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Essay Summary of Sociology 101-Exam 1

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Describe what the discipline of sociology studies.
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Define the sociological imagination and describe how it \”makes the familiar strange.\”
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The sociological imagination is the ability to connect one’s personal experiences to society at large and greater historical forces. Using our sociological imagination allows us to \”make the familiar strange\” or to question habits or customs that seem \”natural\” to us.
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Explain what social institutions are and how to think about them sociologically.
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A social institution is a group of social positions, connected by social relations, that perform a social role. Social institutions, such as the legal system, the labor market, or language itself, have a great influence on our behavior and are constantly changing. The interactions and meanings we ascribe to social institutions shape and change them.
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Explain the concept of social identity.
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Social identity is how individuals define themselves in relationship to groups they are a part of (or in relationship to groups they choose not to be a part of). We all contribute to one another’s social identity, which can also be thought of as a grand narrative constructed of many individual stories.
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Describe the relevance of Auguste Comte in the development of the field of sociology.
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The French scholar Auguste Comte, founder of what he called \”social physics\” or \”positivism,\” felt that we could better understand society by determining the logic or scientific laws governing human behavior. Harriet Martineau, the first to translate Comte’s written works to English, was one of the earliest feminist social scientists.
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Compare and contrast the approaches of Karl Marx (historical materialism), Max Weber (interpretive sociology), Émile Durkheim (positivist sociology), and Georg Simmel (formal sociology).
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Historical materialism, a theory developed by Karl Marx, identifies class conflict as the primary cause of social change. Max Weber felt that culture and politics as well as economics were important influences on society, and his emphasis on subjectivity became a foundation of interpretive sociology. Emile Durkheim, considered the founding practitioner of positivist sociology, developed the theory that the division of labor in a given society helps to determine how social cohesion is maintained, or not maintained, in that society. Georg Simmel established what is today referred to as formal sociology, or a sociology of pure numbers.
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Describe the approach of the Chicago School to the study of sociology.
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The Chicago School focused on empirical research with the belief that people’s behaviors and personalities are shaped by their social and physical environments.
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Describe the approaches of Charles Cooley, George Herbert Mead, and W. E. B. DuBois in terms of individual interaction with others.
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Double consciousness, a concept developed by W. E. B. DuBois, refers to an individual’s constant awareness of how others perceive them and how those perceptions alter their own behavior.
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Describe the contributions of functionalism, conflict theory, feminist theory, symbolic interactionism, postmodernism, and midrange theory to the study of sociology.
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Fuctionalism: theory that various social institutions and processes in society exist to serve some important (or necessary) function to keep society running. Conflict theory: idea tat conflict between competing interests is the basic, animating force of social change and society in general. Feminist theory: emphasize equlity between men and women and want to see women’s lives and experiences represented in sociological studies. Symbolic Interactionism: micro-level theory in which shared meanings, orientations, and assumptions form the basic motivations behind people’s actions. Postmodernism: condition characterized by a questioning of the notion of progress and history, the replacement of narrative within pastiche, and multiple, perhaps even conflicting, identities resulting from disjointed affiliations. Midrange Theory: theory that attempts to predict how certain social institutions tend to function.
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Describe how the study of sociology is distinct from other disciplines and how it sometimes overlaps with other disciplines.
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Sociology focuses on making comparisons across cases to find patterns and create hypotheses about how societies work now or in the past. Sociology looks at how individuals interact with one another as well as at how groups, small and large, interact with one another. History and anthropology tend to focus more on particular circumstances, though in cultural anthropology in particular, there can be a lot of overlap with sociology. Psychology and biology examine things on more of a micro level than sociology does, and economics is an entirely quantitative discipline. Political science focuses on one aspect of social relations—power. These distinctions are important, but it’s also important to keep in mind that a lot of overlap exists between the work done in different academic disciplines.
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Explain the difference between interpretive sociology and positivist sociology.
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Interpretive sociology focuses on the meanings people attach to social phenomena, prioritizing specific situations over a search for social facts that transcend time and place. Positivist sociology, also called the \”normal science\” model of sociology, attempts to reveal the social facts that affect social life by developing and testing hypotheses based on theories about how the social world works.
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Explain the difference between microsociology and macrosociology.
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Microsociology seeks to understand local interactional contexts, focusing on face-to-face encounters and gathering data through participant observations and in-depth interviews. Macrosociology generally looks at social dynamics across whole societies or large parts of them and often relies on statistical analysis to do so.
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Explain the notion of causality.
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Causality is the idea that a change in one factor results in a corresponding change in another factor.
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Describe the two general categories of research methods—quantitative and qualitative.
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Research methods are standard rules that social scientists follow when trying to establish a causal relationship between social elements. Quantitative methods seek to obtain information about the social world that is in, or can be converted to, numeric form. Qualitative methods attempt to collect information about the social world that cannot be readily converted to numeric form.
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Compare and contrast deductive and inductive approaches to research.
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Sociological research generally begins with a question that asks what causes a certain social phenomenon to occur. Using a deductive approach to research, we start with a theory, develop a hypothesis, make empirical observations, and then analyze the data collected through observation to confirm, reject, or modify the original theory. Using an inductive approach to research, we start with empirical observation and then work to form a theory.
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Explain the difference between causation and correlation and the role of each in sociological research.
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Correlation exists when we simply observe change in two things simultaneously; causation exists when we can prove that a change in one factor causes the change in the other factor.
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Explain how correlation, time order, and ruling out alternative explanations are all needed to establish causation.
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Sociologists conduct research to try to prove causation. In order to prove causation, researchers need to establish correlation and time order and rule out alternative explanations.
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Define the terms dependent variable, independent variable, moderating variable, and mediating variable and explain the role of each in a research project.
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A dependent variable is the outcome that a researcher is trying to explain; an independent variable is a measured factor that the researcher believes has a causal impact on the dependent variable. Moderating variables are factors that affect the relationship between the independent and dependent variables; mediating variables are factors that are positioned between the independent and dependent variables but do not affect the relationship between them.
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Explain what the term hypothesis means in social science research and how hypotheses are tested.
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In social research, a hypothesis is a proposed relationship between two variables. For all hypotheses, both a null hypothesis and an alternative hypothesis exist. Operationalization is the process by which a researcher specifies the terms and methods he or she will use in a particular study.
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Explain what it means for a research measure to be valid and reliable and for research outcomes to be generalizable.
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Measures used to evaluate variables in a hypothesis must be valid and reliable and the outcomes of a particular research study must be generalizable to a larger population. Validity: the extent to which an instrument measures what it is intended to measure. Reliability: the likelihood of obtaining consistent results using the same measure. Generalizability: the extent to which we can claim our findings inform us about a group larger than the one we studied.
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Understand the role of the researcher and how a researcher is in a position of power.
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Researchers must be aware of the effects they have on the people, relationships, and processes they are studying.
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Explain the concept of feminist methodology.
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Feminist methodology treats women’s experiences as legitimate empirical and theoretical resources, promotes social science that may bring about policy change to help women, and is as conscious of the role of the researcher as that of the subjects being studied.
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Describe the following types of data collection: participant observation, interviews, survey research, historical methods, comparative research, experimentation, and content analysis.
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Participant observation: a qualitative research method that seeks to observe social actions in practice Interviews: Knowing how and when to probe and when to back off is part of the art of interviewing that results from practice. the researchers develop a specific set of questions to address with all respondents in a relatively fixed sequence. If an interview becomes very structured, it falls into the next category: survey research. Survey research: an ordered series of questions intended to elicit information from respondents. Historical methods: research that collects data from written reports, newspaper articles, journals, transcripts, television programs, diaries, artwork, and other artifacts that date to a prior time period under study. Comparative research: a methodology by which two or more entities (such as countries), with the intent of learning more about one or both. Experimentation: methods that seek to alter the social landscape in a very specific way for a given sample of individuals and then track what results that change yields; often involve comparisons to a control group that did not experience such an intervention. Content Analysis: a systematic analysis of the content rather than the structure of a communication, such as a written work, speech, or film.
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Understand the importance of ethical standards in research.
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Researchers must meet codified standards, which are often set by professional associations, academic institutions, or research centers, when conducting studies.
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Explain the following concepts as they relate to working with research subjects: \”do no harm,\” informed consent, voluntary participation, and protected populations.
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Researchers must guard against causing physical, emotional, or psychological harm to their subjects. By adhering to informed consent and voluntary participation guidelines, researchers can make sure their subjects know they are participating in a study and have voluntarily chosen to participate.
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Explain the concept of public sociology.
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Public sociology refers to the practice of using sociological research, teaching, and service to reach a wider (not solely academic) audience and to influence society.
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Describe the evolution of the meaning of the term culture.
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Culture can be loosely defined as a set of beliefs, traditions, and practices. The concept of culture has evolved and expanded throughout history. Perhaps one of the oldest understandings of culture focuses on the distinction between what is part of our natural environment and what is modified or created by humans. As Europeans came into contact with non-Westerners, they began to think of culture in terms of differences between peoples, which could be viewed positively or negatively. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a new dimension was added to the concept of culture—the idea that culture involved the pursuit of intellectual refinement.
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Explain the difference between material and nonmaterial culture.
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Material culture is everything that is a part of our constructed environment, such as books, fashion, and monuments. Nonmaterial culture encompasses values, beliefs, behaviors, and social norms. Culture includes language, the meanings we assign to words, and concepts such as class, inequality, and ownership.
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Define ideology.
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Nonmaterial culture can take the form of ideology, which is a system of concepts and relationships that includes an understanding of cause and effect.
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Explain the concept of cultural relativism and the ethical and moral challenges it can create.
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Cultural relativism, a term coined by the anthropologist Ruth Benedict in the 1930s, is the idea that we should recognize differences across cultures without passing judgment on, or assigning value to, those differences. Cultural scripts are modes of behavior and understanding that are not universal or natural, but that may strongly shape beliefs or concepts held by a society.
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Explain what a subculture is.
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A subculture is a group united by sets of concepts, values, traits, and/or behavioral patterns that distinguish it from others within the same culture or society.
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Explain the difference between norms and values.
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Values are moral beliefs and norms are how values tell us to act.
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Describe the process of socialization.
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Socialization is the process by which a person internalizes the values, beliefs, and norms of a given society and learns to function as a member of that society.
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Describe the variations on, and limitations of, reflection theory.
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Reflection theory states that culture is a projection of social structures and relationships into the public sphere. A Marxist version of reflection theory argues that cultural objects reflect the material labor and production relationships that went into making them. Reflexivity: analyzing and critically considering our own role in, and affect on, our research.
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Describe different types of media.
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Media are any formats or vehicles that carry, present, or communicate information. Examples of media include books, posters, Web pages, clay tablets, and radio. Mass media refers to any form of media that reaches the mass of the people
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Explain the concept of hegemony and how it relates to media.
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The concept of hegemony, which is different from domination, is important for understanding the impact of media on culture and for examining how people and societies shape, and are shaped by, culture. Hegemony: condition by which a dominant group uses its power to elicit the voluntary \”consent\” of the masses
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Explain how textual analysis and audience studies are important tools in the field of media studies.
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Media studies open paths of investigation, including textual analysis and audience studies, that allow us to see how people create media and the biases involved in that creation, how media reflect the culture in which they exist, and how individuals and groups use the media to change culture.
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Explain why media is a cultural production.
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Describe the effects of media in terms of duration and intention.
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Media effects can be placed into four categories according to their duration and intention: short term and deliberate, long term and deliberate, short term and unintentional, and long term and unintentional.
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Explain how the media can create or reinforce stereotypes.
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Intentionally or unintentionally and subtly or overtly, the media can create or reinforce ethnic, racial, gender, religious, and other stereotypes, and sometimes in the process they distract people’s attention from foundational issues or tensions that need to be addressed.
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Describe trends in media ownership in the United States.
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Media ownership in the United States is concentrated in the hands of six companies, and those companies in turn can affect the information and messages communicated to the public.
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Explain the concept of consumer culture.
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The media, especially advertising, play a large role in the maintenance of consumerism, which is the belief that happiness and fulfillment can be achieved through the acquisition of material possessions.
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Describe ways in which people try to subvert the power of media.
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Culture jamming is one example of subverting the power of media.
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Explain the connection between media and globalization.
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With the global reach of media today, American culture can be found in the farthest corners of the world.
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Define soft power.
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This soft power—the effects of culture, values, and ideas on others’ behavior—has experienced a backlash recently, in part due to negative reactions to certain American foreign policy measures.
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Explain the concept of socialization.
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Socialization is the process by which individuals internalize the values, beliefs, and norms of a given society and learn to function as a member of that society.
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Describe the nature versus nurture debate.
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The concept of socialization if useful for understanding how people become functioning members of society, yet it cannot explain everything about a person’s development and personality. Biology is also a very important component; it is a combination of biology and social interactions that makes us who we are.
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Describe the difference between \”self,\” \”I,\” and \”me\” in terms of a person’s social development.
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Charles Horton Cooley theorized that the \”self\” emerges from our ability to assume the point of view of others and imagine how those others see us. George Herbert Mead developed a theory about how the social self develops over the course of childhood. Infants know only the \”I,\” but through social interaction they learn about \”me\” and the \”other.\”
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Describe the difference between the \”other\” and the \”generalized other\” in terms of social development.
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Finally, they develop a concept of the \”generalized other,\” which allows them to apply norms and behaviors learned in specific situations to new situations.
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Explain how imitation, play, and games are key stages in a child’s development.
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Mead stressed the importance of imitation, play, and games in helping children recognize one another, distinguish between self and other, and grasp the idea that others can have multiple roles.
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Describe Eric Erikson’s eight stages of development.
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The psychologist Eric Erikson established a theory of psychosocial development that identifies eight stages that span a person’s lifetime. Each stage involves a specific conflict that a person must resolve in order to move on to the next stage.
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Compare and contrast the family, school, peers, the media, and total institutions as important socializing components.
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Families, school, peers, the media, and total institutions are all important socializing agents or environments. A total institution is an institution in which one is totally immersed that controls all the basics of day-to-day life
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Distinguish between the concepts of adult socialization and resocialization.
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Adult socialization simply means ways in which people are socialized as adults. Resocialization is the process by which one’s social values, beliefs, and norms are challenged and perhaps reformulated in response to spending a significant amount of time in a very different environment.
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Describe the components of Robert Merton’s role theory.
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Robert Merton’s role theory provides a way to describe social interaction. Key concepts include status, roles, role strain, role conflict, status set, ascribed status, achieved status, and master status.
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Describe the work of gender theorists and the emphasis they place on gender roles when they study socialization.
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Gender roles are a set of behavioral norms associated primarily with males or females in a given social group or system. Gender theorists argue that gender roles can be more powerful and influential than other roles that people fill.
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Explain what it means for something to be \”socially constructed.\”
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To say that something is socially constructed is to say that people give meaning or value to ideas or objects through social interactions. Social construction is an ongoing process that is embedded in our everyday interactions.
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Describe the three basic tenets of the theory of symbolic interactionism.
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Symbolic interactionism is a micro-level theory based on the idea that people act in accordance with shared meanings, orientations, and assumptions.
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Explain Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical theory.
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Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical theory views social life as a theatrical performance in which we are all actors on metaphysical stages with roles, scripts, costumes, and sets.
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Define ethnomethodology and describe Harold Garfinkel’s \”breaching experiments.\”
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Ethnomethodology is an approach to studying human interaction that focuses on the ways in which we make sense of our world, convey this understanding to others, and produce a mutually shared social order. Harold Garfinkel developed a method for studying social interactions, called \”breaching experiments,\” that involved having collaborators exhibit \”abnormal\” or \”atypical\” behaviors in social interactions in order to see how people would react.
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Describe how a new technology, such as the Internet, creates new social situations that people have to learn to navigate.
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The Internet has created new types of social interaction that don’t incorporate verbal and visual cues people are accustomed to relying on. It has also changed society by creating new types of crimes and new ways of communicating. Because our reality is socially constructed, an unexpected change in that reality can be upsetting, frustrating, or just plain incomprehensible. We all have a stake in maintaining consensus on shared meanings so that our society can continue to function smoothly.
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Define social deviance and understand the difference between formal and informal deviance.
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Social deviance is any transgression of socially established norms. Minor transgressions of these norms can be described as informal deviance. Formal deviance, or crime, involves the violation of laws.
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Explain how ideas about what is deviant change over time and how these changes are reflected in society.
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Social norms and the punishments for violating them change over time and from place to place.
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Explain Émile Durkheim’s theory of social cohesion and why it is a functionalist approach.
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Social cohesion refers to the way people form social bonds, relate to each other, and get along on a day-to-day basis. Émile Durkheim theorized that social cohesion is established either through mechanical solidarity (based on the sameness of society’s parts or members) or organic solidarity (based on the interdependence of specialized parts or members).
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Explain how mechanical solidarity can lead to punitive justice and collective vengeance, whereas organic solidarity is more likely to lead to rehabilitative justice.
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Punitive justice is focused on making the violator suffer and thus defining the boundaries of acceptable behavior, while rehabilitative justice examines the specific circumstances of an individual transgressor and attempts to find ways to rehabilitate him
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Describe the concepts of social control and normative compliance.
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Social control is the set of mechanisms that create normative compliance in individuals. Normative compliance is the act of abiding by society’s norms or simply following the rules of group life.
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Explain how formal social control depends on informal social control.
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Informal social sanctions—unspoken rules and expectations about people’s behavior—help maintain a base level of order and cohesion in society and form a foundation for formal social control—laws, the authority of police officers, and so on.
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Explain how the existence of deviants helps hold society together.
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In effect, the existence of deviants helps keep society together as it reinforces notions of what is correct or acceptable in a given group.
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Explain Émile Durkheim’s theory of suicide and how it is based on the concepts of social integration and social regulation.
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Emile Durkheim’s theory of suicide proposed that suicide is a product of social forces, depending on a person’s level of social integration and social regulation.
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Explain Robert Merton’s strain theory.
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Robert Merton’s strain theory argues that deviance occurs when a society does not give all its members equal ability to achieve socially acceptable goals.
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Explain how a symbolic interactionist approach to studying society differs from a functionalist approach.
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Symbolic interactionists take a micro view of society, examining the beliefs and assumptions people bring to their everyday interactions in order to find the causes or explanations for deviance.
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Explain labeling theory and its connection to deviance.
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According to labeling theory, people unconsciously notice how others see or label them, and over time they internalize these labels and come to accept them as \”truth.\” People then behave in accordance to expectations surrounding the label they’ve been assigned or that’s been assigned to another. In this way deviance is a social construct.
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Explain the difference between primary deviance and secondary deviance and how both are connected to social expectations.
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Primary deviance is the first act of rule breaking that may result in the rule breaker being labeled \”deviant\” and thus influence how people think about and act toward him or her. Secondary deviance refers to acts of rule breaking that occur after primary deviance and as a result of a person’s new deviant label.
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Define stigma and describe the possible consequences of social stigmas.
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A stigma is a negative social label that changes your behavior towards a person as well as changing that person’s self-concept and social identity. Stigmas have serious consequences in terms of the opportunities made available—or rather, that are not made available—to people in a stigmatized group.
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Explain the broken windows theory of deviance.
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Philip Zimbardo’s broken windows theory of deviance explains how social context and social cues impact the way individuals act. People who wouldn’t dare exhibit a certain behavior in one social context might do so in another context where the behavior seems more permissible.
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Distinguish street crime from white-collar crime.
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Street crime generally refers to crime committed in public and is often associated with violence, gangs, and poverty; white-collar crime is committed by a professional against a corporation, agency, or other business; corporate crime is a type of white-collar crime committed by the officers or executives of a company.
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Explain the connection between economic opportunity and crime as put forward by Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin’s differential opportunity theory.
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Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin’s differential opportunity theory states that in addition to the legitimate economic structure, there is an illegitimate opportunity structure that is unequally distributed across social classes. In order to reduce participation in that illegitimate economy, you have to raise the costs of participating in it. Two measures that do so are tougher sentencing laws and community policing.
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Explain why measuring changes in crime rates is not a straightforward process.
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It can be difficult to measure crime rates over time for a variety of reasons, including changes in how crimes are defined, fluctuations in whether people report crimes, and even, in the case of murders, improvements in medical technology.
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Explain deterrence theory as an approach to reducing crime and ways in which it may actually lead to more crime.
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Deterrence theory is a philosophy of criminal justice based on the notion that crime results from a rational calculation of its costs and benefits. According to this theory, stiffer penalties, increased prison terms, and stricter parole guidelines, should thus help reduce crime. There are numerous unintended consequences of deterrence theory that may ultimately result in increased recidivism. Recidivism occurs when a person who has been involved in the criminal justice system reverts back to criminal behavior.
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Describe the connection between the roles people play in life and their self-identity and explain how being in a total institution can erode one’s sense of identity.
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While commitment to a total institution such as a prison or mental health institution is supposed to help an individual learn to function as a productive member of society, there are many aspects of total institutions that lead to the opposite result.
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Explain Michel Foucault’s theory of punishment and describe, according to Foucault, the various types of discipline to which people are subjected in everyday life.
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Michel Foucault argues that penal practices are indicative of how social control is exercised outside of prisons and that various modes of discipline are used in society at large to monitor, examine, and order our lives and behavior.
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Explain why there has been such a sharp increase in incarceration rates in the United States since the 1970s and the consequences of this mass incarceration.
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Since the 1970s, the pendulum seems to have swung from a more rehabilitative sense of justice to a more punitive one in the United States, as evidenced by historically high rates of incarceration. The consequences of this mass incarceration include staggering costs, the disenfranchisement of millions of former felons, and a disproportionately high rate of imprisonment for black males, which has a ripple effect throughout black communities.