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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

hierarchy of science
Hemant Reply
mathematica,Stronomy,Physix,Chemistry,Biology and Sociology
yuusuf
hi
Twitch
anybody here?
Twitch
Are there social animals online to socialise?
Twitch
hmm
Twitch
at what range does sociology affect human character in terms of the learners
Gesture Reply
at what rate does economic factors affects human behavior
Aqnes
pls someone answer Agnes's question. I'm a year one student and I want to learn from u
Twitch
anybody online?
Twitch
am also a year one student
Aqnes
bounded rationality
Jane
thank you
Polli
at a higher rate because people will end up stealing property and committing crime as they fight for money. Money is an economic factor and can affect human behaviour. Some can end up being involved in prostitution because of money and that can also lead early pregnancy or unwanted pregnancies
Polli
what are economics factors that affects human behavior
Aqnes Reply
what is human evolution
sani Reply
importance of sociology to the student nurse
Ayeyi Reply
Define sociolisation, it's process and analyse different agents of sociolisation with relevant examples on each agent
Davies Reply
what are the consequences of schooling in view of norms of independence
Sitali Reply
social endurance
Olumide
what is the importance of durkhiem in sociology
Roselyn Reply
he analysis the role of human interaction and it's operation to explain, conceptualize and infer on social realities and the social representations.
Mary
what are the uses of culture
Folorunso Reply
Define society in relation to sociology
Tuxa Reply
society is a group of people who live same geographical area and has similar culture while sociology is the study society and how they interact.
yuusuf
origin of sociology
Ayshatrah
what is conflict theory, structural functionalism theory
Beene
what do sociologists study
Rachel Reply
The establishment; its economic system, education system, law, governance, society's behavior, society (in general), demographics, beliefs, cultures etc.
Leonard
aociologists study how society and people interact systematically and differencies of the world
yuusuf
they study group behaviour
owais
I have an assignment on sociology to interview people who have vulnerable diseases such as AIDS, Hepatitis, Cancer, Diabetes etc can someone advice me how to approach them because it's very difficult for me to do it
Mary Reply
Treat them with kindness like you would anyone else. No one likes to be treated with kid gloves - it's insulting and makes anyone feel marginalized. Do not approach them with piety (i.e., asking 'Are you okay?' with the slight head tilt). It's insulting and they will likely dismiss you immediately.
andi
treat them like you are a patient like also giving them motivational stories, play games with them
Great
sociological perspective
Davison Reply
When you are sick what should you do?You consult a physician likewise when the society is not functioning well what should the government do?Also consult a sociologist
Joseph Reply
hi where are you live mr joseph
Abdinasir
yes Abdinasir "in somalia"
yuusuf
and you
yuusuf
hy
nura
Hy is a for skin in Swedish.
Joakim
hi
yuusuf
Hi
Joakim
Hello everyone, who is from cameroon here because am tired with the 2 weeks ghost town here especially in North and South West region and I have not even done my sociology assignment I don't know were to start
Mary
hi everyone
Tariq
am new in this field I was given an assignment any one knows how to, need help
Davison
just give a tip of the assignment
Mary
Can you bring the assignment's question on board? if no than how one will know the assignment's question?
Emmanuel
who here for now?
Emmanuel
Is there anyone in here?
Emmanuel
how sociology affects in them adversity in age of globilization
mohamed
I leave in Nigeria
Joseph
hi
saad
Sociology affects people in many ways for instance, urban people's thought, life style, way of living is totally different than people live in rural areas. availability of Internet has impact on people because we spend leisure time with friends if we get time but now It's change due to internet.
saad
It depends on your geographic location, government, and what type of physician you are in need of. Always - regardless of where you reside - make certain that your doctor is aligned with an organization for physicians seeking higher ethical standards.
andi
hi Great from Zimbabwe ....and I'm new in this field
Great
Am a Nigeria
Olumide
hai
Machila
Zambian,am new in the field
Davies
what is the relevance of sociology?
Love 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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