Introduction to Sociology (Foundations of Sociology Series)

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Introduction to sociology. Here is the outline we've been provided of all the topics you could be asked about on the MCAT and we're going to narrow in here on 9A. 9A, Social Structure is, you know, contains a variety of topics. The next couple videos, we're really just gonna looking at some of these theoretical concepts and this first video, just a few of the terms listed up here.

And before I go into further detail, I just wanna say a couple things about what a society even is. Sociologists study society, but what does the word mean? Does it mean a nation? Does it mean the entire human world? Does it refer to little secret societies with special handshakes?

We hear people say things like, today's society, fill in the blank. People use the term in vague ways. Sociologists have a more precise way of using the term, although it is still broad. A society is a group of people who share a somewhat distinct culture, live in a defined territory, feel some kind of unity as a group, and see themselves as distinct from other groups.

Therefore, the global population is not a society unless we're comparing ourselves to aliens. And a special hand shake club only meets a few of these traits. It's pretty small in size to really constitute a society, and also is probably not likely to be bounded by geographical borders. A nation does approximate the concept of a society the best, although it's still not perfect because there are many different cultures within a given nation.

The primary analytic distinction within sociology is quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative sociologist calculate and analyze numbers, percentages and they often used survey data, whereas qualitative sociologist analyze holistic information on people's lived experiences, and that's usually through interviews and observational studies. There are sociologists who do both, but most specialize in one or the other.

And then another way of thinking about sociology is by scope. So here we have micro, meso, macro and they mean probably exactly what you'd guess they mean. But there are few subtleties in terms of how they're used, and I want to make sure you know those. So micro level sociologists are people who research perception, emotion, communication within individuals, dyads, small groups, and it often overlaps a lot with psychology.

Meso-sociologists research interactions and events that occur within organizations and communities and is usually that not always within a particular bounded time frame. And so that overlaps a lot with history and journalism, there's kind of a reporting quality to what meso-sociology studies often look like, once they're written up.

And then on the other side, we've got macro-sociologists who research, could be entire nations, or large scale institutions, structures, processes and this overlaps with the work that economists and political scientists might do. So, let's look at an example. How might micro, meso, and macro sociologists study human behavior in relation to environmentalism?

Well, at the micro level, sociologists might study People's recycling behaviors, maybe through interviews or just observations. And meso-level sociologists might study how stakeholders influence environmental policies. For instance, climate change and the 2015 Paris Agreement, a sociologist could observe or get transcripts from a series of meetings that were held among, I mean, in this case, maybe the UNFCCC members, and they might look how those meetings provoked the ensuing negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement and its ratification by many nations.

A macrosociologist might study the relationship between a nation's level of industry, operationalized here by per capita income, and environmental degradation, and that might be operationalized and measured in terms of maybe annual rates of fuel consumption, or fertility rates. This has been theorized through a model known as the Kuznets Curve.

And when I say this, I mean this particular example, not all of macrosociology. And the idea here is that as societies gain wealth, they produce more, which burdens the environment and once they're wealthy enough up here, factories begin to diminish and birth rates go down, and there's less burden on the environment at that point.

So it is a model, it's been criticized by many people, partly cuz it's kind of simplistic and it describes some countries a lot better than others, and some periods of history better than others. But I'm including it here because I have seen the Kuznets Curve come up on practice MCAT exams, and so I wanted to introduce it to you. And the thing to know about Kuznets Curve is that it doesn't only apply to Environmental Degradation.

So, there's always some kind of like per-capita measure down here at the bottom but there are a lot of different measure on the Y-axis. The idea is that when countries meet their peak level of industrialization,T there tends to be a lot of chaos at that point of time. So a lot of change, often a lot of social instability, and this theory predicts that as societies move away from industrialization into more of a post-industrial economic system based on the service sector, based on informational production instead of manufacturing, that a lot of these chaotic dynamics start to die down.

Now it's important to know that the micro, macro distinction is unrelated to the actual number of people who are studied. So for instance, a study of how household errands are negotiated among members of 10,000 families would still be micro, because the unit analysis is a small group. Now let's try some practice.

A sociologist wants to study teen pregnancy rates in the US over time. So this research would most likely take the form of? Is it a quantitative study, qualitative study, micro-level analysis or meso analysis? So take a guess, pause the recording if you want to think this through a little bit.

An answer might have jumped out to you, but let's just go through the process of elimination. So we can eliminate micro and meso. Let's cross those ones off. Because the study is not looking at a small group or an organization, which would be meso, or an individual.

It's looking at rates of social trends. So it might seem like the unit of analysis is a teenage girl or woman, but the unit of analysis is actually a rate. It's a number, most likely it's a percentage, and it represents a portion of the entire population of teenage females. So then is it quantitative or qualitative?

It's definitely quantitative. We're looking at numbers and percentages. Next one, from 2009 to 2010, five suicides occurred in a high school in Palo Alto, California. A sociologist wants to study how social norms at that high school contributed to this wave of suicide contagion, as it's called.

So what type of research study would be most appropriate? We've got quant, meso, macro, or could it be that all three of these are equally appropriate? So take just a second, see if you can narrow in on one. Well, it is not quantitative. We're not measuring these five suicides, and we're not looking at suicide rates.

We're analyzing the relationship between social norms, which aren't measurable in precise numbers. We could try and operationalize them, and quantify them somehow. But they're not sheer numbers, they're concepts. Okay, so if it's not quantitative, then it can't be D, either. It's either meso or macro.

Well, nothing's happening at a huge institution or an entire nation. A high school is a smaller institution, it is an organization, which is meso. Plus it's this is following event that occurred within a particular time frame at a particular place, and that is very typical of meso-level sociology. So, thanks for watching and I'll talk to you soon.

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