Understanding Social Behavior
Sociology – the study of human behavior and society – Focuses on groups but not individuals Sociologists study a broad range of phenomena
From small group interactions and the meaning of cultural symbols to large scale economic shifts Micro- vs. Macro- Sociology
Connection between the individual and society
The “Sociological Imagination”
C. Wright Mills, “The sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society.” To view our individual lives in the context of large, powerful, historically conditioned social forces The Individual vs. Social Structures
How do we usually explain one’s behavior?
Going to war – prove patriotism, among other reasons
Divorce – no passion, to develop potential partner
College students’ suicide – to escape depression
How should we explain group behavior?
Going to war – society teaches us to be patriotic
Divorce – social trend towards sexual equality
Suicide – pervasive societal expectations of academic performance What is a social structure?
Patterns of social relationships
Groups/Society Individual Behavior
Groups and society shape individual behavior
Individual behavior creates groups and society
Going to college – your personal decision?
Joining a gang – a social act providing some young men and women with a sense of security Sociologists Focus on…
The individual or the group?
Individual behavior or patterns of group behavior?
Personal motivation or social forces?
The effect social structures have on people or the effect people have on social structure? Sociological Theories
What does a theory do?
It explains reality
Each theory provides a framework for interpreting sociological observations The three dominant sociological theories
Symbolic Interactionism (e.g. George Simmel, George Herbert Mead) Functionalism (e.g. Emile Durkheim)
Conflict Theory (e.g. Karl Marx)
1. Symbolic Interactionism
Symbol refers to the meanings associated with people, objects and events How we construct meanings; use symbols to communicate with each other; the foundation of our social world 1.1. Everyone has a self that allows us to discuss and reflect on our actions 1.2. We construct meanings, based on which we act
1.3. We understand and anticipate others’ reactions to our behavior We have to understand the symbolic world to understand people’s behavior 2. Functionalism
The society is made up of many parts, each fulfilling a certain function; interrelated When a part does not work, it becomes dysfunctional
3. Conflict Theory
Every group in society competes for a larger share of limited resources E.g. racial/ethnic; gender; class conflicts
Striving for changes
Other Social Science Fields
Anthropology – culture; most closely related to sociology
Psychology – development and function of mental – emotional processors in human beings (social psychology) Economics – the study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services (economic sociology) Political Science – organization, administration, history and theory of government (political sociology) How Sociologists Do Research
Types of Empirical Studies in Sociology
Quantitative vs. Qualitative
Difference in the methodologies of research
A Research Model (some steps may be skipped or combined)
Research Topic (broad)
Research Problem (specific)
Literature review (what other sociologists have found) and theory (in explaining findings) Hypothesis (based on literature; what you’d like to prove) Research method (how do you measure what you plan to study)
Data(need to be representative)
Discussion (explain your findings)
Types of Sociological Methods
Survey – interviews and questionnaires
Use of existing sources/secondary analysis
Documents (e.g. police documents)
Unobtrusive measures (can be unethical)
Field research (e.g. participant observation)
Ethics of Sociological...
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