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What Is Sociology

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  • June 2012
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What is Sociology?
Sociology is the systematic study of social interaction at a variety of levels. Social interaction is the process by which we act toward and react to people around us.

Are You Unique?
Humans conform to expected and acceptable behavior even though individuals are different in many ways. We follow a variety of rules and customs about what we eat, how we drive, how we act in different social situations, and how we dress for work, classes, and leisure activities. Students who take the Everyone Knows Quiz often are surprised about the difference between facts and assumptions.

Isn't Sociology Just Common Sense?
No. Sociology goes beyond common sense in several ways:1. Common sense often distorts reality. For instance teens are not more likely to die in a car crash than other ages.

Common sense is often contradictory. For instance saying such as out of sight and out of mind hold little value for science.

Common sense perceptions change over time. Before the 1950s, U.S. Congressmen, some prominent sociologists, and influential journalists described European immigrants as feeble-minded, criminal, immoral, and good-for nothing. These widespread common sense notions changed only after some sociologists started challenging such attitudes in the 1960s.

Much of our common sense is based on myths and misconceptions.

The Sociological Imagination
The sociological imagination is the intersection between individual lives and larger social influences.

C. Wright Mills emphasized the connection between personal troubles (biography) and structural (public and historical) issues. For example, Mills argues that if only a few people are unemployed, that's a personal problem. However, if unemployment is widespread, it's a public problem because economic opportunities have collapsed and the problem requires solutions at the societal rather than at the individual level.

Microsociology: How People Affect Our Everyday Lives
Microsociology focuses...

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