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For example, in 1968, twin girls born to a mentally ill mother were put up for adoption, separated from each other, and raised in different households. The adoptive parents, and certainly the babies, did not realize the girls were one of five pairs of twins who were made subjects of a scientific study (Flam 2007).

In 2003, the two women, then age thirty-five, were reunited. Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein sat together in awe, feeling like they were looking into a mirror. Not only did they look alike but they also behaved alike, using the same hand gestures and facial expressions (Spratling 2007). Studies like these point to the genetic roots of our temperament and behavior.

Though genetics and hormones play an important role in human behavior, sociology’s larger concern is the effect society has on human behavior, the “nurture” side of the nature versus nurture debate. What race were the twins? From what social class were their parents? What about gender? Religion? All these factors affected the lives of the twins as much as their genetic makeup and are critical to consider as we look at life through the sociological lens.

The life of chris langan, the smartest man you’ve never heard of

Bouncer. Firefighter. Factory worker. Cowboy. Chris Langan spent the majority of his adult life just getting by with jobs like these. He had no college degree, few resources, and a past filled with much disappointment. Chris Langan also had an IQ of over 195, nearly 100 points higher than the average person (Brabham 2001). So why didn’t Chris become a neurosurgeon, professor, or aeronautical engineer? According to Macolm Gladwell (2008) in his book Outliers: The Story of Success , Chris didn’t possess the set of social skills necessary to succeed on such a high level—skills that aren’t innate but learned.

Gladwell looked to a recent study conducted by sociologist Annette Lareau in which she closely shadowed 12 families from various economic backgrounds and examined their parenting techniques. Parents from lower income families followed a strategy of “accomplishment of natural growth,” which is to say they let their children develop on their own with a large amount of independence; parents from higher-income families, however, “actively fostered and accessed a child’s talents, opinions, and skills” (Gladwell 2008). These parents were more likely to engage in analytical conversation, encourage active questioning of the establishment, and foster development of negotiation skills. The parents were also able to introduce their children to a wide range of activities, from sports to music to accelerated academic programs. When one middle-class child was denied entry to a gifted and talented program, the mother petitioned the school and arranged additional testing until her daughter was admitted. Lower-income parents, however, were more likely to unquestioningly obey authorities such as school boards. Their children were not being socialized to comfortably confront the system and speak up (Gladwell 2008).

What does this have to do with Chris Langan, deemed by some the smartest man in the world (Brabham 2001)? Chris was born in severe poverty, moving across the country with an abusive and alcoholic stepfather. His genius went largely unnoticed. After accepting a full scholarship to Reed College, he lost his funding after his mother failed to fill out necessary paperwork. Unable to successfully make his case to the administration, Chris, who had received straight A’s the previous semester, was given F’s on his transcript and forced to drop out. After he enrolled in Montana State, an administrator’s refusal to rearrange his class schedule left him unable to find the means necessary to travel the 16 miles to attend classes. What Chris had in brilliance, he lacked in practical intelligence, or what psychologist Robert Sternberg defines as “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect” (Sternberg et al. 2000). Such knowledge was never part of his socialization.

Chris gave up on school and began working an array of blue-collar jobs, pursuing his intellectual interests on the side. Though he’s recently garnered attention for his “Cognitive Theoretic Model of the Universe,” he remains weary of and resistant to the educational system.

As Gladwell concluded, “He’d had to make his way alone, and no one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses—ever makes it alone” (2008).

A portrait of twins wearing traditional hunting gear is shown.
Identical twins may look alike, but their differences can give us clues to the effects of socialization. (Photo courtesy of D. Flam/flickr)

Sociologists all recognize the importance of socialization for healthy individual and societal development. But how do scholars working in the three major theoretical paradigms approach this topic? Structural functionalists would say that socialization is essential to society, both because it trains members to operate successfully within it and because it perpetuates culture by transmitting it to new generations. Without socialization, a society’s culture would perish as members died off. A conflict theorist might argue that socialization reproduces inequality from generation to generation by conveying different expectations and norms to those with different social characteristics. For example, individuals are socialized differently by gender, social class, and race. As in Chris Langan's case, this creates different (unequal) opportunities. An interactionist studying socialization is concerned with face-to-face exchanges and symbolic communication. For example, dressing baby boys in blue and baby girls in pink is one small way we convey messages about differences in gender roles.

Summary

Socialization is important because it helps uphold societies and cultures; it is also a key part of individual development. Research demonstrates that who we are is affected by both nature (our genetic and hormonal makeup) and nurture (the social environment in which we are raised). Sociology is most concerned with the way that society’s influence affects our behavior patterns, made clear by the way behavior varies across class and gender.

Short answer

Why are twin studies an important way to learn about the relative effects of genetics and socialization on children? What questions about human development do you believe twin studies are best for answering? For what types of questions would twin studies not be as helpful?

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Why do you think that people like Chris Langan continue to have difficulty even after they are helped through societal systems? What is it they’ve missed that prevents them from functioning successfully in the social world?

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Further research

Learn more about five other sets of twins who grew up apart and discovered each other later in life at (External Link)

References

Brabham, Denis. 2001. “The Smart Guy.” Newsday , August 21. Retrieved January 31, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Flam, Faye. 2007. “Separated Twins Shed Light on Identity Issues.” The Philadelphia Inquirer , December 9. Retrieved January 31, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Gladwell, Malcolm. 2008. “The Trouble With Geniuses, Part 2.” Outliers: The Story of Success . New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Spratling, Cassandra. 2007. “Nature and Nurture.” Detroit Free Press . November 25. Retrieved January 31, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Sternberg, R.J., G.B. Forsythe, J. Hedlund, J. Horvath, S. Snook, W.M. Williams, R.K. Wagner, and E.L. Grigorenko. 2000. Practical Intelligence in Everyday Life . New York: Cambridge University Press.

Questions & Answers

please explain these theories of social change (Sociocultural evolution theory, cyclical theory, functionalist perspective theory and the Conflict theory)
Phiwa Reply
how to communicate with a group at clubhouse
Jeremy Reply
How do i answer this essay question : Analyze the assertion that crime and deviance are mere social construction
Memory Reply
crime and deviance are functional in society... keeping in mind not all deviance is criminal but all crime is deviance... case in point Rosa Parks and sitting on the bus... her deviant act was not deemed as a crime but it went against social norms and that deviant act brought about change
Andre
another example would be littering... think about when that became a statutory norm (law) in your country... before it was against the law it was a social norm not to litter, your garbage must be thrown in a bin and those who did otherwise were meet by ordinary social sanctions such as a frown...
Andre
littering as become a global problem and it was deemed necessary to make littering against the law so that the environment could not be polluted, and communities would be safer. drains would not be clogged up, rats and other pests won't find refuge, etc...
Andre
Thanks
Memory
who I understand types of worker,s
Raza
sociological imagination
Jonathan Reply
whatdoyoumeanbysociology
Manav Reply
sociology is the study of human behaviour in society. And human beings actions, reaction, participation in societies.
Syed
How sociologists study human behavior
Mohamed
poverty is a result of economic factors discuss
Brian Reply
Guys what is Sociological imagination?
Omark Reply
Sociological imagination postulated by C. Wright Mills is the ability for an individual or institution to situate personal troubles within an informed social framework. Successive Sociology scholars after CWM have employed the world to mean the kind of insight offered by Sociology and its relevance
Marvis
In everyday life. In a different light, Sociological imagination could be described as the understanding tnat social outcomes are shaped by social contexts, interactions, action and actors
Marvis
perspective in sociology
ali Reply
Can you tell me what is perspective in sociology?
Alina
way of looking at different social realities and proposing definitions of them
Hanief
Sociological perspective is the basic insight of sociology that human behavior is shaped by the social interaction that takes place within those groups..
Omark
Sorry bro, that wasn't for you...
Omark
sociological problem
Abdulrahman Reply
when a high school student gets teased by her basketball team for receiving an academic award,she is dealing with competing
ABENA Reply
more explanation on the emergency of sociology
Ubaida Reply
please can someone explain more on french revolution
Ubaida
Sociology emerged because of negative aspects of French Revolution: an era of emerging intellectuals and reason........
Rafiq
explain sociology in relation to science
Glory
what is sociology of education?
Aliyu Reply
sociology of education is the study of how public institutions and individual experiences affect the education and it's outcomes
Iqra
what is an apparent excluder?.
sani
kashmir
Iqra
m also from Kashmir and that does not change how iqra tried to define the sociology of education
Trending
How long you people have been studying sociology?
Trending
I have been preparing for UPSC and took sociology as optional... Despite the fact I was a chemistry student
Trending
I am not... I hve never been a KU student
Trending
no
Iqra
u need to read previous 10 yrs question papers..there are 600 questions..these questions will help u
Muxiru
take ua syllabus read every topic gvn on ua syllabus, practice previous year question papers ...
Iqra
download pdf
Muxiru
Any answer u need just write in google u will get the snswer
Major
Hi..Greetings...by the way will it be good to opt for Ku...or outside for Masters in Sociology
rameez
oll questions aur there related to sociology ...sociology is same in ku and other outside universities
Muxiru
i think it's same the thing is how much uh get the knowledge abt ua subject how much effort uh gv to learn things.... otherwise university ka kaam h degree dena thapa lgana 😁
Iqra
na ....but I feel unv. also matters like it's rank n tag during interviews...n also it...percentage various across boards n universities.n at the end of the day...it's percentage which determines much...not degrees or thabas only
rameez
n thank you for responding jazakallah Khair!
rameez
ku@top rank...joke of the year... though I hav learned frm here n thr it's abt it's distinguishing product
rameez
for any examination either for IAS India's top exam uh should have only 50% so dt uh could be eligible .... nothing matters if smth matters dt is hard work give ua best...
Iqra
Take Principles of soc. by C N Shanker Roa
Khushboo
iqra I feel KU is not good..but indeed the worthy colleagues are...will miss them badly n it sounds like killing inside
rameez
Take Principles of soc. by C N Shanker Roa
Khushboo
read every topic in depth
Khushboo
hihii rameez aa uh talking abt colleagues dea itz lyf n it's dynamic... itz ok keep in contact vd them 😊
Iqra
ya...IQra...I mean colleagues which one gets there.... and um here...coz smtimes I gets the feeling like um in contact wd some of them here!
rameez
I am a psychology student but in this semester we also study sociology soo please all of you will help me
Arxoo
okay
Arxoo
Good morning Friends.
MUBARAK
plz b specific n precise in getting the desired info,,For God sake dont stretch...Meharbani hgi
Hanief
can anybody explain to me the concept of social facts by Durkheim
Zubair
what is functionalism in anthropology
Elijah Reply
hi
Salamatu
hi
Lisa
What is functionalism in anthropology? Answer: A theoretical orientation in anthropology, developed by Bronislaw Malinowski. Functionalism is similar to Radcliffe-Brown's structural functionalism, in that it is holistic and posits that all cultural "traits" are functionally interrelated and for
Lisa
In adelphic polyandry forms of marriage, the children belongs to whome?
Haami Reply
the mother know his father
Usama
but it's not mentioned in options....the options were.... maternal uncle paternal uncle youngest brother & eldest brother
Haami
I think....children belongs to eldest brother... but not conformed yet..!!
Haami
ist child to elder brother 2nd child to younger.....
Iqra
pls can someone help me with the contributions of the following founding Fathers of sociology. Karl max Aguste Comte Emile dukhelin harbart spencia pls
Elijah
define the meaning of alienation
Delphina Reply
define the meaning of capitalism
Delphina
An economic system in vch businesses are run and owned for profit by individuals not by state
Iqra
sure
Elijah

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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