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  • Explain concepts central to sociology
  • Understand how different sociological perspectives have developed
A photo of a large group of people all sitting on stadium benches
Sociologists learn about society as a whole while studying one-to-one and group interactions. (Photo courtesy of Gareth Williams/flickr)

What are society and culture?

Sociology is the study of groups and group interactions, societies and social interactions, from small and personal groups to very large groups. A group of people who live in a defined geographic area, who interact with one another, and who share a common culture is what sociologists call a society    . Sociologists study all aspects and levels of society. Sociologists working from the micro-level study small groups and individual interactions, while those using macro-level analysis look at trends among and between large groups and societies. For example, a micro-level study might look at the accepted rules of conversation in various groups such as among teenagers or business professionals. In contrast, a macro-level analysis might research the ways that language use has changed over time or in social media outlets.

The term culture    refers to the group’s shared practices, values, and beliefs. Culture encompasses a group’s way of life, from routine, everyday interactions to the most important parts of group members' lives. It includes everything produced by a society, including all of the social rules. Sociologists often study culture using the sociological imagination    , which pioneer sociologist C. Wright Mills described as an awareness of the relationship between a person’s behavior and experience and the wider culture that shaped the person’s choices and perceptions. It’s a way of seeing our own and other people’s behavior in relationship to history and social structure (1959).

One illustration of this is a person’s decision to marry. In the United States, this choice is heavily influenced by individual feelings; however, the social acceptability of marriage relative to the person’s circumstances also plays a part. Remember, though, that culture is a product of the people in a society; sociologists take care not to treat the concept of “culture” as though it were alive in its own right. Reification is an error of treating an abstract concept as though it has a real, material existence (Sahn 2013).

Studying patterns: how sociologists view society

All sociologists are interested in the experiences of individuals and how those experiences are shaped by interactions with social groups and society as a whole. To a sociologist, the personal decisions anindividual makes do not exist in a vacuum. Cultural patterns and social forces put pressure on people to select one choice over another. Sociologists try to identify these general patterns by examining the behavior of large groups of people living in the same society and experiencing the same societal pressures.

Changes in the U.S. family structure offer an example of patterns that sociologists are interested in studying. A “typical” family now is vastly different than in past decades when most U.S. families consisted of married parents living in a home with their unmarried children. The percent of unmarried couples, same-sex couples, single-parent and single-adult households is increasing, as well as is the number of expanded households, in which extended family members such as grandparents, cousins, or adult children live together in the family home (U.S. Census Bureau 2013).

Questions & Answers

how is sociology questions are set up
Linda Reply
how the sociology help to change people behaviour in society.
All Reply
And interaction of people culture
Aliyu Reply
what is socioty chang?
Rahim
define personality
Ndugu
society is where a group of people live and interact
Ndugu
sir with detail.
Rahim
it includes culture, that maybe religion, peoples beliefs, organizations ways of life and others
Ndugu
what is sociology
NICOLA Reply
it is the study of society or web of human intraction and relationship
Hope
sociology is the study of group or society, and how they interact
Abigail
wat is social change
Mumi Reply
Social change refers to the transformation of culture, behavior, social institutions, and social structure over time.
Baffa
the term social change has muti dimensions other words.it means change that takes place in society quantitatively and qualitatively .it is the alternative of not only the social structure but also the behavior and attitudes of the members of the society
Evelyn
refers to the transformation of culture
Abigail
what are the components of sociology
Beauty
is a human being a social product
Rukudzo Reply
how can sociological theories be beneficial when studying various groups in a society
Life Reply
what are the important of social stratification
HASSAN Reply
Social control Social interaction Employment Control poverty Social Institution's
Qamar
Hello
masimba
hi
NICOLA
Is sociology ur main programm?
masimba
Yes
NICOLA
what are the uses and application of sociology as a discipline
Nnenna Reply
for people to view themselves. as ahaving a place in the world in different groups by way of there interests and priorities in life
howard
thanks
Nnenna
do you have antropology books we badly need for our class discussion. Our topic is all about Variation in gender hierarchy.
Andrea Reply
no..
Khushboo
hlo
Tariq
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Khushboo
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Tariq
Kon ji
Shahzad
hii guys
Andrea
hello to you.
junil
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Altaf
that sounds really interesting
MJ
hi
Altaf
hello
Munni
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Munni
hii
Rima
yes
Jamuna
what is social change?
Sandra Reply
the nature of social change
Sandra
what is the nature of social change?
Gizzie
Social change is way human interactions and relationships transform cultural and social institutions over time .
example of social group ?
Maria
pressure group
Ann
chage in social structure called social change
Muhammad
sooner or later the course rural sociology be out of place
Bulama Reply
what are the effects of isolation to the development of social self?
Richard Reply
demonstrate the relevance of the knowledge of culture socialization to the nursing practice?
Richard
what are the key concept of socialization?
Richard Reply
gender roles
Onias
according to haralambus textbook of sociology, sociologist identified; high culture, folk culture, mass culture, popular culture, subculture and global culture as the types of culture. How legit is this?
Ojewande Reply

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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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