Absolute poverty The condition of having too little income to
buy the necessities-- food, shelter, clothing, health care.
Achieved status A social position (status) obtained through an
individual's own talents and efforts.
Affirmative action The requirement that employers make special efforts
to recruits hire and promote qualified members of previously excluded groups
including women and minorities.
Aggregate A collection of unrelated people who do not know one another
but who may occupy a common space--for example, a crowd of people crossing a city
Agrarian societies Societies in which large scale cultivation using
plows and draft animals is the primary means of subsistence.
Alienation The separation or estrangement of individuals from
themselves and from others.
Amalgamation The biological as well as cultural assimilation (merging)
of racial or ethnic groups.
Anomalies In science observations or problems that cannot be explained
or solved in terms of a prevailing paradigm.
Anomie A breakdown or confusion in the norms, values, and culture of
a group or a society. A condition of relative normlessness.
Anomie theory The theory suggesting that deviance and crime occur when
there is an acute gap between cultural norms and goals and the socially
structured opportunities for individuals to achieve those goals.
Anticipatory socialization The process of taking on the attitudes
values and behaviors of a status or role one expects to occupy in the future.
Apartheid The recent policy of racial separation in South Africa
enforced by legal political and military power.
Ascribed status A social position (status) such as sex, race, and
social class that a person acquires at birth.
Assimilation The merging of minority and majority groups into one
group with a come mon culture and identity.
Association A group of people bound together by common goals and
rules, but not necessarily by close personal ties.
Athletics A form of sport that is closer to work than to play.
Authority Power regarded as legitimate.
Autocracy Rule or government concentrated in a single ruler or group
of leaders who are willing to use force to maintain control.
Baby boom The people who were born in the United States between 1946
and 1965. This group represented a sharp increase in birth rates and in the
absolute number of births compared to pre-1946 levels.
Bias The influence of a scientist's personal values and attitudes on
scientific observations and conclusions.
Bicultural The capacity to understand and function well in more than
one cultural group.
Birth rate Number of births per year per 1000 women 15 to 44 years
Bureaucracy A large-scale formal organization with centralized
authority, a hierarchical chain of command, explicit rules and procedures, and
an emphasis on formal positions rather than on persons.
Calling The idea in certain branches of ascetic Protestantism that one
can live acceptably to God by fulfilling the obligations imposed by one's secular
position in the world.
Capitalism A form of economic organization in which private
individuals accumulate and invest capital, own the means of production, and
Caste system A closed system of social stratification in which
prestige and social relationships are based on hereditary position at birth.
Centrally planned economy An economic system that includes public
ownership of or control over all productive resources and whose activity is
planned by the government.
Charisma The exceptional mystical or even supernatural quality of
personality attributed to a person by others. Literally, "the gift of grace."
Charismatic leader An individual who enlists the strong emotional
support of followers through personal and seemingly supernatural qualities.
Charter The capacity of certain schools to confer special rights on
Church A formally organized, institutionalized religious organization
with formal and traditional religious doctrine, beliefs, and practices.
City A relatively permanent settlement of large numbers of people who
do not grow or gather their own food.
Civil law The branch of law that deals largely with wrongs against the
Civil religion The interweaving of religious and political symbols in
Class Position in a social hierarchy based on prestige and/or property
Class conflict The struggle between competing classes, specifically
between the class that owns the means of production and the class or classes that
Class consciousness The sense of common class position and shared
interests held by members of a social class.
Class system A system of stratification based primarily on the unequal
ownership and control of economic resources.
Closed system In organizational theory, the degree to which an
organization is shut off from its environment.
Coercion A form of social interaction in which one is made to do
something through the use of social pressure, threats, or force.
Cognitive development The systematic improvement of intellectual
ability through a series of stages.
Cognitive development theory Suggests that individuals try to pattern
their lives and experiences to form a reasonably consistent picture of their
beliefs, actions, and values.
Cohort Persons who share something in common, usually being born in
the same year or time period.
Commitment Willingness of members of a group to do what is needed to
maintain the group.
Community A collection of people in a geographical area; may also
include the idea that the collection has a social structure and a sense of
community spirit or belonging.
Comparable worth A policy of equal pay for men and women doing similar
work, even if the jobs are labeled differently by sex.
Competition A goal-directed form of social interaction in which the
goals or objects pursued are limited, so not all competitors can attain them.
Competitive behavior is governed by rules and limitations (restraints) .
Complementary marriages Marriages in which husband and wife take
distinctly separate family roles.
Concentric-zone theory A theory of urban development holding that
cities grow around a central business district in concentric zones, with each
zone devoted to a different land use.
Concept A formal definition of what is being studied.
Conflict A form of social interaction involving direct struggle
between individuals or groups over commonly valued resources or goals. Differs
from competition because individuals are more interested in defeating an opponent
than in achieving a goal.
Conflict approach One of the major theoretical perspectives in
sociology: emphasizes the importance of unequal power and conflict in society.
Weberian conflict theorists stress inequality and conflict based on class,
status, power; Marxian theorists emphasize conflict and inequality based
on ownership of the means of production.
Conformity Going along with the norms or behaviors of a group.
Conjugal family A form of family organization centered around the
husband-wife relationship rather than around blood relationships.
Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA) A "supercity"
with more than one million people. There were 21 such cities in the United States
Contact hypothesis The theory that people of different racial groups
who became acquainted would be less prejudiced toward one another.
Contagion theory Le Bon's theory that the anonymity people feel in a
crowd makes them susceptible to the suggestions of fanatical leaders, and that
emotions can sweep through such a crowd like a virus.
Content analysis A research method used to describe and analyze in an
objective and systematic way the content of literature, speeches, or other media
presentations. The method helps to identify cultural themes or trends.
Content of socialization The ideas, beliefs, values, knowledge, and
so forth that are presented to people who are being socialized.
Contest mobility The educational pattern in which selection for
academic and university education is delayed and children compete throughout
their schooling for high positions.
Context of socialization The setting or arena within which
Continued subjugation The use of force and ideology by one group to
retain domination over another group.
Control group A group that is not exposed to the independent variable
of interest to a researcher but whose members' backgrounds and experience are
otherwise like those of the experimental group that is exposed to the independent
Controlling for In research, the effort to hold constant factors that
might be influencing observed changes in the dependent variable.
Convergence theory A theory suggesting that modernizing nations come
to resemble one another over time. In collective behavior, a theory suggesting
that certain crowds attract particular types of people, who may behave
Cooperation A form of social interaction involving collaborative
effort among people to achieve a common goal.
Cooptation A social process by which people who might otherwise
threaten the stability or existence of an organization are brought into the
leadership or policy-making structure of that organization.
Correlation An observed association between a change in the value of
one variable and a change in the value of another variable.
Counterculture A subculture whose norms and values sharply contradict
the dominant norms and values of the society in which it occurs.
Creationism A theory that sees all major types of living things,
including people, as having been made by the direct creative action of God in six
Credential The educational degree or certificate used to determine a
person's eligibility for a position.
Crime A behavior prohibited by law.
Criminal law Law enacted by recognized political authorities that
prohibits or requires certain behaviors.
Criteria for inferring causality Evidence that two variables are
correlated and that the hypothesized cause preceded the hypothesized effect in
time, as well as evidence eliminating rival hypotheses.
Crude birth rate The total number of live births per 1000 persons in
a population within a particular year.
Crude death rate The number of deaths per 1000 persons occurring
within a one-year period in a particular population.
Cult An organized group of people who together act out religious
feelings, attitudes, and relationships; may focus on an unusual form of worship
Cultural capital Symbolic wealth socially defined as worthy of being
sought and possessed.
Cultural change Modifications or transformations of a culture's
customs, values, ideas, or artifacts.
Cultural determinism The view that the nature of a society is shaped
primarily by the ideas and values of the people living in it.
Cultural division of labor A situation in which a person's place in
the occupational world is determined by his or her cultural markers (such as
Cultural imposition The forcing of members of one culture to adopt
the practices of another culture.
Cultural relativism The view that the customs and ideas of a
society must be viewed within the context of that society.
Cultural revolution The repudiation of many existing cultural elements
and the substitution of new ones.
Cultural universals Cultural features, such as the use of language,
shared by all human societies.
Culture The common heritage shared by the people of a society,
consisting of customs, values, language, ideas, and artifacts.
Culture lag The time difference between the introduction of material
innovations and resulting changes in cultural practices.
Culture of poverty A distinctive culture thought to develop among poor
people and characterized by failure to delay gratification, fatalism, and weak
family and community ties.
Culture pattern theory In the sociology of sport, a theory that
explains aggression and violence in sport as learned behavior that mirrors the
degree of aggression and violence in the society.
Cyclical theories Theories of social change suggesting that societies
follow a certain life course, from vigorous and innovative youth to more
materialistic maturity and then to decline.
Deduction Reasoning from the general to the specific.
Defining the situation The socially created perspective that people
apply to a situation.
Democracy A form of political organization in which power resides with
the people and is exercised by them.
Democratic-collective organization An organization in which authority
is placed in the group as a whole, rules are minimized, members have considerable
control over their work, and job differentiation is minimized.
Demographic transition The demographic change experienced in Western
Europe and North America since the industrial revolution in which the birth rate
has declined so that it is about equal to the death rate.
Demography The scientific study of population size, composition, and
distribution as well as patterns of change in those features.
Denomination One of a number of religious organizations in a society
with no official state church. Has some formal doctrines, beliefs, and practices,
but tolerates diverse religious views.
Dependency theory A theory about the place of developing nations in
the world economy suggesting that major industrial nations take advantage of the
cheap labor and raw materials of developing nations and hence are reluctant to
see them become industrialized.
Dependent variable The variable that occurs or changes in a patterned
way due to the presence of, or changes in, another variable or variables.
Descriptive study A research study whose goal is to describe the
social phenomena being studied.
Deskilling The process of breaking down jobs into less complex
segments that require less knowledge and judgment on the part of workers.
Deterrence theory The view that certain qualities of punishment-- such
as certainty, swiftness, and severity-- will help prevent others from committing
crimes that have been so punished.
Deviance Behaviors or characteristics that violate important social
Deviant career The regular pursuit of activities regarded by the
individual and by others as deviant.
Differential association A theory that attributes the existence of
deviant behavior to learning from friends or associates.
Differentiation, functional The division of labor or of social roles
within a society or an organization.
Differentiation, rank The unequal placement and evaluation of various
Diffusion The spread of inventions and discoveries from one group or
culture to another on a voluntary basis; a source of cultural change.
Discovery The uncovering of something that existed but was unknown;
a source of cultural change.
Discrimination The unequal and unfair treatment of individuals or
groups on the basis of some irrelevant characteristic, such as race, ethnicity,
religion, sex, or social class.
Division of labor The assignment of specialized tasks to various
members of a group, organization, community, or society.
Dominant status One social position that overshadows the other social
positions an individual occupies.
Domination The control of one group or individual by another.
Double standard A set of social norms that allows males greater
freedom of sexual expression, particularly before marriage, than females.
Dramaturgical analysis An approach to social situations developed by
Erving Goffman in which they are examined as though they were theatrical
Dual-career families Families in which both husband and wife have
Dual-career responsibilities The responsibilities of women who are
wives as well as workers often used to explain why women earn less.
Dual economy The conceptual division of the private sector of the
economy into monopoly (core) and competitive (periphery) sectors.
Dyad A group composed of two people.
Dysfunction Any consequence of a social system that disturbs or
hinders the integration, adjustment, or stability of the system.
Ecological paradigm A theory of land use and living patterns that
examines the interplay among economic functions, geographical factors,
demography, and the replacement of one group by another.
Ecological succession In urban sociology, the replacement of one group
by another over time.
Ecological view An approach to the study of culture or other social
phenomena that emphasizes the importance of examining climate, food and water
supplies, and existing enemies in the environments.
Ecology The scientific study of how organisms relate to one another
and to their environments.
Economic core The sector of the economy characterized by large,
generally very profitable, oligopolistic firms that are national or multinational
in scope; also called the monopoly sector.
Economic growth An increase in the amount of goods and services
produced with the same amount of labor and resources.
Economic institution The pattern of roles, norms, and activities
organized around the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and
services in a society.
Economic periphery The sector of the economy characterized by small,
local, barely profitable firms; also called the competitive sector.
Ecosystem A system formed by the interaction of a community of
organisms with its environment.
Education The process, in school or beyond, of transmitting a
society's knowledge, skills, values, and behaviors.
Egalitarian marriage A family in which husband and wife share equally
in family decision making.
Ego In Freudian theory, a concept referring to the conscious, rational
part of the personality structure, which mediates between the impulses of the id
and the rules of society.
Elderly dependency ratio The ratio between the number of the elderly
(65 and over) and the number of working-age people (ages 18 to 64).
Emergent norm theory A theory of collective behavior suggesting that
people move to form a shared definition of the situation in relatively normless
Emotion work An individual's effort to change an emotion or feeling
to one that seems to be more appropriate to a given situation.
Equilibrium In functionalist theory, the view that the parts of a
society fit together into a balanced whole.
Ethnic group A group that shares a common cultural tradition and sense
Ethnocentrism The tendency to see one's own culture as superior to all
Ethnography A detailed study based on actual observation of the way
of life of a human group or society.
Ethnomethodology The study of the methods used by individuals to
communicate and make sense of their everyday lives as members of society. Many
ethnomethodologists focus on the study of language and everyday conversation.
Evangelicalism A form of Protestantism that stresses the preaching of
the gospel of Jesus Christ, the validity of personal conversion, the Bible as the
basis for belief, and active preaching of the faith.
Evolutionary theories Theories of social change that see societies
as evolving from simpler forms to more complex ones. In biology, the theory that
living organisms develop new traits that may aid their adaptation or
Exchange A form of social interaction involving trade of tangibles
(objects) or intangibles (sentiments) between individuals.
Exchange theory An interpretive perspective that explains social
interaction on the basis of the exchange of various tangible or intangible social
Experiment A carefully controlled situation where the independent
variable is manipulated while everything else remains the same; the aim is to see
whether the dependent variable will change.
Experimental group In research, the group of individuals exposed to
the independent variable that is being introduced by the experimenter.
Explanatory study A research study with the goal of explaining how or
why things happen the way they do in the social world.
Expressive A type of role that involves the showing of emotional
feelings or preferences in interpersonal relationships.
Expressive leader A group leader whose role in the group is to help
maintain stability through joking, mediating conflicts, and otherwise reducing
Extended family A family in which relatives from several generations
Face-work A term used by Goffman to refer to the actions taken by
individuals to make their behavior appear consistent with the image they want to
Fads Striking behaviors that spread rapidly and that, even though
embraced enthusiastically, remain popular for only a short time.
Family Two or more persons who are related by blood, marriage,
adoption, or serious long-term commitment to each other, and who live together.
They usually form an economic unit, and adult members care for the dependent
Fashion A socially approved but temporary style of appearance or
Flow An experience of total involvement in one's present activity.
Folkways Social norms to which people generally conform, although they
receive little pressure to do so.
Formal organizations Highly structured groups with specific objectives
and usually clearly stated rules and regulations.
Formal sanction A social reward or punishment that is administered in
an organized, systematic way, such as receiving a diploma or getting a fine.
Functional approach A theoretical approach that analyzes social
phenomena in terms of their functions in a social system.
Functional equivalent A feature or process in society that has the
same function (consequence) as some other feature or process
Functions The consequences of social phenomena for other parts of
society or for society as a whole.
Fundamentalism A form of religious traditionalism characterized by the
literal interpretation of religious texts, a conception of an active
supernatural, and clear distinctions between sin and salvation.
Game A form of play involving competitive or cooperative interaction
in which the outcome is determined by physical skill, strength, strategy, or
Gemeinschaft A term used by Tonnies to describe a small, traditional,
community-centered society in which people have close, personal, face-to-face
relationships and value social relationships as ends in themselves.
Gender The traits and behaviors that are socially designated as
"masculine" or "feminine" in a particular society.
Gender differences Variations in the social positions, roles,
behaviors, attitudes, and personalities of men and women in a society.
Gender gap Differences in the way men and women vote.
Gender-role expectations People's beliefs about how men and women
Gender stratification The hierarchical ranking of men and women and
their roles in terms of unequal ownership, power, social control, prestige, and
Generalized other A general idea of the expectations, attitudes, and
values of a group or community.
Genocide The destruction of an entire population.
Gentrification The movement of middle-class and upper-middle-class
persons (usually white) into lower-income, sometimes minority urban areas.
Gesellschaft A term used by Tonnies to describe an urban industrial
society in which people have impersonal, formal, contractual, and specialized
relationships and tend to use social relationships as a means to an end.
Global economy An economy in which the economic life and health of one
nation depends on what happens in other nations.
Green revolution The improvement in agricultural production based on
higher-yielding grains and increased use of fertilizers, pesticides, and
Groups Collections of people who share some common goals and norms and
whose relationships are usually based on interactions.
Groupthink The tendency of individuals to follow the ideas or actions
of a group.
Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) Organizations that people pay
a fee to join in return for access to a range of health services.
Heterosexual A person whose preferred partner for erotic, emotional,
and sexual interaction is someone of the opposite sex.
Hierarchy The arrangement of positions in a rank order, with those
below reporting to those above.
Hispanics A general term referring to Spanish-speaking persons. It
includes many distinct ethnic groups.
Homosexual Someone who is emotionally, erotically, and physically
attracted to persons of his or her own sex.
Horizontal mobility Movement from one social status to another of
about equal rank in the social hierarchy.
Horticultural societies Societies in which the cultivation of plants
with hoes is the primary means of subsistence.
Hospice An organization designed to provide care and comfort for
terminally ill persons and their families.
Human-capital explanation The view that the earnings of different
workers vary because of differences in their education or experience.
Hunting and gathering societies Societies that obtain food by hunting
animals, fishing, and gathering fruits, nuts, and grains. These societies do not
plant crops or have domesticated animals.
Hybrid economy An economic system that blends features of both
centrally planned and capitalist (market) economies.
Hyperinflation Anextreme form of inflation.
Hypothesis A tentative statement asserting a relationship between one
factor and something else (based on theory, prior research, or general
Id In Freudian theory, a concept referring to the unconscious
instinctual impulses-- for instance, sexual or aggressive impulses.
Ideal values Values that people say are important to them, whether or
not their behavior supports those values.
Identification theories Views suggesting that children learn gender
roles by identifying with and copying the same-sex parent.
Ideology A system of ideas that reflects, rationalizes, and defends
the interests of those who believe in it.
Impression management A term used by Goffman to describe the efforts
of individuals to influence how others perceive them.
Incest Sexual intercourse with close family members.
Incest taboo The prohibition of sexual intercourse between fathers
and daughters, mothers and sons, and brothers and sisters.
Income The sum of money wages and salaries (earnings) plus income
other than earnings.
Independent variable The variable whose occurrence or change results
in the occurrence or change of another variable; the hypothesized cause of
Individualism A belief in individual rights and responsibilities.
Induction Reasoning from the particular to the general.
Industrialization The shift within a nation's economy from a primarily
agricultural base to a manufacturing base.
Industrialized societies Societies that rely on mechanized production,
rather than on human or animal labor, as the primary means of subsistence.
Inflation An increase in the supply of money in circulation that
exceeds the rate of economic growth, making money worth less in relation to the
goods and services it can buy.
Informal sanction A social reward or punishment that is given
informally through social interaction, such as an approving smile or a
Innovation The discovery or invention of new ideas, things, or
methods; a source of cultural change.
Instinct A genetically determined behavior triggered by specific
conditions or events.
Institution of science The social communities that share certain
theories and methods aimed at understanding the physical and social worlds.
Institutionalization of science The establishment of careers for
practicing scientists in major social institutions.
Institutionalized Social practices that have become established,
patterned, and predictable and that are supported by custom, tradition, and/or
Institutions The patterned and enduring roles, statuses, and norms
that have formed around successful strategies for meeting basic social needs.
Instrumental A type of role that involves problem-solving or
task-oriented behavior in group or interpersonal relationships.
Instrumental leader A group leader whose role is to keep the group's
attention directed to the task at hand.
Interest group A group of people who work to influence political
decisions affecting them.
Intergenerational mobility A vertical change of social status from one
generation to the next.
Interlocking directorates The practice of overlapping memberships on
corporate boards of directors.
Intermittent reinforcement In learning theory, the provision of a
reward sometimes but not always when a desired behavior is shown.
Internalization The process of taking social norms, roles, and values
into one's own mind.
Interpretive approach One of the major theoretical perspectives in
sociology; focuses on how individuals make sense of the world and react to the
symbolic meanings attached to social life.
Intragenerational mobility A vertical change of social status
experienced by an individual within his or her own lifetime.
Invention An innovation in material or nonmaterial culture, often
produced by combining existing cultural elements in new ways; a source of
"I" portion of the self In George Herbert Mead's view, the spontaneous
or impulsive portion of the self.
IQ (intelligence quotient) test A standardized set of questions or
problems designed to measure verbal and numerical knowledge and reasoning.
"Iron law of oligarchy" In Robert Michels' view, the idea that power
in an organization tends to become concentrated in the hands of a small group of
Keynesian economics The economic theory advanced by John Maynard
Keynes, which holds that government intervention, through deficit spending, may
be necessary to maintain high levels of employment.
Kinship Socially defined family relationships, including those based
on common parentage, marriage, or adoption.
Labeling theory A theory of deviance that focuses on the process by
which some people are labeled deviant by other people (and thus take on deviant
identities) rather than on the nature of the behavior itself.
Labor-market segmentation The existence of two or more distinct labor
markets, one of which is open only to individuals of a particular gender or
Laissez-faire economics The economic theory advanced by Adam Smith,
which holds that the economic system develops and functions best when left to
market forces, without government intervention.
Language Spoken or written symbols combined into a system and governed
Latent function The unintended and/or unrecognized function or
consequence of some thing or process in a social system.
Law The system of formalized rules established by political
authorities and backed by the power of the state for the purpose of controlling
or regulating social behavior.
Learning theory In psychology, the theory that specific human
behaviors are acquired or forgotten as a result of the rewards or punishments
associated with them.
Legal protection The protection of minority-group members through the
official policy of a governing unit.
Legitimate In reference to power, the sense by people in a situation
that those who are exercising power have the right to do so.
Lesbian A woman who is emotionally, erotically, and physically
attracted to other women.
Life chances The probabilities of an individual having access to or
failing to have access to various opportunities or difficulties in society.
Life course The biological and social sequence of birth, growing up,
maturity, aging, and death.
Life-course analysis An examination of the ways in which different
stages of life influence socialization and behavior.
Life expectancy The average years of life anticipated for people born
in a particular year.
Life-style Family, child-bearing, and educational attitudes and
practices; personal values; type of residence; consumer, political, and civic
Life table A statistical table that presents the death rate and life
expectancy of each of a series of age-sex categories for a particular
Line job A job that is part of the central operations of an
organization rather than one that provides support services for the operating
Lobbying The process of trying to influence political decisions so
they will be favorable to one's interests and goals.
Location In Kanter's view, a person's position in an organization with
respect to having control over decision making.
Looking-glass self The sense of self an individual derives from the
way others view and treat him or her.
Macro level An analysis of societies that focuses on large-scale
institutions, structures, and processes.
Magic According to Malinowski, "a practical art consisting of acts
which are only means to a definite end expected to follow."
Manifest function The intended function or consequence of some thing
or process in a social system.
Marriage A social institution that recognizes and approves the sexual
union of two or more individuals and includes a set of mutual rights and
Marriage rate Number of marriages in a year per 1000 single women 15
to 44 years old.
Marriage squeeze A situation in which the eligible individuals of one
sex outnumber the supply of potential marriage partners of the other sex.
Marxian approach A theory that uses the ideas of Karl Marx and
stresses the importance of class struggle centered around the social relations
of economic production.
Mass hysteria Widely felt fear and anxiety.
Mass media Widely disseminated forms of communication, such as books,
magazines, radio, television, and movies.