Thursday, February 27, 2020

It's funny because we are ethnocentric!

Sociological Literacy:  Norms; Folkways, Mores, Taboos

Levine and Wolff published an article about different ways that social scientists researched time in various cultures.  See the article called Social Time here.

 Using the article, please answer these questions:

1. How did the author conduct research about time in the U.S. and Brazil?

2. What did he find?

3. How does language shape how people perceive/experience time?

4.  What other data did researchers use to study time around the world?

Here is more research about time around how time is socially constructed.

What are norms?

Norms are the shared expectations about behavior - the meaning applied to how we interact with a group of people.  Norms vary around the world.  One example of this is the norms centered around time, as in the article you read for homework.  How do people from different cultures think about time differently? What do they consider late or early?  These are norms.  Here is a list of norms from around the world.

Why are norms important? 

There are two important general lessons from norms:
  • When interacting with other cultures, recognizing norms is important because if we fail to acknowledge these differences, we run the risk of offending someone or even a whole culture of people.
  • Second, norms help us see that we have been shaped to behave a certain way;  they are an illustration that we are socialized by our nurture.  Norms an example of the shared meaning that we learn as we grow up.  
And this graphic explains varying norms from around the world.

Also for more humor on cultural differences, checkout these HSBC adds: Eels, personal space, wrong flower,

Sociological Literacy:  Different types of norms; folkways, mores, taboos

Example of a dinner with your family and significant other.

Norms that are less important are called folkways. Folkways are not crucial to the order of society and if you were to violate a folkway people would not necessarily judge you.  A folkway in the United States might be addressing adults by "Mr" or "Ms" or driving the speed limit.  A folkway at a dinner party might be not putting your elbows on the table.  Finally, a folkway at SHS might be showing up to class on time or

Mores (pronounce mor AYS) are norms important to the order of a society. If you violate them, it will cause a disruption in the social setting.  It is worth noting that these mores, although very important to the society, are not necessarily laws. Similar to the ideas of time being a social construct, they are just the way that people operate and even though they are not written into laws, they are important to the function of society.  The more of how to cross a street can be found in lots of videos on youtube.   Watch this video of an intersection in India and think about who has the right of way? There may not be a law about it, but those drivers know what they are doing.  Would an American know the more of how to cross the street?  Note how the person crossing the street is aware of the norms of traffic and so the pedestrian successfully crosses without getting hit.

When I was in Italy, it took me six days to figure out how to cross the street. There were scooters and cars swerving everywhere and honking. Every time I tried to cross the street, cars would screech to a stop and swear at me in Italian. Then I figured out how to do it.   Just walk a steady pace across the street and let them avoid you - and it worked!  This knowledge of how to cross the street is an important norm, what sociologists call a more. 

Crossing the street in Italy:

And a British explanation of Italian street crossing norms here.

Finally, the most serious norms are taboos.  Taboos are things that you do not even want to think about because it is embarrassing to even imagine it.  For example, look at this port-a-potty in Switzerland:

This port-a-potty was the creation of an artist in Switzerland.  Would you be able to use it?

It looks like this from the inside:

Would you be able to use a toilet if it looked like everyone could see you, even though you knew they could not?  This is a taboo because even though people could not see us, the mere thought of them seeing us would make us hesitant. In other words, simply thinking about doing this is embarrassing and so we don't want to even think about it.  Perhaps, that is why we have so many euphemisms for using the toilet: using the john, the restroom, the bathroom, the lavatory, the men's room, washroom, powder room?

Have you experienced a different set of norms from another culture either by traveling somewhere or by meeting a foreigner here in America? What was it like? Were there misunderstandings?
Something else that you might want to inquire about is another culture's norms;  where you would like to travel?  What are all of the norms you should know if you travel there?  Find out what unique norms exist in their culture. Here is a link to cultural etiquette around the world.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020


Guided Notes for this lesson are here.


Socialization is the process by which humans are influenced by their surroundings; how they learn culture and how they learn to think about who they are, their "self".  In the past, there was a debate about whether humans are more influenced by nature (biology/genes) or nurture (socialization/society).
Think about the ways trees grow because of their nurture.  They are influenced by the light, soil and water.

Ash tree growing in Arlington Hts.
Typical Ash Tree.

Both of these ash trees start from ash tree seeds like the ones below. That is their nature which provides an aptitude.  The aptitude is the tree's potential for traits like height, branching, lifespan, etc...  But this aptitude is dependent on the nurture that the tree gets from it's environment.

I think it's easy to understand that a tree is affected by:

  • the light it receives
  • its surroundings like buildings and other trees
  • the soil composition
  • pollution
  • trucks driving by and scraping against branches
  • animals and insects nesting/affecting in the tree

However, Americans tend to look past the enormous effects of environment/nurture on other humans.  But humans are enormously impacted by their socialization/nurture including:

  • the culture they are born into.
  • the family that raises them
  • their school
  • their neighborhood
  • the peers around them

And, amazingly, for humans, this socialization (nurture) happens before birth!  One example of this is in identical twins who have the same exact DNA and biology.  Because they are exactly the same, nurses will often paint the nails of twins differently so that they can tell them apart.  But, often the parents of these twins can tell them apart from their earliest days because they have already started developing different personalities even before being born.

Another example of babies being socialized before birth is the prenatal experiences of the mother.  The effects of alcohol and drugs on unborn babies are one example of prenatal effects on unborn babies that are well documented.  Additionally, other examples are the effects of prenatal vitamins and stress on the mother.  But another example of socialization happening in utero is that babies are influenced by what mothers eat during their pregnancy.  One study shows that the amneotic fluid around the baby can take on the flavor and smell of certain foods or spices.  Babies show a correlation to those foods after being born.  See more about this study here.

In a more complex example, researchers have found the experiences that a grandmother has can affect the genes that she passes down to her grandchild!  In other words, the nurturing or socialization process that affects you, might start decades before you are even born!  This multigenerational effect on genes is known as epigenetics.   Here is a trailer for a show on NOVA that explores the connections between genes and social experiences. The researchers theorize that social experiences can affect the genes of a person and, more amazingly, these genes can be passed down to a generation or two. So the grandchildren may experience the effects of their grandparents' lives on their genes. How amazing is that? They call it the "ghost in your genes".

Don't let these mind-blowing examples complicate things for you. Here is the simple idea:

  • Nature provides a starting point or aptitude such as DNA and genes, then nurture (or your socialization) works with your nature to enhance it, repress it or change the nature to something else. The point is that both nature and nurture make us who we are.  If we do not have that nurture we cannot reach our higher power of consciousness and awareness.

Other evidence for the nature-nurture socialization process.

It is amazing to me that so much of what we take for granted as being human (part of our nature) is actually learned from our environment (nurture).

Isolated kids:

  • Danielle, found in 2004.

She had very little socialization from her mother who was later arrested.  Watch this video from the Oprah show which summarizes her initial finding and then updates how she is ten years later.   For more info on Danielle,

  • Genie, found in 1970.  

The video below is about a girl named Genie that was locked in a bedroom alone for 12 years of her life. Here is what Susan Curtiss wrote about her in her book, Genie; A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-Day Wild Child.
Here is a brief clip from a documentary about her story.
Genie was pitiful. Hardly ever having worn clothing, she did not react to temperature, either heat or cold. Never having eaten solid food, Genie did not know how to chew and had great difficulty in swallowing.  Having been strapped down and left sitting on a potty chair she could not stand erect, could not straighten her arms or legs, could not run hop, jump or climb.  In fact she could only walk with difficulty shuffling her feet and swaying from side to side. Hardly ever having seen more than a space of ten feet in front of her she had become nearsighted to exactly that distance....Surprisingly, however, Genie was alert and curious. She maintained good eye contact and...She was intensely eager for human contact. 
Feral Kids

Some people have been found to be living with wild (feral) animals.  These feral people provide more evidence that humans are influenced by their surroundings.  Check out this website for examples of feral children.
Here is video of one of the kids found in the wild with dogs.

Skeels and Dye

From Henslin's Sociology; A Down To Earth Approach, Skeels and Dye's study of institutionalized children (1939) and Skeels follow-up study in 1966 found that children given love, affection, stimulation and intimacy are able to be more independent, socially-attached, more successful adults later in life.  Look at the difference between the children that stayed behind at the orphange receiving proper care, but little stimulation, love and affection versus the children who went to a home where adults with special needs could show them love, attention, nurture and stimulation:

Institutionalized Children 
Orphanage 12                                  Home for Special Needs 13           __   
More functional at first                           More severely dysfunctional
Proper care, but no stimulation               Stimulation, play, challenge and affection
-30 IQ pts                                             +28 IQ pts
- avg. less than 3rd grade ed                 - avg. of 12th grade 5 complete 1+ years of college    
- 4 live in institutions                           -  all 13 were self-supporting or homemakers
- low level jobs                                     - 1 grad school
 - 2 marry                                              - 11 marry

Dr. Dean Ornish, research on relationships and health.

There is a power in our interaction with other people that is difficult to measure.
Dean Ornish M.D. writes about this force in his book, Love and Survival. Checkout the excerpt below:
Love and survival.
What do they have to do with each other?
This book is based on a simple but powerful idea: Our survival depends on the healing power of love, intimacy, and relationships. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. As individuals. As communities. As a country. As a culture. Perhaps even as a species....I have no intention of diminishing the power of diet and exercise or, for that matter, of drugs and surgery....As important as these are, I have found that perhaps the most powerful intervention-and the most meaningful for me and for most of the people with whom I work, including staff and patients--is the healing power of love and intimacy, and the emotional and spiritual transformation that often result from these.

In this book, I describe the increasing scientific evidence from my own research and from the studies of others that cause me to believe that love and intimacy are among the most powerful factors in health and illness, even though these ideas are largely ignored by the medical profession. As I review the extensive scientific literature that supports these ideas, I will describe the limitations of science to document and understand the full range of these implications--not only in our health and illness, but also in what often brings the most joy, value, and meaning to our lives. I give examples from my life and from the lives of friends, colleagues, and patients.

Medicine today tends to focus primarily on the physical and mechanistic: drugs and surgery, genes and germs, microbes and molecules. I am not aware of any other factor in medicine--not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness, and premature death from all causes.

Cholesterol, for example, is clearly related to the incidence of illness and premature death from heart disease and stroke. Those with the highest blood cholesterol levels may have a risk of heart attack several times greater than those with the lowest levels and lowering cholesterol levels will reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, cholesterol levels are not related to such diseases as complications during pregnancy and childbirth, the incidence of illness and premature death from infectious diseases, arthritis, ulcers, and so on, whereas loneliness and isolation may significantly increase the risk of all these. Something else is going on.

Smoking, diet, and exercise affect a wide variety of illnesses, but no one has shown that quitting smoking, exercising, or changing diet can double the length of survival in women with metastatic breast cancer, whereas the enhanced love and intimacy provided by weekly group support sessions has been shown to do just that, as I will describe in chapter 2. While genetics plays a role in most illnesses, the number of diseases in which our genes play a primary, causative role is relatively small. Genetic factors--even when combined with cholesterol levels and all of the known risk factors--account for no more than one-half the risk of heart disease.

Love and intimacy are at a root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing. If a new drug had the same impact, virtually every doctor in the country would be recommending it for their patients. It would be malpractice not to prescribe it--yet, with few exceptions, we doctors do not learn much about the healing power of love, intimacy, and transformation in our medical training. Rather, these ideas are often ignored or even denigrated.

It has become increasingly clear to even the most skeptical physicians why diet is important. Why exercise is important. Why stopping smoking is important. But love and intimacy? Opening your heart? And what is emotional and spiritual transformation?

I am a scientist. I believe in the value of science as a powerful means of gaining greater understanding of the world we live in. Science can help us sort out truth from fiction, hype from reality, what works from, what doesn't work, for whom, and under what circumstances. Although I respect the ways and power of science, I also understand its limitations as well. What is most meaningful often cannot be measured. What is verifiable may not necessarily be what is most important. As the British scientist Denis Burkitt once wrote, "Not everything that counts can be counted."

We may not yet have the tools to measure what is most meaningful to people, but the value of those experiences is not diminished by our inability to quantify them. We can listen, we can learn, and we can benefit greatly from those who have had these experiences. When we gather together to tell and listen to each other's stories, the sense of community and the recognition of shared experiences can be profoundly healing.

Examples of Socialization in Kids
Lastly, check out this post from the Society Pages, called the baby preacher.  It shows a young baby who is influenced to behave like a preacher even though he can't even talk yet!  This illustrates the socialization influence on kids that happens at a young age.  Here is a baby rapper video.  Here are two babies learning to converse.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Babies discussion; nature, nurture, culture and socialization.

HW Levine, Robert and Wolff, Ellen.  Social Time: The Heartbeat of Culture.  Psychology Today. 1985.          

Sociological literacy: culture shock
Culture can affect us emotionally. When we are exposed to a culture we have not been in, we can experience culture shock.

Applying sociology to the documentary Babies; student discussion:

What was an example of culture shock? From the movie? From your life?

One example of culture shock from my life was discovering the Japanese toilet. At first, the experience can be a culture shock as the traditional Japanese toilet is very different from ours. As we examine this toilet as well as other cultural components we must remember to be culturally relative. In other words, try not to be ethnocentric, but instead understand each culture from its own perspective.

What is the shared meaning behind the Japanese toilet?

Materially: what is it?

Non-materially: how to use it? Why use it?
In the case of the Japanese toilet, not only does it look and function differently from ours, but it also represents fundamentally different non-material culture. The Japanese are very germ conscious and they try hard not to spread germs. They also do not have a lot of furniture - they do not sit on furniture in their houses so why would they sit on a porcelain throne in a bathroom? And finally, they are used to sitting and squatting in positions difficult for westerners.

The Japanese do have a "Western style" toilet that is more like the toilet we are used to however, it still represents differences in both - its material and non-material culture.

In either case, the point is that there is nothing "natural" about culture. In other words, there are no weird ways of doing things that come quite natural to us. There are only different ways of doing things. And material culture, although physically different, often represents a different non-material culture, such as a different way of thinking about the world.

Sometimes we judge other cultures by our own standards. This is called ethnocentrism.

Instead, sociologists seek cultural relativity, or viewing a culture from it's own standards.

Applying cultural universals and human nature to Babies
  • What are examples of cultural universals in the documentary?
  • How are cultural universals an example of human nature and psychology?

Applying nurture and socialization to Babies
  • What are examples of cultural differences in the documentary? Are these differences material or nonmaterial?
  • What are the ways that these babies are influenced differently by their culture (socialization)?
Other questions to apply the movie Babies to social structure:
  • What is culture shock?  What scenes stood out to you as culture shock?
  • What is ethnocentrism?  What is an ethnocentric view of the movie?
  • Why is culture significant to socialization?  What are some ways that the babies might be influenced by their culture?  (Hypothesis accepted)
  • What is the relationship between nature and nurture?  
  • What is the sociological concept of the "self"?
  • What makes humans special?
  • What is innately human? 
  • What is human nature?

Monday, February 24, 2020

Starting Unit 3 - Social Structure

New Meditation

Loyola Dual Credit Enroll

Makeup Tests/ Self Assessments/Student Notes

New notes packet here - Please plan to turn it in at end of unit.
New readings packet here.
Unit 3:  Social Structure and the Individual

How are individuals shaped by society?

Sociological Literacy: 

  • Material v. nonmaterial culture
  • Nature and nurture
  • culture

Applying culture to a fishbowl

A metaphor for culture is a fishbowl. All of the stuff in the fishbowl is material culture. But what you can't see (the water) is just as important (if not more so): the ph value of the water, the temperature, whether it is salty or not, etc... This is called nonmaterial culture. Additionally, the fish has never known life out of water just like we have been surrounded by culture from the moment we are born.  And lastly, the fish must look through the water to see the world just as we always look through our culture to understand the world.  We are limited and shaped by our cultural experiences. If the water in the bowl is blue then the whole world looks blue to the fish.

Growing up in a fishbowl
I add a human to the fishbowl to add another dimension to this metaphor.  Like a fish surrounded by water, humans are surrounded by culture.  The idea is that to grow up from nature (being a baby ruled by emotions, instincts and training) to being a fully human adult (conscious and aware with a self), we need other people. As humans we were made to be social. Our nature - biology, our language, our dependency all make us social beings.

For more proof on how we are made to be social, checkout this link to see a story on 60 minutes about how we have an ability to interpret and remember human faces. So we are made to interact with other people and it is through other people that we become human and that we develop our potential. The process of this influence in sociology is called "socialization."