For some psychologists, especially those in the psychodynamic tradition, the most important period of socialization is between the ages of one and ten. But socialization also includes adults moving into a significantly different environment where they must learn a new set of behaviors.
Socialization is influenced primarily by the family, through which children first learn community norms. Other important influences include schools, peer groups, people, mass media, the workplace, and government. The degree to which the norms of a particular society or community are adopted determines one’s willingness to engage with others. The norms of tolerance, reciprocity, and trust are important “habits of the heart,” as de Tocqueville put it, in an individual’s involvement in community.
The concept of “community” often has a positive semantic connotation, exploited rhetorically by populist politicians and by advertisers to promote feelings and associations of mutual well-being, happiness and togetherness – veering towards an almost-achievable utopian community, in fact.
The process of learning to adopt the behavior patterns of the community is called socialization. The most fertile time of socialization is usually the early stages of life, during which individuals develop the skills and knowledge and learn the roles necessary to function within their culture and social environment.
Archaeologists typically use similarities in material culture—from house types to styles of pottery—to reconstruct communities in the past. This classification method relies on the assumption that people or households will share more similarities in the types and styles of their material goods with other members of a social community than they will with outsiders.
In ecology, a community is an assemblage of populations – potentially of different species – interacting with one another. Community ecology is the branch of ecology that studies interactions between and among species. It considers how such interactions, along with interactions between species and the abiotic environment, affect social structure and species richness, diversity and patterns of abundance.
Archaeological studies of social communities use the term “community” in two ways, paralleling usage in other areas. The first is an informal definition of community as a place where people used to live. In this sense it is synonymous with the concept of an ancient settlement – whether a hamlet, village, town, or city. The second meaning resembles the usage of the term in other social sciences: a community is a group of people living near one another who interact socially.
Social interaction on a small scale can be difficult to identify with archaeological data. Most reconstructions of social communities by archaeologists rely on the principle that social interaction in the past was conditioned by physical distance. Therefore, a small village settlement likely constituted a social community and spatial subdivisions of cities and other large settlements may have formed communities.