Chapter 5. Social Interaction and Social Structure. Social Interaction and Reality. Social Interaction : Sociologists use the term social interaction to refer to the ways in which people respond to one another , whether face to face or over the telephone or computer.
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Social Interaction and Social Structure
The distinctive characteristic of social interactions among people, according to Herbert Blumer, is that “human beings interpret or ‘define’ each other’s actions instead of merely reacting to each other’s action.’’
An ascribed status is “assigned” to a person by society
without regard for the person’s unique talents or characteristics.
Generally, this assignment takes place at birth; thus, a person’s
racial background, gender, and age are all considered ascribed
statuses. Unlike ascribed statuses, an achieved status is
attained by a person largely through his or her own effort. One
must do something to acquire an achieved status— go to
school, learn a skill, establish a friendship, or invent a new
A master status is a status that dominates others
and thereby determines a person’s general
position within society.
A social role is a set of expectations for people who occupy a given social position or status.
It occurs when incompatible expectations arise from two or more social positions held by the same person.
Describe difficulties that result from the differing demands and expectations associated with the same social position.
In sociological terms, a group is any number of people with similar norms, values, and expectations who regularly and consciously interact. Groups play a vital part in a society’s social structure. Much of our social interaction takes place within groups and is influenced by their norms and sanctions.
One way to understand social institutions is to see how they fulfill essential functions. Social scientists have identified five major tasks, or functional prerequisites, that a society or relatively permanent group must accomplish if it is to survive. These are:
(4) preserving order – a critical function of every group or society is: preserving order and protecting itself from attack.
(5) providing and maintaining a sense of purpose – people must feel motivated to continue as members of a society in order to fulfill the previous four requirements.
While both the functionalist and the conflict perspectives agree that social institutions are organized to meet basic social needs, conflict theorists object to the implication inherent in the functionalist view that the outcome is necessarily efficient and desirable. From a conflict perspective, major institutions help to maintain the privileges of the most powerful individuals and groups within a society, while contributing to the powerlessness of others. Social institutions also operate in gendered or racist environments, as conflict theorists, as well as feminists and interactionists, have pointed out. In schools, offices, and governmental institutions, assumptions are made about what people can do that reflect the sexism and racism of the larger society.
Interactionist theorists emphasize that our social behavior is conditioned by the roles and statuses that we accept, the groups to which we belong, and the institutions within which we function.
is a society whose economic system is engaged primarily in the processing and control of information. The main output of a post-industrial society is information and services rather than manufactured/material goods.