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01.01 Introduction to Sociology

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Overview

  1. What is Sociology?
    1. Sociology is the systematic study of society. Sociologists study a wide variety of subjects ranging from small, one-to-one interactions to large interactions between nation-states.
  2. The Sociological Perspective
    1.  The sociological perspective is a particular point of view that sociologists adopt to help them understand and study our social worlds. The sociological perspective is all about seeing the influence of society in the everyday lives of individuals.
      1. Seeing the general in the particular
        1. This phrase is often used to help define the sociological perspective. It urges sociologists to try and see indiviidual behaviors and decisions as part of a broader, general pattern.
        2. As an example, if we look at global patterns of religion we see that the religious choices people make are heavily influenced by the culture in which they live. Individuals in the United States are most likely to grow up christian, not because christianity itself is innately more appealing to americans but because americans are more likely to be raised in a world where christianity is the dominant religion. Similarly, if someone is raised in India they are most likely to be Hindu.
        3. Global patterns of fertility also make this point. Women in Africa choose to have more children on average than other women around the world. This choice is not due to individual differences but rather to societal differences. Women in Africa typcially have few educational and career opportunities. Therefore, their lives are largely restricted to the home and this results in having more children than women around the world. If these same women lived in Europe or the United States, they would likely make very different choices about how many children to have.
      2. Seeing the strange in the familiar
        1. Another phrase that gets used to define the sociological perspective is “seeing the strange in the familiar”. This means trying to experience society as if it is your first time and everything is new. We do many behaviors because we view them as normal and common sense. But why are these behaviors normal and why are they common sense? In the United States we often shake hands as a greeting, whereas in other places people kiss on the cheek and elsewhere people bow as a greeting. Why are there such different patterns for interpersonal greetings? Viewing familiar behaviors in this strange manner helps us understand further how society shapes our behavior.
  3. Conclusions
    1. Sociology is the systematic study of society
    2. The sociological perspective is all about seeing the impact of society in the everyday lives of individuals
    3. Using the sociological perspective helps us understand how society shapes behavior

Reference Links

Video Transcript

Welcome in everyone. Today we are going to be talking about sociology.

So, to begin, we will simply define sociology and give you an idea of what separates sociology from other social sciences such as psychology. Then we will dig into the sociological perspective which is a particular point of view that sociologists use to guide their understand and study of our social world. We will finish with some main points and takeaways from today’s lecture.

So what is sociology? Well, sociology is the systematic study of society. And what is society? Society is a group of people who live in a defined area and share a culture. Sociologists study the way that our everyday lives are related to different parts of the society. Sociologists study a diverse range of societal parts including small groups, social inequalities on the basis of various social characteristics, institutions such as education & religion, population dynamics, and many other aspects of society as you will discover. Sociologists study of society encompasses everything from small, 1 to 1 personal interactions to the large, macro-level relationships between nation-states.

All social sciences employ a different perspective to help them understand human behavior. Psychology often starts by looking at human behavior as a product of individual variables such as personality characteristics. Economics often starts by examining human behavior from the perspective of economic costs and benefits. Central to sociology is the use of particular point of view called “the sociological perspective.” The sociological perspective is all about seeing the impact of society in the everyday lives of individuals. One way that the sociological perspective has been defined is as “seeing the general in the particular.” What this means is trying to understanding individual choices or decisions as part of a broader, more general pattern. Too illustrate, let me ask you a question. Are you religious? If so, what religion do you adhere to? And then perhaps the biggest question, why this religion over other religions?

What the sociological perspective allows us to understand is that our religious choice isn’t really an individual choice. None of us, regardless of our religious beliefs has sampled every single religion that exists and decided to go with the best one. Rather our religious beliefs are heavily determined by the society in which we live. If you are born in the U.S. you are most likely to be Christian because that is the dominant religion here. If you born in India, you are most likely to be Hindu. The central point is that society shapes everything we do and everything we believe. Even decisions that appear to be strictly individual such as what religion to believe in cannot escape in the influence of society. 

If you are still not with me, let’s look at another example. Whether you have kids, plan to have them in the future, or maybe don’t plan to have them, ask yourself how you came to that decision? Was it strictly an individual choice by you and a partner? When we look at global fertility rates, we can see that even the choice of how many kids to have is something that cannot escape the influence of society. As the map shows, fertility rates are particularly high in the majority of African countries relative to the rest of the world. Why is this? Is it because African women and families are born wanting more children than everyone else? No. The reason is that in many regions in African women are poorly educated and don’t have many opportunities to have a career outside the home. Thus for many women in Africa their entire life is centered around life at home and this results in having many children. If these women had more educational and career opportunities as women do in Europe and the United States, they would likely make very different decisions about how many children to have. Again, the point is that even very important decisions such as how many children to have are not choices that can escape the influence of the society in which you live.

There is one more phrase which is often used to help us understand the sociological perspective. Seeing the strange in the familiar is all about trying to experience society as if everything is new. It’s about trying to question why you do anything the way you do. Why do you talk differently to your friends than you do to your parents? Why do you put on different clothes when you are going out to eat than when you are curling up to watch a good movie at home? These are all familiar behaviors to us but the sociological perspective urges us to step-back, and question why we behave this way? Why do some people shake hands as a greeting while others kiss each other on the cheek and yet others choose to bow to one another? The sociological perspectives pushes us to see these normal and common sense behaviors in a strange light, and examine where these behaviors come from and why we seem to do them effortlessly and without thought. And again, this helps us to understand how society shapes our behavior.

Alright, let’s wrap things up here. Sociology is the systematic study of society. Sociologists use the sociological perspective to help them understand the connections between individual lives and society. If you are going to remember one thing from today remember this; using the sociological perspective helps us understand how society shapes behavior.

We love you guys! Go out and be your best self today! And as always, Happy Nursing!

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