Home » SOC 101 Week 5: Socialization

SOC 101 Week 5: Socialization

Introduction

Welcome to our fifth online lecture in the Introduction to Sociology course at the University of Maine at Augusta.  This week, we return for a student-requested review of sociological paradigms.  We review some of your recent classwork, revisiting standards for the collection of data.  I’ll share a video reviewing the creation of a website in Google Sites and showing you how to add elements like images and video to a web page.  In a consideration of the creation of social identity, a video uses the measure called concordance to assess how much power we should afford nature, and how much nurture trumps nature.  Finally, a quick how-to set of screen captures shows you the UMA Libraries’ wonderful tool for accessing articles.  This is the first week in which you must use the UMA Library system to obtain a required reading.

 

Review Part I: A Variety of Variables and Values

In a course activity for a previous week, I asked you to visit a parking lot and collect data involving one categorical variable and one numerical variable for at least 20 vehicles. Your task was then to enter the values of the variables into a database using the Google Sheets program that is available through your University of Maine student account.

One student had an interesting idea: to go to a parking lot with a Burger King restaurant in it and watch for the behavior exhibited by occupants of vehicles: did people in vehicles drive through the drive-through window, or did they enter the Burger King restaurant personally?

The student’s data, when entered into the Google Sheets spreadsheet program, looked like this:

Drive-Thru Lobby
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X

“Drive through” and “lobby” are given separate columns, as if they are separate variables.  But are they really separate variables?  I don’t think so.  Rather, these are two different possible values for the single variable how do people get food from Burger King!  A variable is some characteristic you can observe that takes on different values, and this kind of variable is categorical, consisting of values that are not numerical but instead represent different states, like “going through the drive-through” and “in the lobby.”

To finish our earlier Parking Lot Sociology activity well, a student should measure values for at least two variables, and describe the relationship between them (whether that is a positive relationship, a negative relationship, or no relationship).

The above student’s data could be re-imagined, consolidating the two values of a single variable into one column and adding a new (hypothetical) variable below:

How do People Get Food from Burger King? Did they Drive to the Burger King in a vehicle with Maine License Plates (“ME”) or Out of State License Plates (“Out of State”)?
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru Out of State
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru Out of State
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru Out of State
Drive-Thru ME
Drive-Thru Out of State
Lobby ME
Lobby Out of State
Lobby ME
Lobby ME
Lobby Out of State
Lobby Out of State
Lobby Out of State
Lobby ME
Lobby ME
Lobby Out of State

Now there are two variables to consider that might have a relationship.  What is the relationship between these variables?  How can you tell?  Think about it!

Review Part II: Thinking about Paradigms

Over the last week, a handful of students have to written me, worried that they may not have a full sense of the idea of sociological paradigms that we covered in Lecture 2.  These students asked me individually for clarification, but I thought it might be helpful to provide a general restatement under the hunch that where a few students are vocal about their confusion, there are probably a number more who feel the same way but who are silent.  This video uses the analogy of fictional stories to draw out the definition of “paradigm,” then thinks about how four different sociological paradigms — functionalism, conflict, symbolic interactionism and social network — might explain the subject of education differently:

Creating, Editing, and Sharing Websites in Google Sites

In class we’ve already held a workshop in a computer lab to discuss the use of Google Sites to create websites containing text information.  The video below reviews the steps you need to take to create a website, but also to add bulleted lists, links to other web pages, and images, too.  The video also describes how you can add multiple pages to your site and order those pages in a menu.  Take a look:

One feature that I don’t cover in the video, but that is nonetheless important, is sharing a web page between two authors. For those of you working in teams, such an ability is essential. Fortunately, co-authoring a website is easy in Google Sites. Just follow these two simple steps.

Step 1. Log in to Google Sites, click on the site you want to share, then find the “Sharing and Permissions” option in the “gear menu” for settings. The gear menu is found by clicking on the gear-shaped icon in the upper-right-hand corner of your Google Sites page:

Finding the Sharing and Permissions Link in Google Sites is as easy as clicking the Gear icon and looking down toward the bottom of options that pop up.

Step 2. Enter the e-mail address of your co-author in the available box, select the “Is Owner” option, and hit Send.

Google Sites: How to Share Authorship with someone: enter the e-mail of your co-author, select "Is Owner," and hit the "Send" button!

Congratulations! Now you and your co-author can work jointly on the same website.

The Social Construction of Reality

In the book You May Ask Yourself, sociologist Dalton Conley asserts that reality is socially constructed.  Social construction, says Conley, is a process by which “people give meaning or value to objects through social interactions” in “an ongoing process that is embedded in our everyday interactions.”  But what does that mean, you may ask?  What the heck is an “embedded process“?  How can people give meaning to objects?  Don’t they mean something all on their own?  Isn’t a tree a tree without people looking at it?

Social construction is a challenging concept, so let’s talk about it a little more and work though an example.  To say that reality is socially constructed is to say that the objects and actions we consider to be real are to a large extent given that reality through a process by which people imbue those objects and actions with social expectations, beliefs and values.  Remember our first course lecture, in which I spent a fair amount of time demonstrating?  Remember also the Thomas Theorem: if we define something as real, it will be real in its consequences. Social construction is the act of imbuing objects and actions with expectations, beliefs and values.  Those expectations, beliefs and values then shape how we interact with the object.

Take a football.  Now, does the football exist in a literal sense without social construction?  Well, the skin of a pig, and some fibers used for stitching, and some rubber, and some air exist without social constructions, sure.  But the thing we call a “football” does not exist meaningfully without the process of cultural formation in which we come to identify that pigskin as a “football” with all the expectations that come with football: helmets, sweat, (usually) masculinity, controlled violence, fields, autumn, tailgate parties, teams, competition, points, halftime, and on and on and on.  We do not understand the entirety “football” as a real thing unless we are socialized to believe it, with agents of socialization helping us to learn about and abide by all the norms, statuses and roles associated with football. Because families and schools and media socialize American children to believe in football, football remains real.  If that socialization stops, football will fade away.  That’s social construction of reality.

Nature or Nurture? Concordance in Social Behavior

Your readings for this week focus on the strong role socialization plays in shaping the sense we have of our “self” and the behavior we engage to express our “self.”  But is socialization all there is to the picture?  Added to the effect of nurture, do people have basically different natures, natures that they might have had since birth?  The video below jumps into the classic nature-nurture debate by considering some concordance data in twin and adoption studies.  In studies of various conditions and behaviors, the evidence suggests that nature exists as a considerable force, but the more social the behavior, the more that nurture trumps nature:

Finding a Reading in the UMA Library

This week, I’m asking you to find and read a journal article by sociologist Theodore Caplow from the American Journal of Sociology: “Rule enforcement without visible means: Christmas gift giving in Middletown.”  There are two “why?” questions you might ask about this assignment.  Why am I asking you to read Theodore Caplow’s article?  Why haven’t I simply made the article available to you by tacking it on to our course website?

Caplow’s article has to do with secret rules about Christmas in an American town, rules that you may recognize as real even though you’ve never considered them before.  The rules are so ubiquitous that you don’t notice them, much as you don’t notice the air you’ve been breathing all your life.  Caplow provides a number of an excellent examples of the sort of norm that surround Christmas; the “Tree Rule” being only the first of many:

“Married couples with children of any age should put up Christmas trees in their homes. Unmarried persons with no living children should not put up Christmas trees. Unmarried parents (widowed, divorced, or adoptive) may put up trees but are not required to do so.” (Caplow 1984: 1308)

Caplow asks a solid research question (Caplow 1984: 1308) having to do with : “How are the rules that appear to govern Christmas gift giving in Middletown communicated and enforced? There are no enforcement agents and little indignation against violators. Nevertheless, the level of participation is very high.”  Caplow concludes that gift giving has a language all its own, with intricate associated meanings that we are socialized to recognize and heed.  The language of gifts allows families to recognize the social structure that is already present:

“…the compound message that emerges from the unwrapping of gifts in the presence of the whole gathering allows more subtle meanings to be conveyed. It permits the husband to say to the wife ‘I value you more than my parents’ or the mother to say to the daughter-in-law ‘I value you as much as my son so long as you are married to him’ or the brother to say to the brother ‘I value you more than our absent brothers, but less than our parents and much less than my children.'” (Caplow 1984: 1321)

Toward the end of the article, Caplow considers the question of what happens to people who fail to heed the language of gift-giving.  How do others react to a person who breaches the norms involved?  Caplow provides an excellent model for studying the contours of a norm and discussing what happens when a norm is violated.  As you can see from our course syllabus, I expect you to carry out similar observation regarding a norm violation or the week’s activity.  I hope you draw from Caplow’s article for inspiration.

Why haven’t I made Caplow’s article directly available?  The answer is that I’d like you to practice the art of finding an article for yourself in a hidden gem of a resource available to all UMA students: a vast storehouse of academic work available through UMA OneSearch.  Literature searches are the bread-and-butter of good academic work in the 300-, 400-, and graduate-level courses, so you should start to practice that skill now.  To find the Caplow article, simply visit http://uma.edu/libraries.html and enter the title of Caplow’s article in the OneSearch bar:

How to Use UMA OneSearch, Step 1

To complete your search and obtain the full text of the needed article so you can read it, find the link that reads “Full Text Online”:

How to Use UMA OneSearch, Step 2

It’s that simple!  If you have trouble with this process, please let me know.

References

Caplow, Theodore. 1984. “Rule enforcement without visible means: Christmas gift giving in Middletown.” American journal of sociology 89(6): 1306-1323.

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Prof. Cook: As promised is my e-mail informing of my availability as far as meeting with you regarding computer lab’s (Making Websites)

    o Thursday 10/8/15…..After exam if convenient for you.
    o Please know I will avail myself to accommodate your schedule.

    Many thanks Prof. Cook.

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