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Soc 123 Introduction

Why conduct social
Understanding Sociological Mindfulness
Introduction to the significance of Social Research
Grasping the difference between perception and research data
Understanding the fundamentals of social science
The most ancient questions
What is real? How is one to know?
Wo/man on the street takes reality for granted
Philosopher - differentiates between valid and invalid assertions about the
Sociologist – acknowledges alternative/multiple realities in different contexts
Sociological Mindfulness
Not discovering the best rules for deciding what is true – there are no best
To better understand
how social reality is constructed
how people decide what is real and true
who has the power to decide what is real and true
how concepts can be redefined
Discussion Unit
Discuss news stories from the weeks following recent mass shootings in the
United States.
What claims are made in these stories about the causes of mass shootings?
What calls for change are made by victims’ families, politicians, experts, or
What policies are suggested to address mass shootings?
The focus on mass shootings
obscures over 99 percent of homicide victims and offenders in the United
leads to unproductive arguments about whether imposing sensible gun
controls would have deterred the undeterrable
obscures the real progress made in reducing the high rates of violence in the
United States
exaggerates the relatively modest correlation between mental illness and
Gun Violence
Our perception is that they are
increasing and we are all potential
Our mythology of gun violence is
that it is random. The reality is
that gun violence victimization is
socially structured.
Gun homicides have fallen
between 39 and 49 percent since
1993 and non-fatal crimes with
guns have fallen 70 percent.
America’s pattern of gun deaths is
split across black and white, with
the vast majority of whites dying
from suicide and a similar
proportion of blacks dying from
Teen Pregnancy
Research Shows:
Teen pregnancy was much higher
during the “good-old days” of the
1950s. Pregnant teens in the 1950s,
though, were more likely to be (or
become) married than pregnant
teens today.
According to the Guttmacher
Institute, teen pregnancy rates
began creeping up during the 1980s
and peaked at 116.9 pregnancies
for every 1,000 women aged 15-19
in 1990 before declining again.
Teen pregnancy increased again in
2006, but has declined to 71.5
pregnancies for every 1,000 women
aged 15-19. The birth rate is even
lower today and stands at 26.5 for
every 1,000 women aged 15-19.
Media Portrayals
Teen pregnancy is the subject of at
least two popular shows on MTV
(Teen Moms and 16 and
Pregnant are in their third seasons)
and is a major plot in the popular
show, Glee.
Teenage girls in Massachusetts
allegedly made a pregnancy pact
so that they could raise their
children together.
Teenage celebrities are having
babies (e.g., Jamie Lynn
Spears and Bristol Palin).
Movies focusing on pregnant teens
are also popular (e.g., Juno, The
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part
Even individuals who carry out jihadist
attacks, however, are sometimes American
citizens or longtime residents.
1. Social factors have no effect on suicide.
2. Since there was a steady increase in the number of births in the United States
between 1976 and 1982, the number of college students preparing to be teachers has increased
in anticipation of a teacher shortage in the 1990s.
3. Men engaging in occasional homosexual acts in the bathroom of a public park belong to
a highly visible homosexual subculture.
4. When a number of people observe an emergency, they are more likely to go to the aid of the victim
than when only one person is a witness (the "safety in numbers" principle)
5. Stress leads to higher IQ scores in children, since it stimulates them to live by their wits.
6. Religious beliefs are less important to Americans than they are to Europeans.
(Everyone knows Europeans are more traditional than Americans.)
Looking for Reality
Knowledge from Agreement Reality
 Assertions
must be both logical and empirical.
 Agreement
reality – those things we “know” as
part and parcel of the culture we share with
those around us.
ontology – What is reality?
epistemology – How do you know something?
methodology – How do you go about finding it out?
What is social research?
Pause before we say "everyone knows that...." Instead, we should ask: "What
evidence do we have for believing that to be true?" Social research is
concerned with how evidence is gathered and evaluated.
Social theory and research deal with what is and why it is that way in social
life, not with what should be.
Social theory and research assume there are patterns in social life.
rules, principles, and practices that guide the collection of evidence and the
conclusions drawn from it
Bias refers to the way the personal values and attitudes of scientists may
influence their observations or conclusions. Objectivity refers to the efforts
researchers make to minimize distortions in observation or interpretation due
to personal or social values.
Uses of Social Research
whether a school should be closed in a particular neighborhood
whether a university should be decentralized into mini colleges
how teachers should be trained
where a new manufacturing plant should be located
what type of work organization will maximize productivity and minimize
what new products should be developed
how services can be most effectively distributed
doctors nurses, and other health professionals can gain from research showing
ethnic differences in responses to pain and medication or research linking
social experience and disease
Human Inquiry
Prediction vs understanding
Sources of knowledge –observation
(first hand) vs. tradition and
authority (second hand)
Errors in Inquiry
Inaccurate Observations
Simple and complex measurement
Selective Observation
Large sample and Replication
Illogical reasoning
Specified number or type of
Conscious, logical reasoning
Foundations of Social Science
“obvious” truths?
Probabilistic patterns
Cultivation Theory - the more you watch the news, the more you have a
tendency to overestimate the crime rate
What’s Really Real?
The Premodern View – Things are as they seem.
The Modern View – Acknowledgement of human subjectivity.
The Postmodern View – There is no objective reality.
What’s Really Real
In modernist theory ‘truth’ is an
Positivism is an approach to the
social that maintains knowledge
can only be acquired through
value-free observations and the
use of proper scientific or
mathematical methodologies.
It is possible to distinguish
objectively between truth and
falsity such that we can
demonstrate that something is
‘true for all time’.
Postmodern anti-essentialism,
however, sees ‘truth’ as a socially
constructed category –
Nothing in the social world ‘exists’
outside of ideology and social
In other words, ‘truth’ is both
ideological(defined from a
particular viewpoint) and relative;
my truth may not necessarily be
your truth
Foundations of Social Science
Theory not philosophy/beliefs
Finding patterns
Probabilistic predictions
Aggregates not individuals
Variables and Attributes
Independent and dependent variables
Figure 1.5
1. Study examining if t.v. violence increases aggression in children.
2. Study predicting that alcohol drinking will decrease people's reaction time
while driving.
3. Study examining if perspective taking improves with age.
4. Study predicting that high school sports build character.
5. How do changes in work space affect employee reaction?
6. Study predicting that pedestrians will walk faster on hot days versus cold
7. Are younger siblings treated better by their parents than older siblings?
1. IV: tv violence
DV: children's aggression
2. IV: alcohol drinking
DV: people's reaction time while driving
3. IV: age
DV: perspective taking
4. IV: high school sports
DV: character
5. IV: changes in work space
DV: employee reaction
6. IV: temperature (hot vs. cold)
DV: tempo of pedestrian walking
7. IV: Sibling status (younger/older)
DV: treatment by parents
Purposes of Social Research
Exploratory – Mapping out a topic that may warrant further study later dispel misconceptions and focus research
Descriptive – empirical instead of speculation or impressions
Explanatory – providing reasons for a phenomenon, causal relationships
Inductive and Deductive Theory
Inductive- particular to general
Deductive – general to specific
Deductive Study
• In a study of US law enforcement responses to hate crimes, Ryan King
and colleagues (King, Messner, & Baller, 2009)King, R. D., Messner, S. F.,
& Baller, R. D. (2009). Contemporary hate crimes, law enforcement, and
the legacy of racial violence. American Sociological Review, 74, 291–315.
hypothesized that law enforcement’s response would be less vigorous in
areas of the country that had a stronger history of racial violence.
• The authors developed their hypothesis from their reading of prior
research and theories on the topic. Next, they tested the hypothesis by
analyzing data on states’ lynching histories and hate crime responses.
Overall, the authors found support for their hypothesis.
Katherine Allen, Christine Kaestle, and Abbie Goldberg’s study
(2011)Allen, K. R., Kaestle, C. E., & Goldberg, A. E. (2011). More than
just a punctuation mark: How boys and young men learn about
menstruation. Journal of Family Issues, 32, 129–156. of how boys and
young men learn about menstruation.
To understand this process, Allen and her colleagues analyzed the
written narratives of 23 young men in which the men described how
they learned about menstruation, what they thought of it when they
first learned about it, and what they think of it now.
• By looking for patterns across all 23 men’s narratives, the
researchers were able to develop a general theory of how boys and
young men learn about this aspect of girls’ and women’s biology.
They conclude that sisters play an important role in boys’ early
understanding of menstruation, that menstruation makes boys feel
somewhat separated from girls, and that as they enter young
adulthood and form romantic relationships, young men develop more
mature attitudes about menstruation.
Dialectics of Social Research
Explain one unique case
Many explanatory factors
Full explanation
Explain a class of events rather
than a single one
Few explanatory factors
Partial Explanation
small number of traits that account
for the basic structure of all
personalities and that individual
differences can be measured along
these dimensions.
The “big 5” are considered to be
extroversion, agreeableness,
conscientiousness, emotional
stability and openness to
Experiments. correlation,
psychometric testing and other
quantitative methods
unique dispositions based on life
experiences peculiar to ourselves.
These cannot be effectively
studied using standardized tests
Case studies, informal interviews,
unstructured observation and other
qualitative methods