Sociology Terms Unit 2
culture Culture comes from the Latin cultus meaning “to care about.” During the time of Enlightenment, culture began to refer to a host of human endeavors. Today, it refers to the “ideas, practices and material objects associated with a particular group of people.”
society A specific territory inhabited by people who share a common culture. Most modern nations can be characterized by the term society. The United States’ society is often considered a multicultural or heterogeneous one while Japan, a country where near 99% of the population are ethnic Japanese, is considered a homogenous society.
instincts They are innate (unlearned) patterns of behavior. Instincts can include eating, procreation, the desire to fight and the need to communicate. However, a society is often measured by how far beyond the base instincts they go in addressing the needs of the group.
reflexes An automated reaction to physical stimulus. Sociologists have often worked to see whether they can mute reflexes or artificially re-create them, as Russian sociologist Ivan Pavlov attempted to do with his dogs. Reflexes could include crying when in pain, jerking a hand away from a hot surface or having a leg jump up when the knee is hit just right.
drives It refers to an impulse designed to reduce discomfort. When we are hungry, we are driven to eat. When tired, we are driven to sleep.
sociobiology The study of the biological basis of human behavior. Sociobiologists suggest that behavior that assist people are biologically based, such as education, friendship and reproduction. However, others say that such definitions have been used to classify various people as inferior, suggesting there are too many variables in society to suggest purely a biological causation.
symbols It is something that stands for or represents something else. Applause symbolizes approval, the flag symbolizes loyalty and a Coca-Cola sign triggers thirst signals, representing a nice, cool beverage.
hypothesis of linguistic relativity Based on the research of sociologists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, language reflects perception. The way our language describes something highlights how our society perceives that thing. The Inuit language has multiple words for snow, suggesting the importance of snow to their culture and their perspective. French does not have a word for fair but rather uses the term juste. This thinking encourages a group-think that fits with the French concept of all people being either French or not French.
norms These are the rules defining appropriate and inappropriate behavior. In the United States, the shaking of hands is appropriate as a form of greeting (a norm) while the slapping of a child for corrective purposes in public, while previously accepted, is no longer considered appropriate.
folkways These are norms of behavior and thinking that are not connected to any religious or moral standard of behavior. These are norms without the strong social expectation and therefore, breaking such folkways is not seen as terribly problematic. That is not to say that breaking some folkways will not cause problems. For example, for a man to not give up a seat to a woman, particularly an elderly or pregnant woman, will illicit disapproval.
mores These are norms that have a moral quality to them and should be followed by all members of a particular society. Whether it is the idea that able-body men should be working for a living or loudly using profanity when there are small children around, mores have a much stronger support and have a greater level of expectation.
taboo This is a rule of behavior, the violation of such would typically call for punishment by society. Taboos can range from the killing of a cow in India to the eating of pork by observant Jews and Muslims. It is said that the only universal taboo is incest, something condemned by all societies.
law This is a norm that is legally defined and enforced by members of a government. The law in Texas declares that one may not drive 80 m.p.h. through a school zone.
formal and informal sanctions There are two major forms of a sanction – the reward or punishment used to encourage people to adhere to norms in a society. Formal sanctions are imposed by those granted with special powers to do so. This can range from a president awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to a deserving soldier to a judge dictating that one pay for damages as a result of their behavior. Informal sanctions include those rewards and punishments that can be dealt out by most members of society. Thanking someone for helping move a car out of the way or staring at someone who is talking loudly in public on their phone.
values They are the broad ideas that people believe are beneficial to society. Values can include the belief in freedom or democracy, which can filter down to all levels and components of society, whether they deal directly with the political sense of these words or not.
material and nonmaterial culture Material culture can include cultural traits that are tangible such as a car, art or sporting equipment. Nonmaterial culture, therefore, includes those cultural traits that are not tangible, such as ideas, beliefs and knowledge. This can include Judaism, democracy or history.
beliefs These are the ideas about the nature of reality. A citizen of ancient China had the belief that their leader was ordained by God, given a “mandate from Heaven” to rule. Hindus believe that their spirit travels through several incarnations until they have reached a level of purity to escape reincarnation and enter paradise.
ideal and real culture An ideal culture is the cultural guidelines that people within a society claim to accept while real culture refers to those guidelines that societal members actually accept. In the United States, honesty is considered a valued virtue, treasured by all members of society. However, in a real sense, we as a society have turned a blind eye to dishonesty or have openly embraced those who were dishonest. The fact that, as a society, we do not always live up to our values, does not make ideal culture irrelevant but it does highlight a struggle that a society has in reinforcing certain behaviors.
social categories These are groups of people who share a social characteristic. These groups can range from women, to Catholics to baseball players.
subculture and counterculture A subculture is a group that is a part of the dominant culture but displays divergent behavior that separates them from the larger group. An example of a subculture might be a Mexican-American community or Chinese Mutual-Aid Society or musicians. A counterculture is a group that deliberately separates itself from the dominant culture, opposing its core values or central beliefs. Groups ranging from the beatniks of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s to the punk of the 1970s and the Goth crowd of recent years. Seldom is this a complete rejection of norms but simply the replacement of one norm for another.
ethnocentrism It refers to the tendency of judging others in terms of the standards of our own society. Unfortunately, Americans have done this often to groups including Africans, Native Americans, Asians and Arabs. Conversely, many cultures do the same with Americans.
cultural universals and particulars Cultural universals refer to general cultural traits found in every culture, such as sports, cooking, education and etiquette. They are the traits that unite us all as human beings. Cultural particulars are the ways in which a culture might express a universal trait. An American might care for their newborn child by the woman being constantly around them. However, among the Manus in New Guinea, it is the man who is in charge of child rearing.
socialization This is the process of learning to participate in a group. This skill is responsible, at the earliest of ages, for walking, talking and getting along with people. Unfortunately, there have been examples of children who have been isolated or ignored as a form of horrible abuse and in nearly all cases, functions such as walking and talking were greatly inhibited.
self-concept This term refers to the image on yourself as someone separate from other people. Young children learn this by the reactions adults have to their behavior. This idea is a key component to the theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism.
looking-glass self This term refers how one thinks of themselves based on what they believe others think of them. This symbolic interactionism idea is a three part process: 1. How do I appear to others? 2. What is the reaction of others to my appearance? 3. How do I judge myself based on how I perceive others view me?
significant others This term refers to those people whose reactions are the most important to one’s self-concept. This concept of symbolic interactionism is based on those whose opinions we trust the most – a parent, a friend, a sibling, etc.
role taking This term assumes the viewpoint of another person and using that perspective to dictate one’s actions and self-concept. Often, people will practice conversations if they are soon to be engaged in an important discussion. People do this to better consider how the other might respond and ultimately, so that we will be better prepared for the upcoming conversation. The ability to do this, according Herbert Mead, follows a three stage process – imitation stage, play stage and game stage.
imitation stageplay stagegame stage According to Herbert Mead, people develop the ability to role taking in three stages: Imitation stage – children begin to imitate behaviors without really understand what they are doing or why Play stage – children act in ways they imagine other people would Game stage – children anticipate the actions of others based on social rules
generalized other This term refers to the moment when people integrate the conception of norms and values of their society into their own behavior. The moment you learned that it is not a good idea to be honest or to be mean to someone else was the moment you integrated your behavior with the norms of your society.
“me” and “I” “Me” is the part of oneself that is developed through socialization. “I” is the part of oneself that is capable of unpredictable, unlearned, spontaneous actions. The way you are as a person (caring, sympathetic, driven, etc) is a part of “me.” However, when an otherwise nice person snaps at a person asking too many questions with, “GO AWAY”, then this is a component of the “I.”
hidden curriculum This is the informal and unofficial aspects of culture that children pick up at school. You learned earlier that it is the manifest functions of schools to teach and for students to gain knowledge. However, hidden curriculum refers to the latent functions where students learn to obey authority figures, respond appropriately to rewards and punishments and cooperation with fellow students and adults.
peer group This is a set of individuals of the same age and interests. Socialization tends to grow rapidly within one’s peer group. Such a group will also reinforce notions of values and beliefs.
mass media This refers to a means of communication that is designed and capable of reaching a large group of people. There has been a great deal of talk about the impact of the mass media on young people, particularly violent movies and video games as well as features that target other aspects of children’s personality or interests.
total institutionsdesocialization and resocialization These are the places where people are separated from society and under the control of an authority figure. Examples of such total institutions include mental facilities, hospitals and prisons. The purpose of these types of institutions are to break down (desocialization) and rebuilding (resocialization) the self-concept of the person. Hopefully, whatever landed a person into one of these institutions will be worked out of their system and change the person irrevocably.
anticipatory socialization This refers to the voluntary process of accepting a new set of values, norms, as well as attitudes and behaviors. People who go into a drug or alcohol rehabilitation centers is engaging in anticipatory socialization. Those who enter the military are, in some cases, attempting to do this.
reference group This term refers to the group whose norms and values are used as a guide to one’s own behavior – a group with whom one identifies.
social structure This refers to the underlying trends and patterns of relationships within a group. This can help us better integrate into a new group with our understanding of a particular social structure but a misguided or stereotypical viewpoint of social structure can also cause problems.
statusascribed and achieved status This is the position a person holds within a particular social structure. Status can be a product of effort or luck and is typically shown outwardly in one’s behavior or dress. There are two types of social statuses: ascribed – a position that was assigned to one without the basis of merit or choice achieved – a position that is earned or chosen
status set This is the combination of all the statuses a person holds at one time. A particular industrious student might fall in the category of brother, soccer player, a tutor, a trumpet player and a store clerk.
master status This refers to a position that tends to dominate or impact a person’s life and other statuses. In modern American society, people often identify themselves by their occupation and that identification could represent their master status. Others, such as new mothers, might put other aspects of their lives on hold to focus on their new responsibilities. This would refer to a master status as a mother.
role This term refers to the expected behavior that is generally associated with a particular status. One might expect a teacher to be serious about their subject and a teacher that does so is fulfilling a role.
rights This term refers to the behavior that people can expect from others. A patient can expect a doctor to attempt to diagnose their illness and a student can expect a teacher to know the information about which they are teaching.
obligations This term refers to a behavior that people are expected to perform toward others. Using the examples given in the previous slide, a patient has an obligation to be completely honest about their condition to help the doctor with his diagnosis. A student is obligated to study and try their best so that a teacher’s efforts can be fully realized.
role performance This is the actual behavior of one within a particular role. While the expected behavior of a teacher (role) would be that of a serious performer of their craft, a particularly funny teacher might break that mold with their role performance.
social interaction This is the process of influencing each other as people relate. This can be from the helpful (influencing friends within a group to improve their studying habits) or destructive (peer pressure that convinces one to take drugs).
role conflict and strain Role conflict is when the performance of one role interferes with the performance of another role. Teenagers are busy people, attempting to balance school, work, friends and family. For teenagers, role conflict is a daily occurrence. Role strain is a condition in which the roles of a single status are inconsistent or conflicting. As an athlete, there are many expectations and obligations that must be met and that can cause a great deal of role strain on the person.