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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

What is social thought? And the difference between social thought and sociological thought
onoja Reply
Please some one should explain this theories for me.. Functionalism,, conflict theory and symbolic interaction
onoja Reply
functionalism: interrelated parts designed to meet the biological and social needs of the individuals in that Society
Lisa
conflict Theory: the way inequalities contribute to social differences and perpetuate difference in power
Lisa
Symbolic: one to one interactions and communications
Lisa
Can this theories be criticise?
onoja
How can I have access to rural sociology lecture notes?
KIEH Reply
what is Karl max.
ALIYU Reply
karl Marx is a economist and he worked in sociology he proposed theory of communism
Zakir
communism said that Every member of society acquired equal rights means equal basic needs of life ...he said capitalism gain all the profits and worker remain in same situation they can't effort even his three times meals in a day
Zakir
What are the main tasks of Sociologist
Adamson Reply
Does a full Moon really trigger strange beh
Abubakar Reply
please does anyone doing Anthropology here. I need help on the notes
Pascal Reply
my course is a combination of sociology and anthropology. please I need some notes
Pascal
Actually am doing sociology
Abubakar
mmm ok I have a friend of mine who is offering Anthropology perhaps I will talk to him about the notes
Abubakar
where from u
BILAL
use your own reaearch and try to get your needs
yuusuf
Any body define Global implications nd technology
BILAL
hi
Elias
what are the differences and similarities between August Comte and Herbert Spencer theories? pls I need some response on that.
Elias
Hyy
BILAL
what are the advantages and disadvantages of multi​ culture
fazil Reply
hello
Pascal
hello
roamers
good morning from here
Pascal
morning
ram
good Morning
shoaib
please is there any way someone can have a private message here
Pascal
hii
fazil
hello
Pascal
hii
fazil
good morning pascal
fazil
hii
fazil
gd morning ram
fazil
plz try to answer the question above. don't say hi, helo and so on
yuusuf
Mr/Ms pascal there is no other option to have private massage here. try onother option to get private massages from here
yuusuf
trying to answer the advantage and disadvantage of multiculruralism. 1. The advantage is multethnic countries are home to majority of migrants a signifacant population of it being a highly educated skilled of workforces aroun the world.
yuusuf
2. Disadvantage may couse risk of social conflict occurs due to differences in relegios, beliefs, and practoces though ethnic retuals or certain weys of life that may couse rift between two or more groups.
yuusuf
more result plz References (Opinionfront.com)
yuusuf
How would you classify crimes like child abuse, human trafficking and domestic violence?
Omego Reply
I would say that these are very serious crimes especially because they hinge on the rights of human beings, therefore they would be classified as felonies. Felonies;are the most serious of crimes that one can commit.  
Douglas
what are the factors responsible for drug addiction using the theories of deviance
Cora Reply
parents are the first responsible for drugs addiction in our society today
Yakubu
what are the unique features of rural areas?
Gidion Reply
what is the positive influence of peer group on the adolescent
Nkolie Reply
i think the positive influence of peer group on the adolescent,overall is small but not big.
Ahsanul
yeah it more of the micro aspect towards positive behavior among peers on the adolescent
JOHNMIKE
Peer group makes a individual to know about the team work capabilities and also learns norms and values of society
roamers
explain problems of accommodation
Rank Reply
Explain the role of elites and type of elite theory
suleiman Reply
what statements are true according to sociologist Emile durkheim
Special Reply
hii
roamers
his perspective about suicide
Saidu
his perspective about division of Labour
roamers
founder of sociology and a significant figure in the feild of sociology. He was the functionalist.
shoaib

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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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