1. Describe life in Roseto.
2. What did Dr. Wolf set out to study originally?
3. What did he find instead?
4. Were the people aware of these effects? Explain.
In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell uses a sociological imagination to understand extreme success stories (aka Outliers). Using the introduction to understand sociology we see a few important ideas.
First, sociologists study how people are affected by their social groups. People are influenced by the groups they are a part of, whether it is family, a church, a town, etc. This often contradicts the idea that people are the sum total of their own individual genes and decisions. An important sociologist, C Wright Mills, calls this having a sociological imagination. He says that one must understand the history and the biography of an individual to understand who they are. That is, people are influenced by when and where they live.
Second, we see that sociologists do not simply make opinions or philosophical ideas, rather they make claims based on research and data.
Lastly, understanding sociology can change how we think about the world and who we are. For example, in this excerpt, one might change how he thinks about good health.
Do you see how the excerpt highlights these three ideas? Can you use your sociological imagination to think about your own life or your own troubles?
The rest of Gladwell's book uses a sociological imagination to explain extreme success stories. For example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs tremendous success and wealth stemming from the development of computers:
Gladwell describes how being born in the mid 1950s was particularly fortuitous for those interested in computer programming development (think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, both born in 1955). It also helped to be geographically near what were then called supercomputers, the gigantic predecessors to the thing on which you’re reading this post. Back in the 1960s, when Gates and Jobs were coming of age, a supercomputer took up a whole room and was not something most youngsters would have had a chance to see, let alone work on. But because of their proximity to actual computers, both Gates and Jobs had a leg up on others their age and had the chance to spend hours and hours (10,000 of them in Gladwell’s estimation) learning about programming.We can apply this model to more than just financial success. Think about what opportunities your own biography and history have afforded you. How has when, where, and to whom you were born shaped your life today?