Definitions: Starting Points Ch. 1 – 4

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Chapter 1

Sociology: the systematic study of social behaviour, or the study of society.

Society: the largest-scale human group, whose members interact with one another, share a common geographic territory, and share common institutions.

Macrosociology: the study of social institutions (for example, the Roman Catholic Church or marriage) and large social groups (for example, ethnic minorities or college students).

Microsociology: the study of the processes and patterns of personal interaction that take place among people within groups.

Sociological imagination: an approach to sociology that situates the personal experiences of individuals within the societal context in which these experiences occur.

SOCIAL INSTITUTION: one kind of social structure, made up of a number of relationships (i.e., stable patterns of meaningful orientations to one another). People use institutions to achieve their intended goals, as students use schools, or patients use hospitals.

Role: the expected pattern of interaction with others.

Interaction: the processes by which, and manner in which, social actors — people trying to meet each other’s expectations — relate to each other, especially in fact-to-face encounters.

Expectation: a shared idea about how people should carry out the duties attached to a particular status.

Chapter 2

Demography: the study of human populations — their growth and decline through births, deaths, and migration.

Environmental Geography: the systematic study of the interaction between humans and the surrounding natural world, focusing on the human impact on the environment and vice versa.

Human capital: a skill or skill set, usually including educational attainment or job-related experiences, that enhances a worker’s value on the job; the result of foregone income and a long-term investment in personal improvement.

Population composition: the makeup or mix of different social types in a population; for example, the different numbers of men and women, old and young people.

Population pyramid: a graphic depiction of the age-sex composition of a population.

Cohort: a set of people with a common origin or starting point; birth cohort — a set of people born in the same year or set of years.

Human geography: the systematic study of the location of human enterprises and characteristics; for example, health, education, commerce and trade; closely linked to other social sciences like sociology.

Megacity: a geographic locale with a large concentrated population, sometimes defined as exceeding 5 million people (also, megalopolis or megapolis).

Bedroom suburb: a residential area near a large city that provides housing and services for people who commute each day into the downtown urban area.

Chapter 3

Social script: guidelines that people follow to carry out interactions and fulfill role expectations as seamlessly as possible.

Role: the expected behaviour of an individual in a social position and the duties associated with that position.

Identity: all the ways in which we view and describe ourselves (female/male, friend, student, attractive, unusual, etc.) and in which others perceive us.

Looking-glass self: a process in which people come to see (and value) themselves as others see them.

Role-set: the collection of roles any individual plays.

Role-taking: the process in which we take on existing defined roles.

Symbol: a thing that stands for or represents something else, and provides a means of communication (e.g., through spoken words, written words, facial expressions, or body language).

Role-making: the process of creating new social roles in and through interaction.

Status: a person’s social position, which is associated with a role and its associated scripts.

Status sequence: the array of statuses we occupy over a lifetime, through which we pass in a socially recognizable order.

Role strain: a result of role conflict, when the demands of some roles conflict with the demands of others.

Chapter 4

Culture: our uniquely human environment. It includes all of the objects, artifacts, institutions, organizations, ideas, and beliefs that make up the social environment of human life.

Organizational culture: the way an organization has learned to deal with its environment; it includes norms and values that are subculturally distinct to the organization.

Values: socially shared conceptions of what a group or society considers good, right, and desirable.

Norms: the rules or expectations that serve as common guidelines for behaviour in daily life, telling us what kinds of behaviour are appropriate or inappropriate in specific social situations.

Folkways: norms based on popular habits and traditions, and ordinary usages and conventions of everyday life.

Mores: norms that carry moral significance. People believe that mores contribute to the general welfare and continuity of the group.

Taboos: powerful social beliefs that a particular act, food, place, etc. is totally repulsive and dangerous. Violation of the taboo is supposed to result in immediate punishment.

Material culture: the physical and technological aspects of people’s lives, including all the physical objects that members of a culture create and use.

Non-material culture: people’s values, beliefs, philosophies, conventions, and ideologies: in short, all the aspects of a culture that do not have a physical significance.

Signs: gestures, artifacts, or words that express or meaningfully represent something other than themselves.

Symbol: a sign whose relationship with something else also expresses a value or evokes an emotion.

Ideal culture: that aspect of culture that lives only in people’s minds. It is the set of values people claim to believe in, profess openly, hold up for worship and adoration, and in day-to-day life pay “lip service” to.

Cultural integration: the process whereby parts of a culture (for example, ideal culture and real culture) come to fit together and complement one another.

Ethnocentrism: the tendency to use one’s own culture as a basis for evaluating other cultures.

High culture: the set of preferences, tastes, and norms that are characteristic of, or supported by, high-status groups, including fine arts, classical music, ballet, and other “highbrow” concerns.

Popular (or mass) culture: the culture of ordinary people. It includes those objects, preferences, and tastes that are widespread in a society.

Cultural capital: a body of knowledge and interpersonal skills that helps people to get ahead socially, which often includes learning about and participating in high culture.

Counterculture: a subculture that rejects conventional norms and values and adopts alternative ones.

Subculture: a group that shares the cultural elements of a larger society but which also has its own distinctive values, beliefs, norms, style of dress, and behaviour patterns.

Cultural literacy: a solid knowledge of the traditional culture, which contains the building blocks of all communication and learning.

Real culture: the ways people dress, talk, act, relate, and think in everyday life, as distinct from their idealized proclaimed culture.


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