Cultural and Social Understanding
Shared knowledge: Language is just one example of how shared understanding
facilitates social interaction
Intersubjectivity: A common understanding between people about knowledge,
reality, or an experience
- People within a society share knowledge not just of their language but also of
norms, customs, historical references and other useful info. Common perspective
that enables them to understand how others see the world and allows society to
- Sociologists maintain that “reality” is what we learn from our society; in other
words, it is socially constructed. Not only do we take our definitions of reality for
granted so that we resist seeing society in all of its complexity, but these definitions
can also have very real consequences
Thomas theorem: W. I. Thomas helped to develop our thinking about the need for
people to interpret a social situation before they act. “If men define situations as
real, they are real in their consequences.” In other words, subjective interpretations
of reality have objective effects. If we are to understand how and why humans act
the way they do, we need to pay attention to how they define reality and how that
definition influences their behavior.
Stereotypes: Exaggerated, distorted or untrue generalizations about categories of
people that do not acknowledge individual variation. They’re shared definitions that
create a sense of reality and can have serious consequences.
Three steps to Constructing Reality: Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann
summarize the process by which people construct reality. They labeled the steps
1. Externalization: People create society through an ongoing process of
physical and mental activity. This complex process helps to ensure a stable
environment within which we can live. Become friends, spend time together,
interact that creates a special relationship
2. Objectivation: Through this process, social arrangements come to seem
objectively real; society appears separate from human creation and seems
natural, inevitable and out of people’s control. New friendship becomes
reality, call each other friend, others recognize it
3. Internalization: Complex process through which we learn our society’s
culture and establish our view of the world. Through this process, humans
come to be influenced by their own creations; they are social products.
Friendship influences you.
Status: Position in a social system that can be occupied by an individual
Status set: Collection of statuses that an individual holds
Status category: Status that people can hold in common, like a nurse, or father
Ascribed statuses: Those assigned to use from birth or assume later in life
regardless of wishes and abilities (race, teenager, widow). Determined by others.
Achieved statuses: Statuses we voluntarily attain as results of our own efforts.
Status Hierarchy: Ranking of social positions according to their perceived prestige
or honor Master status: Social position that is overwhelmingly significant, powerfully
influences a person’s social experience, and typically overshadows all the other
social positions that person may occupy. Described race in the segregated south.
Role: Sets of expected behaviors that are associated with particular statuses
Role conflict: When the expectations associated with different roles clash. Ex. Boss
asks you to work extra hours but you have a big project to finish for school.
Role strain: When expectations associated with a single role compete with each
other. Teachers have to help/support students and evaluate them.
Dramaturgy: An approach to the study of social interaction that uses the metaphor
of social life as a theater. Goffman.
Arlie Hochschild: Developed the idea that certain interactions require us to project
an emotion that we may not feel. Flight attendants have to be nicer than normal, bill
collectors have to be meaner. Influential work called attention to the role of emotion
in the workplace.
Emotion work: The act of trying to change in degree or quality an emotion or
feeling. Often engage because of emotional rules. Can be stressful because you feel
Emotion rules: Social guidelines that direct how we want to try to feel. “You have
the right to feel angry” “You shouldn’t feel guilt