Explain how sociological circumstances (race, ethnicity, gender, class, etc.) influence an individual’s perceptions of and reactions to the world.

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Circumstances like race, gender, socioeconomic status, and education are both individual lenses and intersectional lenses through which we view our experiences. Just as social institutions like families, schools, religious organizations, and governments socialize us to specific mores and values, so will other variables that dictate how we live our identities.

Sociologist Charles Cooley posited the "Looking-Glass Self" theory that suggests: how others see us is how we experience our reality. If we apply this theory to, for example, race, we can see how the circumstance of race informs experience. Race is a social construct, yet it is a powerful one. If a young black male grows up with expectations of male blackness reflected back to him through media, culture, and environment, he will form an identity based on what it means to be black and how others see black men. The young man will then act either in accordance with these expectations or consciously work against them. In either case, he is operating under the expectations reflected by others.

Let's also look at how Cooley's theory applies to gender. An excellent case study that confirms Cooley's theory is one that measured how media impacts behavior in young women. In the 1990s, sociologists surveyed women in Fiji about their body image and found that teenaged girls had very high self-esteem and positive body image in contrast to teenagers in the US. The researchers went back to survey these young women again after they had been exposed to three years of American television programs and found that the subjects' self-esteem had plummeted and eating disorders, virtually unheard of prior to the introduction of American television programs, met levels on par with those of American teens. In this case, the young women internalized the expectations for women represented in media and changed their behaviors because of it.

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