The social science approach is different from the critical approach to culture because it mainly tries to describe and predict human behavior abstractly and horizontally. In other words, it adopts a general understanding of how people view their reality, with a key assumption being the belief that human behavior is predictable. Thus, through social science, we would understand many things about a society’s culture, such as the causes of unemployment, why people support certain politicians, why we vote, or what motivates people to feel happy. As demonstrated from these examples alone, we find that the social science approach to culture is broad and horizontally inclined. It mainly focuses on people’s behavior and the influence of the world around us, with a bias towards explaining how different cultural facets interact, without a specific understanding of the underpinning reasons.
The critical approach to culture shares the contextual approach to human behavior. Still, it is different from the social science approach because it focuses on the micro-contexts that underpin human interaction. For example, it would study the context through which communication occurs and explain the influence of micro-contexts in the holistic structure. Such micro-contexts may include an understanding of the influence of political or social structures on the communication strategy. Indeed, unlike social science, which merely strives to explain things as they are, proponents of a critical approach to culture are often interested in understanding the historical context of communication. Therefore, the critical approach to culture often gives us an in-depth understanding of communication patterns. For example, if we were to explore how power corrupts societies, the critical approach to culture would try to explain how power functions in cultural situations. This way, people would be better equipped to resist the influence of corrupt power or oppressive forces in society.