Sociology – Key Terms

the science that studies human society and social behavior
social interaction
how people relate to one another and influence each other’s behavior
an observable fact or event
sociological imagination
the ability to see the connection between the larger world and our personal lives
social sciences
related disciplines that study various aspects of past and present cultures
the comparative study of various aspects of past and present cultures
the social science that deals with the behavior and thinking or organisms
social psychology
the study of how an individual’s behavior and personality are affected by the social environment
the study of the choices people make in an

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effort to satisfy their wants and needs
political science
the examination of the organization and operation of governments
the study of past events
Social Darwinism
perspective that holds that societies evolve toward stability and perfection
the positive consequence that an element of society has for the maintenance of the social system
the empathetic understanding of the meanings others attach to their actions
ideal type
a description of the essential characteristics of some aspect of society
a systematic explanation of the relationships among phenomena
theoretical perspective
a general set of assumptions about the nature of phenomena
functionalist perspective
viewing society as a set of interrelated parts that work together to produce a stable social system
the negative consequence an element has for the stability of the social system
manifest function
the intended and recognized consequence of some element of society
latent function
the unintended and unrecognized consequence of an element of society
conflict perspective
theoretical perspective that focuses on those forces in society that promote competition and change
scientific information
a characteristic that can differ from one individual, group, or situation to another in a measurable way.
interactionist perspective
focus on how individuals interact with one another in society
symbolic interaction
interaction between people that takes place through the use of symbols
the sum of total behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and values that are characteristic of an individual
the transmission of genetic characteristics from parents to children
an unchanging biologically inherited behavior pattern
the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior
a capacity to learn a particular skill or acquire a particular body of knowledge
the interactive process through which individuals learn the basic skills, values, beliefs, and behavior patterns of the society.
our conscious awareness of possessing a distinct identity that separates us from other members of society
looking-glass self
the interactive process by which we develop an image of ourselves based on how we imagine we appear to others
role taking
forms the basis of the socialization process by allowing us to anticipate what others expect of us
significant others
the people closest to us
generalized other
internalized attitudes, expectations, and viewpoints of society
the unsocialized, spontaneous,self interested component of our personality and self-identity
that part of our identity that is aware of the expectations and attitudes of soceity, aka our socialized self
agents of socialization
the specific individuals, groups, and institutions that provide the situations in which socialization can occur
peer group
a primary group composed of individuals of roughly equal age and social characteristics
mass media
forms of communication that reach large audiences with no personal contact
total institution
a setting in which people are isolated from the rest of society for a set period of time and are subject to the control of officials of varied ranks
a break with past experiences and the learning of new values and norms
all the shared products of human groups including physical objects and beliefs, values, and behaviors shared by a group
material culture
the physical objects that people create
nonmaterial culture
abstract human creations
a group of mutually interdependent people who have organized in such a way as to share a common culture and feeling of unity
anything that stands for something else
the organization of written or spoken symbols into a standardized system
shared beliefs about what is good or bad, right or wrong, desriable or undesirable
the shared rules of conduct that tell people how to act in specific situations
norms that do not have great moral significance attached to them
norms that have great moral significance attached to them
a written rule of conduct that is enacted and enforced by the government
culture trait
an individual tool, act, or belief that is related to a particular situation or need
culture complex
a cluster of interrelated traits
culture pattern
the combination of a number of culture complexes into an interrelated whole
cultural universals
features common to all cultures
tendency to view ones own culture and group as superior
cultural relativism
the belief that cultures should be judged by their own standards
group with its own unique values, norms, and behaviors that exists within a larger culture
the subculture that emerges when a group rejects the values, norms, and practices of the larger society and replaces them with a new set of cultural patterns.
extreme self centerdness
the process by which a norm becomes a part of an individual’s personality, therby conditioning the individual to conform to society’s expectations
a reward or punishment used to enforce conformity to norms
positive sanction
when a sanction is in the form of a reward
formal sanction
a reward or punishment that is given by some formal organization or regulatory body, such as the government, the police, a corporation, or school
informal sanction
a spontaneous expression of approval or disapproval given by an individual or group
social control
the enforcing of norms through either internalization or sanctions
a system of beliefs or ideas that justifies some social, moral, religious, politiical, or economic interests held by a social group or by society.
social movement
a long-term conscious effort to promote or prevent social change
the knowledge and tools that people use to manipulate their environment for practical purposes
occurs when people recognize new uses for existing elements in the world or begin to understand them in new ways
occurs when people use existing knowledge to create something that did not previously exist
the process of spreading culture traits from one society to another
the blending of culturally distinct groups into a single group
cultural lag
a situation in which some aspects of the culture change less rapidly, or lag behind, other aspects of the same culture
the set of cultural characteristics that distinguishes one group from another group
ethnic group
individuals who share a common cultural background and a comon sense of identity
minority group
a category of people who share physical characteristics or cultural practices that result in the group being denied equal treatment
the denial of equal treatment to individuals based on their group membership
an unsupported generalization about a category of people
legal discrimination
discrimination upheld by law
institutionalized discrimination
discrimination that is an outgrowth of the structure of society
self-fulfilling prophecy
a prediction that results in behavior that makes the prediction come true
the belief that one’s own race or ethnic group is naturally superior to other races or ethnic groups
an oversimplified, exaggerated, or unfavorable generalization about a category of people
the practice of placing the blame for one’s troubles on an innocent individual or group
the blending of culturally distinct groups into a single group with common culture and identity
cultural pluralism
allowing each group within society to keep its unique cultural identity
the maintaining of control over a group through force
the ownership of one group of people by another group
the physical separation of a minority group from the dominant group
de jure segregation
segregation based on laws
de facto segregation
segregation based on informal norms
when the goal of extermination is the intentional destruction of the entire targeted group
white ethnics
collective reference to immigrants from the predominantly Catholic countries of Ireland, Itaylr, France, Poland, and Greece.
a category of people who share inherited physical characteristics and who are perceived by others as being a distinct group
behavior that violates significant social norms
a mark of social disgrace that sets the deviant apart from the rest of society
cultural transmission theory
theory that views deviance as a learned behavior transmitted through interaction with others
differential association
proportion of associations a person has with deviant vs. nondeviant individiuals
structural-strain theory
theory of deviant behavior that views deviance as the natural outgrowth of the values, norms, and structure of society
the situation that arises when the norms of society are unclear or are no longer applicable
control theory
theory of deviant behavior in which deviance is seen as a natural occurance and conformity as the result of social control
labeling theory
theory that focuses on how individuals come to be labeled as deviant
primary deviance
nonconformity that goes undetected by those in authority
secondary deviance
results int he individual being labeled as deviant and accepting the label as true
any act that is labeled as such by thsoe in authority is prohibited by law, and is punishable by government
white-collar crime
a crime that is committed by an individual or individuals of high social status in the course of their professional career
crime syndicate
a large-scale organization of professional criminals that controls some vice or business through violence or the threat of violence
plea bargaining
the process of legal negotiation that allows an accused person to plead guilty to a lesser charge in return for a lighter sentence
sanctions such as imprisonment, parole, and probation usd to punish
the term for repeated criminal behavior
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