimate power. For the cultural context, the rulers of the society was deeply Catholic and they wanted to purge non-Catholics from the country. All these factors influenced our memory of that time in history.
Political Context Examples
Political contexts describe what you need to know about the politics of a situation.
16. A Capitalist Society
A capitalist society’s political context involves characteristics like: freedom to start a business, low taxes, and minimal government intervention. Of course, there are different types of capitalism so you can dig even deeper into this political context to describe exactly what sort of capitalism is active in a society at any point in time.
17. A Divisive Political Context
A ‘divisive’ political context might describe a situation where people in society don’t see eye to eye on political issues. You could describe America’s political context as very divisive because Republicans and Democrats seem to be fighting about things all the time!
18. A Communist / Socialist Society
A communist society is the political context in Cuba and China. It’s where the government has a lot of control over the means of production and doesn’t let you start a business. It usually also involves authoritarianism and control over the media. You’ll also not be able to vote for a new leader every few years like in democratic societies, which tend to be more capitalist or social-democratic.
19. A Social-democratic Society
A social-democratic society explains societies in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and some South American and Asian nations. This is a society where there is a mix between socialism and capitalism. The government will often allow people to start businesses but will also pay for healthcare, childcare, and education for everyone to try to increase access and fairness.
Educational Context Examples
Different educational institutions in different places and at different times have different contexts. The setting or background details need to be explained to understand the educational context wherever you are.
20. University Contexts
A university will usually have an educational context that is far different to that of a high school. Chances are that people will be coming and going rather than staying all day like at compulsory schooling. You might have a class in the morning then no more classes until the evening. Traditionally universities were also research focused and allowed people to discuss dangerous and taboo topics that might not be allowed to be discussed in high school.
21. Early Childhood Contexts
Early childhood contexts are usually very focused on child safety and play-based learning to help children grow. Think about all the things that have to be done in an early childhood center that will be different to a university. For starters, the ages of the people there will be different! The context will involve everything you’d have to describe to someone who has never been into an early childhood center.
22. Private School Contexts
A private school context will be very different to a public school context. In private schools, you’ll likely have to wear a school uniform and follow stricter rules. The children’s parents are also paying to send the children to the school. Most private schools have a set of underpinning values (which may be understood to be the cultural context of the schools), such as a religious doctrine or a special way of teaching, such as Montessori education.
23. Public School Contexts
Public schools in most countries allow any child to attend. So, they’re usually not tied to religious belief systems and often don’t have a dress code policy. However, public schools in the UK do have uniform policies. So you can see here that even within public schools there might be different contexts. What other differences could you think of between UK and US public schools that could be parts of the different school contexts?
The above examples of contexts are just a few of the countless examples. Anything that explains the background information and can help shed more light on a situation can be considered a ‘context’. One of the best ways to identify what is a context is to simply think about everything you’d need to describe and explain to someone in order for them to understand a situation. Think about all the hidden rules and knowledge you’d need to catch up on what’s going on in society, a movie, or whatever else you’re describing.
Chris Drew (PhD)
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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.
What are some examples of historical context? ›
- ancient +religion.
- “colonial period”+society.
- "civil war" +culture.
- renaissance +philosophy.
- reformation +life.
- "Elizabethan age" +history.
- "20th century" +customs.
- "21st century" +social.
Social context can influence how someone perceives something. For example, a person who is trying a new food in an unwelcoming or harsh environment might perceive the food as tasting bad and not like it in the future.What are some examples of context? ›
In simple language, context means the setting of an event. You can think of context as all the information you need to know to truly understand something. For example, when you watch a movie from the very start, you learn about the names of the characters, where the movie is set, and what the plot line is.What is cultural social and historical context? ›
Context is usually divided into three categories: social - the way people lived and what they believed when the play was written and set. cultural - the arts and popular interests associated with a particular time and place. historical - what was happening in the world when the play was written and set.What are historical contexts? ›
Historic Contexts: What are they? “Patterns or trends in history by which a specific occurrence, property or site is understood and its meaning within history or prehistory is made clear.”What are different types of contexts? ›
- Authorial context. Another term for this is biographical context. ...
- Socio-historical context. ...
- Philosophical context. ...
- Literary context. ...
- Critical context.
- Definition Clues. ...
- Synonym Clues. ...
- Antonym Clues. ...
- Punctuation Clues. ...
- Example Clues. ...
- Inference Clues.
47 Examples of Cultural Context.
|Social Context (cultures adapt to different social situations)||Social Expectations|
|Social Status (what earns respect)||Stories|
- Japan and other countries located in Asia.
- Brazil and other countries located in South America.
- African tribal groups and most countries located in Africa.
- A majority of the Middle East, including Iraq and Iran.
- Definition/Explanation Clues. Sometimes a word's or phrase's meaning is explained immediately after its use. ...
- Restatement/Synonym Clues. Sometimes a hard word or phrase is said in a simple way. ...
- Contrast/Antonym Clues. ...
- Inference/General Context Clues. ...
What are the six types of context? ›
- 2.1. Location context.
- 2.2. Historical context.
- 2.3. Situational context.
- 2.4. Emotional context.
- 2.5. Cultural context.
- 2.6. Linguistic context.
Communication contexts include intrapersonal, interpersonal, group, public, and mass communication. Each context has its advantages and disadvantages, and its appropriate and inappropriate uses.What is cultural and historical context? ›
Every Humanities class expects students to be able to analyze works of visual art, music, literature, philosophy, religion, or performing arts and develop the ability to understand how it fits into its historical period. This is a college wide standard. We refer to this standard as Historical and Cultural Context.What is the example of social and cultural? ›
Socio-cultural factors include consumers' lifestyles, buying habits, education, religion, beliefs, values, demographics, social classes, sexuality and attitudes. These factors determine the suitability of an organisation's products and services for its customers' needs.What are cultural contexts? ›
Cultural context is related to the society where individuals are raised in and at how the culture affects behavior. It incorporates values that are learned and attitudes that are shared among groups of people. It includes beliefs, meanings, customs, ideas, language, norms.What are the 3 types of historical? ›
- Primary Sources. These sources are records of events or evidence as they are first described or actually happened without any interpretation or commentary. ...
- Secondary Sources. ...
- Tertiary Sources.
Four Types of Context in Writing. There are several types of context, including cultural, historical, physical, and rhetorical.What are the 4 parts of context? ›
- Definitions or restatements.
- Antonyms or opposites.
- Examples or explanations.
- Site characterization. ...
- Technology. ...
- Duration. ...
- Scope. ...
- Pricing assumptions. ...
- Predictive economic assumptions.
- Authorial Context. A writer's experiences inevitably inform their writing, from content to style. ...
- Historical Context. Literature is often influenced by history. ...
- Philosophical Context. ...
- Literary Context.
What are two types of context? ›
There are two types of context: physical context (such as where a sign is located) and linguistic context (such as preceding sentences in a passage).What is the 9 types of context clues? ›
- * Individual. All of the history and context of a person.
- * Demographic profile. Age, gender, occupation providing clues to likely interests.
- * Interest profile. ...
- * Location. ...
- * Device. ...
- * Date. ...
- * Time. ...
- * Weather.
Context means the setting of a word or event. If your friend is furious at you for calling her your worst enemy, remind her that the context of those remarks was Opposite Day. Context comes from the Latin for how something is made.What is a context clue give an example? ›
Definition context clues give the reader the actual meaning of the word in the sentence. Look at this example: The man's obesity, or too much fat, caused much worry for the doctor. This sentence actually tells the reader that obesity means too much fat.What are 10 examples of culture? ›
- Norms. Norms are informal, unwritten rules that govern social behaviors. ...
- Languages. ...
- Festivals. ...
- Rituals & Ceremony. ...
- Holidays. ...
- Pastimes. ...
- Food. ...
They are social organization, customs, religion, language, government, economy, and arts.What are 3 examples of high context cultures? ›
In high-context cultures (such as those in Japan, China, Korea, and Arab countries), communication relies heavily on non-verbal, contextual, and shared cultural meanings.Which of these is an example of a low context culture? ›
Lower-context culture: United States, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada and other European nations.Which of these is an example of a low context culture *? ›
Some of the cultures that fall into low-context communication are Western cultures like the UK, Australia and the United States.What is a low context culture example? ›
In a low-context culture, communication occurs through explicitly spelled out and defined words, and listeners just have to interpret spoken or written words as they are. Germany, Sweden, and the United States are generally classified as low-context cultures.
What is the best example of a story's historical context? ›
What is the best example of a story's historical context? The economic situation the author lives in.What is the historical context of your life? ›
Putting your own life in a historical context—comparing your life events to what was happening in the world or in your community at the time—can add great depth to your stories. Looking at historical events can also spark your own memories.What is the historical context of everyday use? ›
Historical Context: Black Americans Exploring Their Cultural Heritage. “Everyday Use” is set in the late 1960s or early 1970s, a tumultuous time when many Black Americans were struggling to redefine and seize control of their social, cultural, and political identity in American society.What is one example of a story's cultural context? ›
Cultural context: Beliefs, religion, marriage, food, and clothing, are all elements of cultural context that sometimes need to be provided in order to fully understand an author's story.What is a historical context paragraph? ›
Historical Context: This is a paragraph that tells you some background information about the topic of the essay. This will help you write your introduction. • Task: This is the actual question that you are attempting to answer in the essay. This will help you write your THESIS, or last sentence of your introduction.What is social context in literature? ›
The social context of a text is the way in which the features of the society it is set in impact on its meaning. There are two aspects to social context: the kind of society in which the characters live, and the one in which the author's text was produced.