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Social Science WGU

Terms to remember

case study A method of research consisting of a detailed, long-term investigation of a single social unit.
concept A generalized idea about people, objects, or processes that are related to one another; an abstract way of classifying things that are similar.
cross-section A survey of a broad spectrum of a population at a specific point in time.
ethical neutrality An attitude of the scientific method in the social sciences, requiring that scientists not pass moral judgment on their findings.
experiment A method of research in which the researcher controls and manipulates variables in one group to test the effects of an independent variable on a dependent variable.
hypothesis A tentative statement, in clearly defined terms, predicting a relationship between variables.
longitudinal A survey that continues over a long period,engaging in contrasts and comparisons.
objectivity A principle of the scientific method, especially in the social sciences, requiring researchers to divest themselves of personal attitudes, desires, beliefs, values, and tendencies when confronting their data.
participant observation A method of research in which researchers try to take part in the lives of the members of the group under analysis, sometimes without revealing their purposes.
population In the social sciences, a statistical concept referring to the totality of phenomena under investigation (e.g., all college students enrolled in four-year private universities).
research An aspect of scientific methodology that bolsters and complements theories. In the social sciences, four fundamental formats are used: the sample survey, the case study, the experiment, and participant observation.
sample survey A method of research consisting of an attempt to determine the occurrence of a particular act or opinion in a particular sample of people.
theory A set of concepts arranged so as to explain and/or predict possible and probable relationships.
variables Factors whose relationships researchers try to uncover; characteristics that differ (vary) in each individual case.
adaptation A process that intervenes to ensure that organisms achieve an adjustment to their environment that is beneficial.
Australopithecus A prehuman who lived from about 4.5 million to 1 million years ago. Some researchers maintain that this type of prehuman is not a direct ancestor of modern humans but rather is a contemporary of an upright-walking, meat-eating, large-brained species tha
chromosomes Carriers of genes, or the hereditary blueprints of organisms. Each human inherits a set of 23 chromosomes from each parent.
Cro-Magnon The closest predecessors or perhaps contemporaries of modern humans, who lived about 35,000 years ago. They were expert toolmakers and artists, and they lived in tribes that displayed evidence of rules and kinship systems.
directional selection Change in gene frequencies is promoted because an adaptation to a new environment is needed.
DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid. A complex biochemical substance that is the basic building block of life. It determines the inheritance of specific traits. estrus Period of sexual receptivity and ability to conceive.
evolution A theory that explains change in living organisms and variation within species. Evolution functions according to processes of natural selection, mutation, genetic drift, gene flow, and speciation.
gene flow The movement of genes from one gene pool to another. It results in new combinations of genes in the offspring.
gene frequency The proportion in which the various genes occur in an inbreeding population.
gene pool All of the genetic material available to a population to be inherited by the next generation
genes Hereditary units that transmit an individual's traits. They are contained in the chromosomes and made up of DNA.
genetic drift The fluctuations in frequencies of specific traits in a small, isolated population, so that visible differences between an isolated population and the population from which it broke away become obvious.
genetics The science of heredity.
hominids Prehuman creatures who walked on two feet.
Homo erectus The upright hominid thought to be a direct ancestor of modern humans.
Homo sapiens A species whose fossils date back 75,000 years (or perhaps 195,000 years) and includes Neanderthals. The species label for modern humans is Homo sapiens sapiens, whose fossils date back 30,000 years and include Cro-Magnon.
mutation A permanent change in genetic material.
natural selection A process of evolution in which random traits are tested for their survival value; the successful traits are passed on, while organisms possessing less successful traits eventually become extinct.
Neanderthal A subspecies of Homo sapiens (but some consider them hominids) whose fossil remains date from 70,000 to 35,000 years ago. They are known to have buried their dead.
phenotype The physical, or outward, appearance of an organism.
primates An order of mammals to which monkeys, apes, and humans belong.
Ramapithecus A hominoid having hominid-like features, dated between 14 and 8 million years ago.
stabilizing selection When natural selection promotes the status quo rather than change, because change would be detrimental to the organism's adaptation to its environment.
achieved status A position attained through individual effort or merit.
aggregate A number of people who are in the same place at the same time, but who do not interact with one another.
ascribed status An inherited position—one that is not attained through individual effort or merit.
bureaucracy The hierarchical system of administration prevailing within a formal organization. The hierarchy depends on job specialization, a set of rules and standards to promote uniformity, and an attitude of impersonal impartiality.
category (referring to people) A number of people who have some characteristics in common but who do not interact with one another.
competition A social process (form of interaction) that occurs when two or more individuals try to obtain possession of the same scarce object or intangible value using rules and limits.
conflict A social process (interaction) consisting of a hostile struggle in which two or more persons engage for an object or value that each prizes, possibly to the point of destruction.
cooperation A basic social process (interaction) involving two or more individuals or groups working jointly in a common enterprise for a shared goal.
dyad The smallest type of group, consisting of two members.
exchange A social process (interaction) consisting of a transaction in which one of two individuals—or groups or societies—does something for the other with the expectation of receiving something of equal value in return.
formal organizations Large-scale associations of people in which most of the activities of complex societies are handled. They are highly organized groups displaying a formal structure, a body of officers, the expectation of permanence, and a hierarchical organization of
Gemeinschaft A small, homogeneous, communal, and traditional society. Relationships among members are personal, informal, and face-to-face, and behavior is dictated by tradition.
Gesellschaft A large, heterogeneous society, typified by the modern industrial state. Relationships among members tend to be impersonal, formal, contractual, functional, and specialized. Also called an associational society.
group A number of people who engage in symbolic interaction; who are mutually aware of and influence one another; who recognize their membership in the group and are in turn recognized as members by the group; who are aware of the roles, duties, obligations
in-group Group to which the individual belongs and which confers on the individual a social identity.
organization A formal process that deliberately brings into existence a group of people to perform tasks directed at achieving a specific goal. It allows people who are unacquainted with each other to cooperate effectively on complex projects.
out-group Group to which others belong, excluding the individual defining group membership.
primary group A relatively small group of people who live physically near one another and who interact intensely. Characteristics include stability, relatively long duration, informal and spontaneous interaction, and individual, personal, and total types of dealings.
reference group A group providing individuals with standards against which to measure themselves.
role The carrying out of a status. A way of behaving that befits a status and is transmittable as well as fairly predictable.
secondary group A group that is in general larger and of shorter duration than a primary group. Interaction among members is formal, role-based, utilitarian, specialized, and temporary.
social organization The network of patterned human behavior that is the product of interaction and, at the same time, guides interaction.
social processes Key patterns of interaction common to all human societies (cooperation, competition, exchange, and conflict).
social structure The content of the social system, consisting of statuses, roles, groups, norms, and institutions.
social system A conceptual model of social relationships in which each part is interdependent and interconnected to every other part.
society The largest social group. An interrelated network of social relationships that exists within the boundaries of the largest social system
status A ranked position in a social group. Statuses are rated according to their importance in a social group.
symbolic interaction Communication through speech, gestures, writing, or even music.
total institution An extreme type of coercive organization that isolates individuals from the rest of society, providing an all-encompassing social environment in which special norms and distinctive physical features prevail, with the goal of changing the individual’s att
triad A group consisting of three individuals. A more stable social unit than a dyad.
developmental theories A school of thought in modern psychology whose chief exponent was Jean Piaget. Developmentalists hold that personality development proceeds in stages that are dependent on physical maturation (sensory-motor, preoperational, and concrete and formal-ope
ego (Freud) A part of the personality that functions on a conscious level. It attempts to force the id to satisfy its instinctual needs in socially acceptable ways.
generalized other (Mead) The individual's perception or awareness of social norms; learning to take the role of all others with whom one interacts or of society as a whole.
id (Freud) The representative of the libido in the personality, existing on an unconscious level and making up the primitive, irrational part of the personality.
instincts Genetically transmitted, universal, complex patterns of behavior.
libido (Freud) The instinctual drive toward pleasure, which is the motivating energy behind human behavior
looking-glass self (Cooley) The process of personality formation in which an individual's self-image emerges as a result of perceiving the observed attitudes of others.
midlife crisis What many people in middle adulthood experience when they reflect on their personal and occupational roles and find them wanting.
mind (Mead) The abstract whole of a person's ideas.
personality A complex and dynamic system that includes all of an individual's behavioral and emotional traits, attitudes, values, beliefs, habits, goals, and so on.
psychoanalytic theory A theory of personality developed by Sigmund Freud. It assumes the existence of unconscious as well as conscious processes within each individual.
psychosexual stages (Freud) The manner in which individuals attempt to gratify the force of the libido at different periods of physical maturation. The phases are oral, anal, phallic (or Oedipal), latent, and genital.
resocialization A process in which the individual's existing self-concept and identity are erased in favor of a new personality or are altered to fit new roles.
self (Mead) The individual's self-conception or self-awareness.
significant others (Mead) Important people in an individual's life whose roles are initially imitated.
socialization The learning process by which a biological organism learns to become a human being, acquires a personality with self and identity, and absorbs the culture of its society.
superego (Freud) A final element of personality, existing largely on an unconscious level and functioning to impose inhibition and morality on the id.
symbolic interactionism A school of thought founded by George Herbert Mead whose theories center around the interrelationship of mind, self, and society and include the belief that society and the individual give rise to each other through symbolic interaction.
total institution An organization or a place of residence in which inmates live isolated from others and where their freedom is restricted in the attempt to resocialize them with new identities and behavior patterns.
anomie Durkheim’s term for a condition of normless-ness. Merton used anomie to explain deviance, which he thought occurred when cultural goals cannot be achieved through legal institutional means.
bipolar disorder A psychosis characterized by extreme swings in emotion from deep depression to a high degree of excitement.
cultural transmission (or differential association) The- ory of deviance (Sutherland, Miller) based on the proposition that all human behavior, including deviant behavior, is learned through symbolic interaction, especially in primary groups.
deviance Norm-violating behavior beyond the society’s limits of tolerance.
differential association The- ory of deviance (Sutherland, Miller) based on the proposition that all human behavior, including deviant behavior, is learned through symbolic interaction, especially in primary groups.
ectomorph In Sheldon’s typology (biological theory of deviance), a thin and delicate body type whose personality tends to be introspective, sensitive, nervous, and artistic.
electroconvulsive shock therapy A treatment of severe mental disorders (particularly depression) through the application of severe electric shock. It is a painful pro- cedure and is sometimes abused.
endomorph In Sheldon’s typology, a round and soft body type whose personality is social, easygoing, and self-indulgent.
index crimes The eight crimes whose rates are reported annually by the FBI: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, arson, larceny, and auto theft.
labeling A sociological theory of deviance that explains deviant behavior as a reaction to the group’s expectations of someone who has once been decreed as deviant.
mesomorph In Sheldon’s typology, a muscular and agile body type with a restless, energetic, and insensitive personality.
neurosis A mild personality disorder; an inefficient, partly disruptive way of dealing with personal prob- lems, but seldom troublesome enough to require insti- tutionalization. Neuroses include amnesia, phobias, obsessive ideas or repetitive actions, and repre
paranoia A psychosis characterized by the feeling of being persecuted or of being an important personage (delusions of grandeur).
personality disorders Mental disorders that lie somewhere between the neuroses and the psychoses in severity. They include sociopathy, sexual deviance, and addiction.
psychosis A serious mental disorder in which there is loss of contact with reality. Requires institutionalization when individuals become incapable of functioning in society. Psychoses include schizophrenia, paranoia, and bipolar disorder.
psychosomatic disorders Physical ailments developed as a result of emotional tension or anxiety.
psychotherapy A treatment for psychoses and mental disturbances that includes analysis, group therapy, family therapy, and others, centering around verbal exchanges.
schizophrenia A label for a psychosis that varies in severity from inability to relate to others to total with-drawal from reality.
sociopath A person suffering from a personality disturbance in which antisocial behavior does not elicit remorse.
authority Social power exercised with the consent of others. Parents, teachers, and the government represent different levels of authority.
closed, or caste, stratification system A system in which class, status, and power are ascribed, mobility is highly restricted, and the social system is rigid.
conflict theory of stratification A theory of stratification according to which the natural conditions of society are constant change and conflict resulting from class struggles. Inequality is the product of such conflict, as one group is victorious over others and asserts itself ove
estate system of stratification The prevailing system of feudal Europe, consisting of three estates of functional importance to the society. The estates were hierarchically arranged and permitted a limited amount of social mobility
functionalist theory of stratification A theory in which social inequality is viewed as inevitable because society must use rewards to ensure that essential tasks are performed. The natural conditions of society are thought to be order and stability (equilibrium).
life chances The opportunity of each individual to fulfill his or her potential as a human being. Life chances differ according to social class.
open, or class, society A society in which the stratification system allows for social mobility and in which a person’s status is achieved rather than being ascribed on the basis of birth. Open systems are characteristic of industrial societies.
power A dimension of stratification consisting of the ability of one person or group to control the actions of others with or without the latter’s consent.
social class A dimension of stratification consisting of an aggregate of persons in a society who stand in a similar position with regard to some form of power, privilege, or prestige.
social mobility An individual’s ability to change his or her social class membership by moving up (or down) the stratification system. Upward or downward mobility is vertical, whereas mobility that results in a change of status without a consequent change of class is
social status A dimension of stratification consisting of an individual’s ranked position within the social system, the rank being determined mainly by the individual’s occupational role.
social stratification (ranking) A process existing in all but the simplest societies whereby members rank one another and themselves hierarchically with respect to the amount of desirables (wealth, prestige, power) they possess.
stratification system The overlapping manner in which members of society are ranked according to classes, status groups, and hierarchies of power. Analyzed on a continuum from closed to open.
structural mobility Upward mobility caused by industrial and technological change that pushes skilled workers into higher-status occupations.
accommodation A situation in which a minority is conscious of the norms and values of the majority, accepts and adapts to them, but chooses to retain its own, thus failing to participate in the host culture.
acculturation The process of adopting the culture, including the language and customs, of the host country
amalgamation The result of intermarriage between distinct racial, ethnic, and cultural groups, resulting in the erasure of differences between majority and minority groups.
anglo-conformity The attitude, once held by the majority group, that the institutions, language, and cultural patterns of England should be maintained and that WASP values be superimposed on immigrants.
assimilation A process in which a minority group is absorbed into, or becomes part of, the dominant group in a society.
attitudinal discrimination Negative behavior against a particular group—or individual members of that group—^prompted by personal prejudice.
cultural pluralism An ideal condition in which the cultural distinctiveness of each ethnic, racial, and religious minority group would be maintained, while individual members would still owe allegiance to the society in general.
discrimination Actions taken as a result of prejudicial feelings.
ethnicity A group’s distinctive social, rather than biological, traits.
ethnic minority A group that differs culturally from the dominant group.
ethnocentrism Belief in the superiority of one’s own group.
institutional discrimination A system of inequalities existing in a society apart from individual prejudice. Prejudice exists on a societal level; in effect, it is a norm of the society.
melting pot theory The belief that it is possible and desirable to culturally and biologically fuse all the various racial and ethnic groups in society.
minority group Any group in society that is kept from attaining the rewards of society on the basis of culture, race, religion, sex, or age. A category of people who possess imperfect access to positions of equal power, prestige, and privilege in the society.
prejudice Prejudgment of an individual or group based on stereotypes and hearsay rather than on fact or evidence, and the inability or unwillingness to change that judgment even when confronted with evidence to the contrary
race An arbitrary manner of subdividing the species Homo sapiens sapiens based on differences in the frequency with which some genes occur among populations.
racial minority A group within a society that differs biologically from the dominant group in such features as skin color, hair texture, eye slant, and head shape and dimensions.
racism An ideology, prevalent in the past but now discounted, that some racial groups are inferior to others, that they display not only physical but also behavioral differences, and that both are inherited and undesirable.
segregation An attempt to isolate a minority from the majority.
activity theory In the study of the elderly, the theory that the key to successful aging is to replace former roles with new ones.
ageism An ideology that asserts the superiority of the young over the old. Used to justify discrimination against the elderly in political, economic, and social areas.
anatomical differences The differences in physical structure and appearance between the two sexes. The most important anatomical difference lies in the distinct reproductive systems of males and females.
cognitive development theory A theory that includes the idea that children learn gender roles according to which stage of cognitive development they have reached. Cognitive development is the way information is processed by individuals at different stages of physical maturation.
conflict theory A theory that assumes that power and privilege are based on the resources an individual possesses
disengagement theory A theory of aging that posits that the elderly withdraw from their former social and occupational roles so that these may be filled by the young. This should occur by mutual consent.
exchange theory In the study of the elderly, the theory that the disadvantaged position of the elderly in American society is due to their lack of the social and material resources that would make them valuable in interactions with the young.
expressive role Emphasizes nurturing, emotion, and peacemaking.
feminist theory A theory that has borrowed much of the framework of conflict theory, especially the fact that women are underrepresented in positions of power in the society at large, a reflection of the lack of power women have within the family
gender roles Traditionally, the instrumental role is assigned to males and the expressive role is assigned to females.
hormones Chemicals that are secreted into the bloodstream by glands located in the body, whose functions are to stimulate some chemical processes and inhibit others.
instrumental role Stresses rationality, competitiveness, aggression, and goal-orientation.
interactionist theory In the study of the elderly, a theory that focuses on the shared meanings that the elderly hold in common
male or female Biological terms, descriptive of biological facts. They refer to a sex status, ascribed and not subject to change except in extraordinary circumstances.
masculine and feminine Reflect social conditions, describing how males and females are expected to behave in a given society and how they come to feel about themselves. They are gender roles, achieved and, thus, subject to change according to place and time.
modernization theory In the study of the elderly, the theory that the status of older people declines as the society in which they live becomes more modern andindustrial.
secondary sex characteristics Include height, weight, distribution of body fat and hair, and musculature.
sex chromosomes Contain the genes that determine heredity in all living creatures.
social learning theory A theory based on the behaviorist notion that learning consists of observation, imitation, and reinforcement.
structural functionalist theory One of the most dominant theories in sociology, which assumes that those elements are retained in a social system that aid in the survival of that system.
authoritarianism A type of autocracy (see below) in which power is held by an absolute monarch, dictator, or small elite. Power is limited to the political sphere.
autocracy An ideology directly opposed to democracy, in which government rests in the hands of one individual or group who holds supreme power over the people.
charismatic authority According to Max Weber, a type of authority based on the leadership of a person with charisma. A charismatic leader is thought to possess special gifts of a magnetic, fascinating, and extraordinary nature.
communism A political and economic ideology whose ultimate goal is total government control of the economy and total income redistribution, leading to the creation of a classless society
democracy An ideology, philosophy, theory, and political system assuming the basic value of the individual, as well as his or her rationality, morality, equality, and possession of specific rights.
democratic capitalism A blend of political and economic ideology whose tenets include the private ownership of property, the profit motive, a free market economy, and competition. The function of government in this system is to ensure that the economic game is played fairl
democratic socialism A blend of political and economic ideology whose chief assumption is that participation in political decision making should be extended to economic decision making. The function of the government in this system is to control and guide the economy for th
fascism A totalitarian ideology of the right that became prominent in various nations beginning in Italy under Benito Mussolini.
government A pivotal institution arising out of the need to maintain order, control, organize, protect, and defend the people of a society. Government is the acting arm of the state; it includes a political process in which a body of representatives is endowed with
ideology A system of ideas, values, beliefs, and attitudes that a society or groups within a society share and accept as true.
legal-rational authority According to Weber, a type of authority accepted by members of society because it is based on rational methods and laws and is exerted for their benefit.
nation A culture group residing within the territory of a political state.
nationalism The ideology behind the nation-state. A set of beliefs about the superiority of one’s own nation and a defense of its interest above all others.
Nazism The German version of fascism that flourished under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.
politics The people and processes that make up and direct the government of the state, its policies, and its actions.
power The probability that one individual in a social relationship will carry out his or her own will despite resistance. The ability of one person or group to direct the behavior of another person or group in a desired direction, under the ultimate, though n
rule of law A constitutional principle holding that those in public authority derive, maintain, and exercise their powers on the basis of specific laws, and not on the basis of their personal power.
state The abstract embodiment, or the symbol, of the political institution or government.
totalitarianism A type of autocracy of the left or of the right, characterized by a totalist ideology, a single party, a government-controlled secret police, and a monopoly over mass communications, weapons, and the economy by the ruling elite.
traditional authority According to Weber, authority that is based on reverence for tradition.
capital All material objects made by humans. One of the factors of production.
capitalism An economic system in which property belongs to private individuals; production is engaged in for a profit motive; and prices, wages, and profits are regulated by supply and demand, as well as competition. The welfare of the individual is the chief c
factors of production Labor, land, capital, entrepreneurship, time and technology, or the basic elements that are combined in the production of goods and services.
finance capitalism Capitalism associated with a later stage of industrialism in which business organizations are characterized by (1) dominance of investment banks and insurance companies, (2) large aggregates of capital, (3) ownership separate from management, (4) app
industrial capitalism Capitalism associated with an early stage of industriaUsm in which business organizations were concerned mainly with manufacturing, mining, and transportation.
labor A human resource. One of the factors of production.
land Natural material things such as land, minerals, water. Another of the factors of production.
monopoly A situation in which one firm produces the entire market supply of a specific product.
multinational corporations Corporations that extend production to foreign nations at great profit to themselves (because labor is cheap and markets are expanded) but at the risk of being perceived as threats to the hosts.
oligopoly A condition of high industrial concentration in which a small number of corporations dominate an entire industry, effectively preventing price competition.
opportunity cost The sacrifice involved in making an economic choice.
production-possibility limits The optimum amount of production that a society can attain. Each society faces a production-possibility frontier beyond which it cannot produce.
resources Everything that is needed for the production of goods and services
budget surplus A surplus that occurs when the government’s revenues are greater than its expenditures.
central authorities All public agencies, generally referred to as “the government.”
circular flow Movement from product markets to resource markets and back again, which is interrupted by withdrawals and injections.
deficit spending Spending that occurs when the government’s expenditures are greater than its revenues.
discount rate The interest rate charged by the Federal Reserve Bank for lending money to member banks.
discretionary spending The portion of the federal budget that consists of current spending, rather than carryovers from previous years
disposable income National income less taxes and plus welfare payments. What people really have to spend or to save.
equilibrium The price and quantity at which both buyers and sellers are compatible—the quantity supplied equals the price buyers are willing to pay.
factor or resource markets Markets in which households sell the factors of production that they control.
firms Units that decide how to use labor, land, and capital and which goods and services to produce.
fiscal policy The use of public expenditures and taxation powers by the government to change the outcomes of the economy
full employment A low rate of unemployment, between 4 and 5 percent.
gross domestic product (GDP) The total output of goods and services produced within the confines of the United States, by American or foreign-supplied resources, as well as all income earned
gross national product (GNP) per capita The total output or dollar value of the economy divided by the total population.
household All the people who live under one roof and who make financial decisions as a unit. Also called the consumer.
incomes policy An attempt to use wage and price controls to direct economic outcomes.
inflation A situation in which demand cannot be matched by an increase in supply, resulting in rising prices.
marginal productivity The value people’s work adds to total output.
market demand The combined willingness of individuals and firms to buy a specific number of products at a specific price.
market supply The combined willingness of individuals or firms to supply specific resources or products at specific prices
monetary policy The use of money and credit to control economic outcomes.
multiplier effect Government spending that produces more income, results in higher consumption expenditures, and translates into a higher aggregate demand.
Phillips curve A graphic illustration of the conflict between full employment and price stability: lower rates of unemployment are usually accompanied by higher rates of inflation.
product markets Markets in which firms sell their production of goods and services.
public sector Economic activity on the part of the government in the name of the people or for the public interest
social indicators Ways of measuring the level of real benefits resulting from a specific level of output.
uncontrollable expenditures Expenditures from previous years that are built into the annual federal budget.
administrative foreign policy Decisions made by the government bureaucracy.
assured destruction capability A policy designed to deter others from attacking the United States because of the knowledge that the United States has the means to destroy any nation that attacks
containment American foreign policy in the period following World War II, attempting to contain what were perceived as the imperialist goals of the Soviet Union.
crisis foreign policy Urgent decisions made when one state feels that a situation will mark a turning point in its relationship with another state. Crisis decisions are a combination of general and administrative decisions.
détente Foreign policy dependent on peaceful negotiations rather than containment.
diplomacy The conduct of international relations by negotiation.
foreign policy Goals intended to protect and promote national independence, national honor, national security, and national well-being.
general foreign policy Decisions expressed in policy statements and direct actions.
Monroe Doctrine Foreign policy in the guise of a warning to the European states to stay out of Latin America, which was considered to be in the American sphere of influence
actual evapotranspiration
biogeochemical cycle
Created by: rich776