What are some examples of sociological concepts?

Some examples of sociological concepts include social stratification, social mobility, norms and values, social identity, and labelling. Topics such as these seek to examine how societies influence individuals and how individuals influence their societies.

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One of the sociological concepts that I have always found interesting in the courses I have taken is social stratification. In societies, an individual's access to wealth and income greatly influences their access to resources and opportunities. Those opportunities can be further impacted by factors such as an individual's race, gender, and religion. Those with the most wealth, and therefore the most opportunities, in American society are known as belonging to the upper class. Those who have the least wealth and income belong to the lower class, and there is a middle class who falls between those two extremes. Within this concept, we also discuss an individual's social mobility and the inflexible systems of stratification within some societies (such as those structured by caste systems).

Sociological concepts also include an examination of the way people function together in a society. Thus, it is common to examine the norms and values of any group and how people are expected to behave in within the group. Socialization is commonly studied as a means to determine how individuals are taught the behavioral expectations of a society.

An individual's social roles and social identity are also commonly studied. This is an examination of how an individual incorporates a variety of expectations which are determined by society and manipulates their behavior to meet those varied expectations. Thus, a 40-year-old woman may identify with all of the following social roles: wife, mother, engineer, sister, daughter, friend, community activist, volunteer, and politician.

Another interesting sociological concept is the idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy. This concept relies on how societies label individuals, sometimes from incredibly young ages. This concept states that sometimes people act as they are expected to act—as determined by a label—and the label thus becomes reality. For example, a child who is constantly labeled "shy" in front of others may hesitate to engage socially, and eventually this lack of interaction causes them to become a "shy," or withdrawn, adult. Conversely, if a child is constantly labeled "brave," they might actively choose actions requiring more courage, and repeating those behaviors helps him grow into a more confident and brave adult.

There are many topics to explore in the studies of how societies influence people and how people influence their societies.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 18, 2020
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Something that came up quite a bit in my sociology course was the idea of individualism compared to collectivism. In essence, collectivists are concerned with the goals, problems, and successes of the entire group (which may be a family, a sports team, a band, a workplace ... the possibilities are endless).

In contrast, individualists prioritize the goals, problems, and successes of the individual person. Individualists also tend to value uniqueness and independence, whereas collectivists usually value sharing and working together. These aspects of a person’s culture are typically very deeply ingrained to the point that they can’t imagine living any other way (or that they believe it would be undesirable to live another way). This ties in with ethnocentrism — the belief that one’s own culture is superior to other cultures. This kind of implicit bias is also an important sociological concept.

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A society is a system by which people of similar cultures are connected. Societies are organized and created by human beings for a variety of reasons. There are many examples of sociological concepts within our culture, including:

Social Organization

This refers to the overall makeup and working order of the society itself. In a healthy society, interconnection between all persons is crucial; otherwise, nothing would ever get done. All parties understand the importance of the individual in relation to the entire community.

Status

Status speaks to the role of the individual inside a community or society. People are awarded status based on a set of criteria that is important to that group. Status may be granted to religious figures, teachers, elders, parents, or others.

Role

A person's role in society is closely tied to status; those with higher status are expected to behave in certain ways, but it is customary for all members of a group to adhere to defined customs and behaviors.

Group

A group is at least two people who cooperate to achieve a shared goal. Those in groups know that they can rely on collaborators to have a shared sense of the importance of societal rules.

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Sociology is filled with all sorts of sociological concepts (ideas), covering a wide range of topics. Here are some examples to familiarize yourself with.

  • Norm: A norm is a specific expectation about how people should behave in society. Norms are agreed upon and understood by everyone in a society and relate to a wide range of behaviors. Not eating with your mouth open is an example of a social norm.
  • Value: Values are more abstract than norms, but, again, they relate to acceptable standards of behavior. Values are what a society aspires to be. Being tolerant of other religions is an example of a value in our society.
  • Culture: Culture describes the shared norms, values, and beliefs of a specific group of people. Culture is, therefore, a force that binds people together and unites them.
  • Gender: Gender refers to the cultural aspects of being male or female. It also relates to how society expects a male or female to behave.
  • Ethnicity: Ethnicity refers to the shared norms, values, and beliefs of a specific race of people.

For more sociological concepts, take a look at the reference link provided.

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Here are a few basic ones:

  • Sociological imagination.  This is something all good sociologists must have.  It is the ability to be able to think about everything from very personal subjects (sex and marriage, for example) to impersonal (globalization) and to see connections between the two.
  • Functionalism.  A major sociological theory that says that every aspect of our society (from family to poverty) exists because it has a function in keeping our society stable.
  • Conflict perspective.  A Marxist approach that says that most aspects of our society are brought about through conflict between different groups of people in society.
  • Interactionism.  A third approach that says that we interact with one another and our society based on the meaning we give to our actions and to the things we interact with.
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