Chapter 1

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I. Looking For Reality
A. Knowledge from Agreement Reality—as scientists, sociologists are able to accept as reality phenomenon they have not personally observed. However, scientific claims must rest on both theoretical and empirical support. 1. Ordinary human inquiry—people are naturally inquisitive, especially about what the future holds. Therefore, we often try to make predictions based on our own observations of the social world. Unfortunately, just because we can predict that X will cause Y, we may not be able to understand this relationship, which is a basic objective for sociologists. 2. Tradition—all cultures are infused with knowledge passed down from generations. This knowledge allows us to have a general understanding of how the world works, yet it also may prevent future inquiry if we think “we already know about that.” 3. Authority—in societies like ours, there are many individuals who can claim to be “experts” in various areas. While these experts can provide insight into our world, they are not infallible and therefore can occasionally hinder scientific inquiry. B. Errors in inquiry and some solutions—even when we rely upon our own observations of the world, we still often make mistakes as our observations are not always careful and systematic. 1. Inaccurate observations—because we rarely pay close attention to the world around, we often make mistakes when we try to recall our experiences. 2. Overgeneralization—this occurs when we draw general conclusions about specific events or people. Most refer to this as stereotyping. 3. Selective observation—in contrast to overgeneralization, selective observation occurs when we ignored phenomenon that does not fit into our basic beliefs about how the world works. 4. Illogical reasoning—we occasionally abandon logic when trying to explain the world; “the exception proves the rule” is the most common example.
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