I believe society learns (and forgets). I was struck by the learned reaction to the crack epidemic of the 1980's. Usage of crack declined over time, as young people saw its impact on the older. Since then, I've seen the learning phenomena in other areas.
One such area is comfort with technology. Consider the cellphone camera--there's now an assumption that everyone knows how to operate one. Strangers will ask you to take a picture of them with their cellphone. How many years did it take for society to learn this operation--10 years maybe? Society learning means a critical mass of people have all learned the same thing, creating the presumption that everyone knows/believes it. This can be technique, as with cellphones, or beliefs, as with the idea that crack is bad.
For someone on the fringes of society this can be difficult. I don't use my smartphone as a phone that much, so I'm conscious of having a fragile attachment to society. On the other hand, I know a lot about American history, and have experienced more of it than most everyone living, so there I feel a strong attachment.