Famous Social Scientists

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Margaret Mead
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– Began her career studying the cultures of the Pacific islands – Compared Samoan and American cultures on the island of Samoa – She observed that adolescence was not a particularly troubling time for Samoans, who were considered adults when they reached physical maturity – Samoan youth did not experience teenage conflicts, unlike North Americans – Concluded that our personalities are largely influenced by the society in which we live – Researchers say she relied too heavily on personal stories and too little on the gathering of objective statistics
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Charles Darwin
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British naturalist whose theory of evolution, in particular, the principles of natural selection and adaptation, and his theory of animal man, left an indelible and enduring transformational influence upon science in general and psychology in particular.
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Karl Marx
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– A German philosopher interested in economic history – Theories concentrate on the idea of class conflict, its role in social evolution, and its usefulness in understanding social issues – Found that Western society is based on a system of property ownership and labour exploitation – Society was based on a fierce competition for power and wealth – The wealthy class would make it impossible for the poor to ever achieve economic equality, and the only way for the working class to achieve equality would be to topple the wealthy class out of power – He believed that the conflict between social classes created isolation which would lead to disruption and change —> Only way societies evolved from one system to the next
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Jane Goodall
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– Celebrated for her work with the Leakeys in Tanzania – Spent twenty years observing and recording the lives of chimpanzees – She was eventually able to observe them up close and observed things previously unknown to Western anthropologists – Discovered that chimps used tools for some of their daily activities and were not strictly vegetarian – Discovered a highly developed social structure of the chimpanzee community
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Carl Jung
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– Founded analytical psychology (understand motivation based on the conscious and unconscious mind) – Two parts of the unconscious: the personal and the collective – Collective contains memories from ancestors – Observed through practice and research that certain images and symbols tended to appear over and over – Determined that these models of people, behaviours, and personalities were universal archetypes of the collective unconscious – Believed we were born with these archetypes, as our collective unconscious contains images derived from our ancestor’s experiences – Contributed to the understanding of personality, feeling, sensation and intuition
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Erik Erikson
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– Believed that humans continue to develop over their lifetime – Developed the 8 stages of Psychosocial Development
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Herbert Spencer
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– As the first major proponent of social Darwinism, he argued that human society and institutions are subject to the process of natural selection and that society naturally evolves for the better – Therefore, he was against any form of government interference with the evolution of society, like business regulations, because it would help the \”unfit\” to survive
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Ivan Pavlov
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– A Nobel Prize winning Russian scientist – His research with dogs showed the connection between physical behaviour and memories – When you present unconditioned stimulus you will get an unconditioned response – Developed classical conditioning
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B.F. Skinner
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– Considered to have developed true behaviourism as opposed to the mental process behind them – Studied how the use of rewards/punishments can influence behaviour (operant conditioning) – Experimented with rats in his operant conditioning chamber
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Sigmund Freud
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– Referred to as the founder of psychology – Believed the human mind is divided into two parts, the conscious mind and the unconscious mind – Also believed that the unconscious mind is a more powerful influence on behaviour – Went further on in his studies to begin analysing dreams and giving interpretations of these dreams – Developed the theory of humans using defence mechanisms to handle anxiety inducing situations – Also developed the Psychosexual Stages of Development
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Harry Harlow
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– Developmental psychologist who conducted famous experiments on rhesus monkeys – He gave orphaned baby monkeys two artificial surrogate \”mothers\” – Clothed \”mother\” provided no milk but offered a soft terrycloth cover – A wire \”mother\” provided milk but offered no contact comfort – He placed a frightening stimulus into the cage, monkeys ran to the cloth mother – His research contradicted the common belief that bodily contact would spoil children – He concluded that the stimulation and reassurance derived from the physical touch of a parent or caregiver play a key role in developing healthy physical growth and normal socialization
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Emile Durkheim
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– French sociologist influenced by Comte – Helped propel sociology forward – Work centered on the belief that society functions logically and protects the interest of its members – Studied the forces that unite individuals in society – Observed that humans are social creatures that define themselves by their social interactions
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Talcott Parsons
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– A structural functionalist – Responsible for developing the structural functionalist school of thought in the US – Examined social behaviour as a single entity or mass – Emphasized that all social phenomena and relationships could be explained through their functions in society – Argued that if something existed in many societies, then it must exist to serve a necessary purpose – Believed that people act according to their values and the values of the people around them and this created stability within a society – Although people acted in their own self-interest, he concluded that there is a strong desire among people to get along with each other
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Auguste Comte
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– French philosopher remembered as the founder of positivism – Saw human history as 3 stages: theological, metaphysical and scientific – Founded sociology – Influenced Realpolitik (a system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations)

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