Some (Relatively) Recent Examples of Participant Observation Studies
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Participant observation is one the main research methods on the A level sociology syllabus, but many of the examples in the main text books are painfully out of date. This post provides some more recent examples of research studies which employed participant observation as their main research method.
Covert Participant Observation
Pearson’s (2009) covert participant observation study of blackpool football club’s supporters.
He chose Blackpool F.C. because it was close to Lancaster, where he was a student, and because of its reputation as having problems with football hooliganism. He seems to have been able to gradually insinuate himself into the supporters’ world by being recognised as a regular fan. Pearson played up his knowledge of the game and the club and was able to integrate himself into their world.
Pearson’s research is a good example of covert research in which Pearson participated fully with the activities of the group…he was a ‘covert full member’ of the group he was observing.
Overt Participant Observation
Khan’s (2011, 2014) ethnography of an elite high school in the united states.
Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St Paul’s School – link to Amazon. The first few reviews summarise aspects of the book!
Mears’s (2011) ethnography of the world of the fashion model
‘Two and a half years would be spend in participant observation, or more like ‘observant participation’ (a term borrowed from Wacquant 2004) working for both agencies in the full range of modelling work, including five Fashion Weeks, hundreds of castings, and dozens of jobs in every type of modelling work – catwalk shows, magazine shoots in studios and outdoors…. I sat besides bookers at their table in the office drank with them at their favourite pubs, and hung out with them backstage at fashion shows. As I was nearing the end of the participant observation phase… and withdrawing from modelling work, I formally interviewed a sample of bookers, managers and accountants’ (Mears, 2013).
Sampson’s (2013) ethnographic research on international seafarers
In April 1999, Sampson boarded her first cargo ship. ‘Contrary to my fears, the crew of Swedish and Filipino seafarers welcomed me into their lives and for forty-two days I lived and worked alongside them, painting the ship with them, venturing ashore to Seamen’s bars with them, laughing with them, even dancing and singing with them’. (2013)
This final example is what Bryman refers to as a ‘participating’ observer’ rather than a ‘full member’ – Sampson is working for the shipping company with the men on a very temporary basis.
The above four examples of participant observation studies are all taken from Bryman’s (2016) research methods book. Bryman ranges several studies (23 in total) on a scale ranging from ‘full member’ through to ‘partially participating observer’ down to ‘non-participating observer with interaction’.
Anna Lora-Wainwright (2018) Resigned Activism – Living with Pollution in Rural China
NB – this isn’t ‘ordinary pollution’ she’s looking at – she studied three villages in total, all of which are coping with the effects of large-scale industrial pollution because of the heavy manufacturing or waste disposal that occurs in those areas. All of these villages have well over the national average of cancer deaths reported, and it’s obvious the pollution is the problem.
She also focused on how this all ties in with the wider Chinese government’s industrialization agenda and the fact that the government would rather keep reports about such pollution quiet.
Bryman, Alan (2016) Social Research Methods, Oxford University Press
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10 Famous Examples of Longitudinal Studies
A longitudinal study is a study that observes a subject or subjects over an extended period of time. They may run into several weeks, months, or years. An examples is the Up Series which has been going since 1963.
Longitudinal studies are deployed most commonly in psychology and sociology, where the intention is to observe the changes in the subject over years, across a lifetime, and sometimes, even across generations.
There have been several famous longitudinal studies in history. Some of the most well-known examples are listed below.
Examples of Longitudinal Studies
1. up series.
Duration: 1963 to Now
The Up Series is a continuing longitudinal study that studies the lives of 14 subjects in Britain at 7-year intervals.
The study is conducted in the form of interviews in which the subjects report the changes that have occurred in their lives in the last 7 years since the last interview.
The interviews are filmed and form the subject matter of the critically acclaimed Up series of documentary films directed by Michael Apsted.
When it was first conceived, the aim of the study was to document the life progressions of a cross-section of British children through the second half of the 20th century in light of the rapid social, economic, political, and demographic changes occuring in Britain.
14 children were selected from different socio-economic backgrounds for the first study in 1963 in which all were 7 years old.
The latest installment was filmed in 2019 by which time the participants had reached 63 years of age.
The study noted that life outcomes of subjects were determined to a large extent by their socio-economic and demographic circumstances, and that chances for upward mobility remained limited in late 20th century Britain (Pearson, 2012).
2. Minnesota Twin Study
Duration: 1979 to 1990 (11 years)
Siblings who are twins not only look alike but often display similar behavioral and personality traits.
This raises an oft-asked question: how much of this similarity is genetic and how much of it is the result of the twins growing up together in a similar environment.
The Minnesota twin study was a longitudinal study that set out to find an answer to this question by studying a group of twins from 1979 to 1990 under the supervision of Thomas J Bouchard.
The study found that identical twins who were reared apart in different environments did not display any greater chances of being different from each other than twins that were raised in the same environment.
The study concluded that the similarities and differences between twins are genetic in nature, rather than being the result of their environment (Bouchard et. al., 1990).
3. Grant Study
Duration: 1942 – Present
The Grant Study is one of the most ambitious longitudinal studies. It attempts to answer a philosophical question that has been central to human existence since the beginning of time – what is the secret to living a good life? (Shenk, 2009).
It does so by studying the lives of 268 male Harvard graduates who are interrogated at least every two years with the help of questionnaires, personal interviews, and gleaning information about their physical and mental well-being from their physicians.
Begun in 1942, the study continues to this day.
The study has provided researchers with several interesting insights into what constitutes the human quality of life.
- It reveals that the quality of our relationships is more influential than IQ when it comes to our financial success.
- It suggests that our relationships with our parents during childhood have a lasting impact on our mental and physical well-being until late into our lives.
In short, the results gleaned from the study (so far) strongly indicate that the quality of our relationships is one of the biggest factors in determining our quality of life.
4. Terman Life Cycle Study
Duration: 1921 – Present
The Terman Life-Cycle Study, also called the Genetic Studies of Genius, is one of the longest studies ever conducted in the field of psychology.
Commenced in 1921, it continues to this day, over 100 years later!
The objective of the study at its commencement in 1921 was to study the life trajectories of exceptionally gifted children, as measured by standardized intelligence tests.
Lewis Terman, the principal investigator of the study, wanted to dispel the then-prevalent notion that intellectually gifted children tended to be:
- socially inept, and
- physically deficient
To this end, Terman selected 1528 students from public schools in California based on their scores on several standardized intelligence tests such as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence scales, National Intelligence Test, and the Army Alpha Test.
It was discovered that intellectually gifted children had the same social skills and the same level of physical development as other children.
As the study progressed, following the selected children well into adulthood and in their old age, it was further discovered that having higher IQs did not affect outcomes later in life in a significant way (Terman & Oden, 1959).
5. National Food Survey
Duration: 1940 to 2000 (60 years)
The National Food Survey was a British study that ran from 1940 to 2000. It attempted to study food consumption, dietary patterns, and household expenditures on food by British citizens.
Initially commenced to measure the effects of wartime rationing on the health of British citizens in 1940, the survey was extended and expanded after the end of the war to become a comprehensive study of British dietary consumption and expenditure patterns.
After 2000, the survey was replaced by the Expenditure and Food Survey, which lasted till 2008. It was further replaced by the Living Costs and Food Survey post-2008.
6. Millennium Cohort Study
Duration: 2000 to Present
The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) is a study similar to the Up Series study conducted by the University of London.
Like the Up series, it aims to study the life trajectories of a group of British children relative to the socio-economic and demographic changes occurring in Britain.
However, the subjects of the Millenium Cohort Study are children born in the UK in the year 2000-01.
Also unlike the Up Series, the MCS has a much larger sample size of 18,818 subjects representing a much wider ethnic and socio-economic cross-section of British society.
7. The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youths
Duration: 1971 to Present
The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youths (SMPY) is a longitudinal study initiated in 1971 at the Johns Hopkins University.
At the time of its inception, the study aimed to study children who were exceptionally gifted in mathematics as evidenced from their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores.
Later the study shifted to Vanderbilt University and was expanded to include children who scored exceptionally high in the verbal section of the SATs as well.
The study has revealed several interesting insights into the life paths, career trajectories, and lifestyle preferences of academically gifted individuals. For instance, it revealed:
- Children with exceptionally high mathematical scores tended to gravitate towards academic, research, or corporate careers in the STEM fields.
- Children with better verbal abilities went into academic, research, or corporate careers in the social sciences and humanities .
8. Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging
Duration: 1958 to Present
The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) was initiated in 1958 to study the effects of aging, making it the longest-running study on human aging in America.
With a sample size of over 3200 volunteer subjects, the study has revealed crucial information about the process of human aging.
For instance, the study has shown that:
- The most common ailments associated with the elderly such as diabetes, hypertension, and dementia are not an inevitable outcome of growing old, but rather result from genetic and lifestyle factors.
- Aging does not proceed uniformly in humans, and all humans age differently.
9. Nurses’ Health Study
Duration: 1976 to Present
The Nurses’ Health Study began in 1976 to study the effects of oral contraceptives on women’s health.
The first commercially available birth control pill was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960, and the use of such pills rapidly spread across the US and the UK.
At the same time, a lot of misinformation prevailed about the perceived harmful effects of using oral contraceptives.
The nurses’ health study aimed to study the long-term effects of the use of these pills by researching a sample composed of female nurses.
Nurses were specially chosen for the study because of their medical awareness and hence the ease of data collection that this enabled.
Over time, the study expanded to include not just oral contraceptives but also smoking, exercise, and obesity within the ambit of its research.
As its scope widened, so did the sample size and the resources required for continuing the research.
As a result, the study is now believed to be one of the largest and the most expensive observational health studies in history.
10. The Seattle 500 Study
Duration: 1974 to Present
The Seattle 500 Study is a longitudinal study being conducted by the University of Washington.
It observes a cohort of 500 individuals in the city of Seattle to determine the effects of prenatal habits on human health.
In particular, the study attempts to track patterns of substance abuse and mental health among the subjects and correlate them to the prenatal habits of the parents.
From the examples above, it is clear that longitudinal studies are essential because they provide a unique perspective into certain issues which can not be acquired through any other method.
Especially in research areas that study developmental or life span issues, longitudinal studies become almost inevitable.
A major drawback of longitudinal studies is that because of their extended timespan, the results are likely to be influenced by epochal events.
For instance, in the Genetic Studies of Genius described above, the life prospects of all the subjects would have been impacted by events such as the Great Depression and the Second World War.
The female participants in the study, despite their intellectual precocity, spent their lives as home makers because of the cultural norms of the era. Thus, despite their scale and scope, longitudinal studies do not always succeed in controlling background variables.
Bouchard, T. J. Jr, Lykken, D. T., McGue, M., Segal, N. L., & Tellegen, A. (1990). Sources of human psychological differences: the Minnesota study of twins reared apart. Science , 250 (4978), 223–228. doi: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.2218526
Pearson, A. (2012, May) Seven Up!: A tale of two Englands that, shamefully, still exist The Telegraph https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/allison-pearson/9269805/Seven-Up-A-tale-of-two-Englands-that-shamefully-still-exist.html
Shenk, J.W. (2009, June) What makes us happy? The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/06/what-makes-us-happy/307439/
Terman, L. M. & Oden, M. (1959). The Gifted group at mid-Life: Thirty-five years’ follow-up of the superior child . Genetic Studies of Genius Volume V . Stanford University Press.
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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.
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8 Famous Social Psychology Experiments
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.
Do people really stop to appreciate the beauty of the world? How can society encourage people to engage in healthy behaviors? Is there anything that can be done to bring peace to rival groups?
Social psychologists have been tackling questions like these for decades, and some of the results of their experiments just might surprise you.
Robbers Cave Experiment
Why do conflicts tend to occur between different groups? According to psychologist Muzafer Sherif, intergroup conflicts tend to arise from competition for resources, stereotypes, and prejudices. In a controversial experiment, the researchers placed 22 boys between the ages of 11 and 12 in two groups at a camp in the Robbers Cave Park in Oklahoma.
The boys were separated into two groups and spent the first week of the experiment bonding with their other group members. It wasn't until the second phase of the experiment that the children learned that there was another group, at which point the experimenters placed the two groups in direct competition with each other.
This led to considerable discord, as the boys clearly favored their own group members while they disparaged the members of the other group. In the final phase, the researchers staged tasks that required the two groups to work together. These shared tasks helped the boys get to know members of the other group and eventually led to a truce between the rivals.
The 'Violinist in the Metro' Experiment
In 2007, acclaimed violinist Josh Bell posed as a street musician at a busy Washington, D.C. subway station. Bell had just sold out a concert with an average ticket price of $100 each.
He is one of the most renowned musicians in the world and was playing on a handcrafted violin worth more than $3.5 million. Yet most people scurried on their way without stopping to listen to the music. When children would occasionally stop to listen, their parents would grab them and quickly usher them on their way.
The experiment raised some interesting questions about how we not only value beauty but whether we truly stop to appreciate the remarkable works of beauty that are around us.
The Piano Stairs Experiment
How can you get people to change their daily behavior and make healthier choices? In one social experiment sponsored by Volkswagen as part of their Fun Theory initiative, making even the most mundane activities fun can inspire people to change their behavior.
In the experiment, a set of stairs was transformed into a giant working keyboard. Right next to the stairs was an escalator, so people were able to choose between taking the stairs or taking the escalator. The results revealed that 66% more people took the stairs instead of the escalator.
Adding an element of fun can inspire people to change their behavior and choose the healthier alternative.
The Marshmallow Test Experiment
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, a psychologist named Walter Mischel led a series of experiments on delayed gratification. Mischel was interested in learning whether the ability to delay gratification might be a predictor of future life success.
In the experiments, children between the ages of 3 and 5 were placed in a room with a treat (often a marshmallow or cookie). Before leaving the room, the experimenter told each child that they would receive a second treat if the first treat was still on the table after 15 minutes.
Follow-up studies conducted years later found that the children who were able to delay gratification did better in a variety of areas, including academically. Those who had been able to wait the 15 minutes for the second treat tended to have higher SAT scores and more academic success (according to parent surveys).
The results suggest that this ability to wait for gratification is not only an essential skill for success but also something that forms early on and lasts throughout life.
The Smoky Room Experiment
If you saw someone in trouble, do you think you would try to help? Psychologists have found that the answer to this question is highly dependent on the number of other people present. We are much more likely to help when we are the only witness but much less likely to lend a hand when we are part of a crowd.
The phenomenon came to the public's attention after the gruesome murder of a young woman named Kitty Genovese. According to the classic tale, while multiple people may have witnessed her attack, no one called for help until it was much too late.
This behavior was identified as an example of the bystander effect , or the failure of people to take action when there are other people present. (In reality, several witnesses did immediately call 911, so the real Genovese case was not a perfect example of the bystander effect.)
In one classic experiment, researchers had participants sit in a room to fill out questionnaires. Suddenly, the room began to fill with smoke. In some cases the participant was alone, in some there were three unsuspecting participants in the room, and in the final condition, there was one participant and two confederates.
In the situation involving the two confederates who were in on the experiment, these actors ignored the smoke and went on filling out their questionnaires. When the participants were alone, about three-quarters of the participants left the room calmly to report the smoke to the researchers.
In the condition with three real participants, only 38% reported the smoke. In the final condition where the two confederates ignored the smoke, a mere 10% of participants left to report the smoke. The experiment is a great example of how much people rely on the responses of others to guide their actions.
When something is happening, but no one seems to be responding, people tend to take their cues from the group and assume that a response is not required.
Carlsberg Social Experiment
Have you ever felt like people have judged you unfairly based on your appearance? Or have you ever gotten the wrong first impression of someone based on how they looked? Unfortunately, people are all too quick to base their decisions on snap judgments made when they first meet people.
These impressions based on what's on the outside sometimes cause people to overlook the characteristics and qualities that lie on the inside. In one rather amusing social experiment, which actually started out as an advertisement , unsuspecting couples walked into a crowded movie theater.
All but two of the 150 seats were already full. The twist is that the 148 already-filled seats were taken by a bunch of rather rugged and scary-looking male bikers. What would you do in this situation? Would you take one of the available seats and enjoy the movie, or would you feel intimidated and leave?
In the informal experiment, not all of the couples ended up taking a seat, but those who eventually did were rewarded with cheers from the crowd and a round of free Carlsberg beers.
The exercise served as a great example of why people shouldn't always judge a book by its cover.
Halo Effect Experiment
In an experiment described in a paper published in 1920, psychologist Edward Thorndike asked commanding officers in the military to give ratings of various characteristics of their subordinates.
Thorndike was interested in learning how impressions of one quality, such as intelligence, bled over onto perceptions of other personal characteristics, such as leadership, loyalty, and professional skill. Thorndike discovered that when people hold a good impression of one characteristic, those good feelings tend to affect perceptions of other qualities.
For example, thinking someone is attractive can create a halo effect that leads people also to believe that a person is kind, smart, and funny. The opposite effect is also true. Negative feelings about one characteristic lead to negative impressions of an individual's other features.
When people have a good impression of one characteristic, those good feelings tend to affect perceptions of other qualities.
False Consensus Experiment
During the late 1970s, researcher Lee Ross and his colleagues performed some eye-opening experiments. In one experiment, the researchers had participants choose a way to respond to an imagined conflict and then estimate how many people would also select the same resolution.
They found that no matter which option the respondents chose, they tended to believe that the vast majority of other people would also choose the same option. In another study, the experimenters asked students on campus to walk around carrying a large advertisement that read "Eat at Joe's."
The researchers then asked the students to estimate how many other people would agree to wear the advertisement. They found that those who agreed to carry the sign believed that the majority of people would also agree to carry the sign. Those who refused felt that the majority of people would refuse as well.
The results of these experiments demonstrate what is known in psychology as the false consensus effect .
No matter what our beliefs, options, or behaviors, we tend to believe that the majority of other people also agree with us and act the same way we do.
A Word From Verywell
Social psychology is a rich and varied field that offers fascinating insights into how people behave in groups and how behavior is influenced by social pressures. Exploring some of these classic social psychology experiments can provide a glimpse at some of the fascinating research that has emerged from this field of study.
Sherif M. Superordinate goals in the reduction of intergroup conflict . American Journal of Sociology . 1958;63(4):349-356. doi:10.1086/222258
Peeters M, Megens C, van den Hoven E, Hummels C, Brombacher A. Social Stairs: Taking the Piano Staircase towards long-term behavioral change . In: Berkovsky S, Freyne J, eds. Lecture Notes in Computer Science . Vol 7822. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg; 2013. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-37157-8_21
Mischel W, Ebbeson EB, Zeiss A. Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1972;21(2):204–218. doi:10.1037/h0032198
Mischel W, Shoda Y, Peake PK. Predicting adolescent cognitive and self-regulatory competencies from preschool delay of gratification: Identifying diagnostic conditions . Developmental Psychology. 1990;26(6):978-986. doi:10.1037/0012-16126.96.36.1998
Benderly, BL. Psychology's tall tales . gradPSYCH Magazine . 2012;9:20.
Latane B, Darley JM. Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1968;10(3):215-221. doi:10.1037/h0026570
Thorndike EL. A constant error in psychological ratings . Journal of Applied Psychology. 1920;4(1):25-29. doi:10.1037/h0071663
Talamas SN, Mayor KI, Perrett DI. Blinded by beauty: Attractiveness bias and accurate perceptions of academic performance. PLoS One . 2016;11(2):e0148284. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148284
Ross, L, Greene, D, & House, P. The "false consensus effect": An egocentric bias in social perception and attribution processes . Journal of Experimental Social Psychology . 1977;13(3):279-301. doi:10.1016/0022-1031(77)90049-X
By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
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Social Psychology Experiments: 10 Of The Most Famous Studies
Ten of the most influential social psychology experiments explain why we sometimes do dumb or irrational things.
“I have been primarily interested in how and why ordinary people do unusual things, things that seem alien to their natures. Why do good people sometimes act evil? Why do smart people sometimes do dumb or irrational things?” –Philip Zimbardo
Like famous social psychologist Professor Philip Zimbardo (author of The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil ), I’m also obsessed with why we do dumb or irrational things.
The answer quite often is because of other people — something social psychologists have comprehensively shown.
Each of the 10 brilliant social psychology experiments below tells a unique, insightful story relevant to all our lives, every day.
Click the link in each social psychology experiment to get the full description and explanation of each phenomenon.
1. Social Psychology Experiments: The Halo Effect
The halo effect is a finding from a famous social psychology experiment.
It is the idea that global evaluations about a person (e.g. she is likeable) bleed over into judgements about their specific traits (e.g. she is intelligent).
It is sometimes called the “what is beautiful is good” principle, or the “physical attractiveness stereotype”.
It is called the halo effect because a halo was often used in religious art to show that a person is good.
2. Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort people feel when trying to hold two conflicting beliefs in their mind.
People resolve this discomfort by changing their thoughts to align with one of conflicting beliefs and rejecting the other.
The study provides a central insight into the stories we tell ourselves about why we think and behave the way we do.
3. Robbers Cave Experiment: How Group Conflicts Develop
The Robbers Cave experiment was a famous social psychology experiment on how prejudice and conflict emerged between two group of boys.
It shows how groups naturally develop their own cultures, status structures and boundaries — and then come into conflict with each other.
For example, each country has its own culture, its government, legal system and it draws boundaries to differentiate itself from neighbouring countries.
One of the reasons the became so famous is that it appeared to show how groups could be reconciled, how peace could flourish.
The key was the focus on superordinate goals, those stretching beyond the boundaries of the group itself.
4. Social Psychology Experiments: The Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford prison experiment was run to find out how people would react to being made a prisoner or prison guard.
The psychologist Philip Zimbardo, who led the Stanford prison experiment , thought ordinary, healthy people would come to behave cruelly, like prison guards, if they were put in that situation, even if it was against their personality.
It has since become a classic social psychology experiment, studied by generations of students and recently coming under a lot of criticism.
5. The Milgram Social Psychology Experiment
The Milgram experiment , led by the well-known psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s, aimed to test people’s obedience to authority.
The results of Milgram’s social psychology experiment, sometimes known as the Milgram obedience study, continue to be both thought-provoking and controversial.
The Milgram experiment discovered people are much more obedient than you might imagine.
Fully 63 percent of the participants continued administering what appeared like electric shocks to another person while they screamed in agony, begged to stop and eventually fell silent — just because they were told to.
6. The False Consensus Effect
The false consensus effect is a famous social psychological finding that people tend to assume that others agree with them.
It could apply to opinions, values, beliefs or behaviours, but people assume others think and act in the same way as they do.
It is hard for many people to believe the false consensus effect exists because they quite naturally believe they are good ‘intuitive psychologists’, thinking it is relatively easy to predict other people’s attitudes and behaviours.
In reality, people show a number of predictable biases, such as the false consensus effect, when estimating other people’s behaviour and its causes.
7. Social Psychology Experiments: Social Identity Theory
Social identity theory helps to explain why people’s behaviour in groups is fascinating and sometimes disturbing.
People gain part of their self from the groups they belong to and that is at the heart of social identity theory.
The famous theory explains why as soon as humans are bunched together in groups we start to do odd things: copy other members of our group, favour members of own group over others, look for a leader to worship and fight other groups.
8. Negotiation: 2 Psychological Strategies That Matter Most
Negotiation is one of those activities we often engage in without quite realising it.
Negotiation doesn’t just happen in the boardroom, or when we ask our boss for a raise or down at the market, it happens every time we want to reach an agreement with someone.
In a classic, award-winning series of social psychology experiments, Morgan Deutsch and Robert Krauss investigated two central factors in negotiation: how we communicate with each other and how we use threats.
9. Bystander Effect And The Diffusion Of Responsibility
The bystander effect in social psychology is the surprising finding that the mere presence of other people inhibits our own helping behaviours in an emergency.
The bystander effect social psychology experiments are mentioned in every psychology textbook and often dubbed ‘seminal’.
This famous social psychology experiment on the bystander effect was inspired by the highly publicised murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964.
It found that in some circumstances, the presence of others inhibits people’s helping behaviours — partly because of a phenomenon called diffusion of responsibility.
10. Asch Conformity Experiment: The Power Of Social Pressure
The Asch conformity experiments — some of the most famous every done — were a series of social psychology experiments carried out by noted psychologist Solomon Asch.
The Asch conformity experiment reveals how strongly a person’s opinions are affected by people around them.
In fact, the Asch conformity experiment shows that many of us will deny our own senses just to conform with others.
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Psychology’s 10 greatest case studies – digested
These ten characters have all had a huge influence on psychology and their stories continue to intrigue each new generation of students. What’s particularly fascinating is that many of their stories continue to evolve – new evidence comes to light, or new technologies are brought to bear, changing how the cases are interpreted and understood. What many of these 10 also have in common is that they speak to some of the perennial debates in psychology, about personality and identity, nature and nurture, and the links between mind and body.
One day in 1848 in Central Vermont, Phineas Gage was tamping explosives into the ground to prepare the way for a new railway line when he had a terrible accident. The detonation went off prematurely, and his tamping iron shot into his face, through his brain, and out the top of his head.
Remarkably Gage survived, although his friends and family reportedly felt he was changed so profoundly (becoming listless and aggressive) that “he was no longer Gage.” There the story used to rest – a classic example of frontal brain damage affecting personality. However, recent years have seen a drastic reevaluation of Gage’s story in light of new evidence. It’s now believed that he underwent significant rehabilitation and in fact began work as a horse carriage driver in Chile. A simulation of his injuries suggested much of his right frontal cortex was likely spared, and photographic evidence has been unearthed showing a post-accident dapper Gage. Not that you’ll find this revised account in many psychology textbooks: a recent analysis showed that few of them have kept up to date with the new evidence.
Henry Gustav Molaison (known for years as H.M. in the literature to protect his privacy), who died in 2008, developed severe amnesia at age 27 after undergoing brain surgery as a form of treatment for the epilepsy he’d suffered since childhood. He was subsequently the focus of study by over 100 psychologists and neuroscientists and he’s been mentioned in over 12,000 journal articles! Molaison’s surgery involved the removal of large parts of the hippocampus on both sides of his brain and the result was that he was almost entirely unable to store any new information in long-term memory (there were some exceptions – for example, after 1963 he was aware that a US president had been assassinated in Dallas). The extremity of Molaison’s deficits was a surprise to experts of the day because many of them believed that memory was distributed throughout the cerebral cortex. Today, Molaison’s legacy lives on: his brain was carefully sliced and preserved and turned into a 3D digital atlas and his life story is reportedly due to be turned into a feature film based on the book researcher Suzanne Corkin wrote about him: Permanent Present Tense, The Man With No Memory and What He Taught The World .
Victor Leborgne (nickname “Tan”)
The fact that, in most people, language function is served predominantly by the left frontal cortex has today almost become common knowledge, at least among psych students. However, back in the early nineteenth century, the consensus view was that language function (like memory, see entry for H.M.) was distributed through the brain. An eighteenth century patient who helped change that was Victor Leborgne, a Frenchman who was nicknamed “Tan” because that was the only sound he could utter (besides the expletive phrase “sacre nom de Dieu”). In 1861, aged 51, Leborgne was referred to the renowned neurologist Paul Broca, but died soon after. Broca examined Leborgne’s brain and noticed a lesion in his left frontal lobe – a segment of tissue now known as Broca’s area. Given Leborgne’s impaired speech but intact comprehension, Broca concluded that this area of the brain was responsible for speech production and he set about persuading his peers of this fact – now recognised as a key moment in psychology’s history. For decades little was known about Leborgne, besides his important contribution to science. However, in a paper published in 2013, Cezary Domanski at Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Poland uncovered new biographical details, including the possibility that Leborgne muttered the word “Tan” because his birthplace of Moret, home to several tanneries.
Wild Boy of Aveyron
The “Wild boy of Aveyron” – named Victor by the physician Jean-Marc Itard – was found emerging from Aveyron forest in South West France in 1800, aged 11 or 12, where’s it’s thought he had been living in the wild for several years. For psychologists and philosophers, Victor became a kind of “natural experiment” into the question of nature and nurture. How would he be affected by the lack of human input early in his life? Those who hoped Victor would support the notion of the “noble savage” uncorrupted by modern civilisation were largely disappointed: the boy was dirty and dishevelled, defecated where he stood and apparently motivated largely by hunger. Victor acquired celebrity status after he was transported to Paris and Itard began a mission to teach and socialise the “feral child”. This programme met with mixed success: Victor never learned to speak fluently, but he dressed, learned civil toilet habits, could write a few letters and acquired some very basic language comprehension. Autism expert Uta Frith believes Victor may have been abandoned because he was autistic, but she acknowledges we will never know the truth of his background. Victor’s story inspired the 2004 novel The Wild Boy and was dramatised in the 1970 French film The Wild Child .
Nicknamed ‘Kim-puter’ by his friends, Peek who died in 2010 aged 58, was the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman’s autistic savant character in the multi-Oscar-winning film Rain Man . Before that movie, which was released in 1988, few people had heard of autism, so Peek via the film can be credited with helping to raise the profile of the condition. Arguably though, the film also helped spread the popular misconception that giftedness is a hallmark of autism (in one notable scene, Hoffman’s character deduces in an instant the precise number of cocktail sticks – 246 – that a waitress drops on the floor). Peek himself was actually a non-autistic savant, born with brain abnormalities including a malformed cerebellum and an absent corpus callosum (the massive bundle of tissue that usually connects the two hemispheres). His savant skills were astonishing and included calendar calculation, as well as an encyclopaedic knowledge of history, literature, classical music, US zip codes and travel routes. It was estimated that he read more than 12,000 books in his life time, all of them committed to flawless memory. Although outgoing and sociable, Peek had coordination problems and struggled with abstract or conceptual thinking.
“Anna O.” is the pseudonym for Bertha Pappenheim, a pioneering German Jewish feminist and social worker who died in 1936 aged 77. As Anna O. she is known as one of the first ever patients to undergo psychoanalysis and her case inspired much of Freud’s thinking on mental illness. Pappenheim first came to the attention of another psychoanalyst, Joseph Breuer, in 1880 when he was called to her house in Vienna where she was lying in bed, almost entirely paralysed. Her other symptoms include hallucinations, personality changes and rambling speech, but doctors could find no physical cause. For 18 months, Breuer visited her almost daily and talked to her about her thoughts and feelings, including her grief for her father, and the more she talked, the more her symptoms seemed to fade – this was apparently one of the first ever instances of psychoanalysis or “the talking cure”, although the degree of Breuer’s success has been disputed and some historians allege that Pappenheim did have an organic illness, such as epilepsy. Although Freud never met Pappenheim, he wrote about her case, including the notion that she had a hysterical pregnancy, although this too is disputed. The latter part of Pappenheim’s life in Germany post 1888 is as remarkable as her time as Anna O. She became a prolific writer and social pioneer, including authoring stories, plays, and translating seminal texts, and she founded social clubs for Jewish women, worked in orphanages and founded the German Federation of Jewish Women.
Sadly, it is not really Kitty Genovese the person who has become one of psychology’s classic case studies, but rather the terrible fate that befell her. In 1964 in New York, Genovese was returning home from her job as a bar maid when she was attacked and eventually murdered by Winston Mosely. What made this tragedy so influential to psychology was that it inspired research into what became known as the Bystander Phenomenon – the now well-established finding that our sense of individual responsibility is diluted by the presence of other people. According to folklore, 38 people watched Genovese’s demise yet not one of them did anything to help, apparently a terrible real life instance of the Bystander Effect. However, the story doesn’t end there because historians have since established the reality was much more complicated – at least two people did try to summon help, and actually there was only one witness the second and fatal attack. While the main principle of the Bystander Effect has stood the test of time, modern psychology’s understanding of the way it works has become a lot more nuanced. For example, there’s evidence that in some situations people are more likely to act when they’re part of a larger group, such as when they and the other group members all belong to the same social category (such as all being women) as the victim.
“Little Albert” was the nickname that the pioneering behaviourist psychologist John Watson gave to an 11-month-old baby, in whom, with his colleague and future wife Rosalind Rayner, he deliberately attempted to instill certain fears through a process of conditioning. The research, which was of dubious scientific quality, was conducted in 1920 and has become notorious for being so unethical (such a procedure would never be given approval in modern university settings). Interest in Little Albert has reignited in recent years as an academic quarrel has erupted over his true identity. A group led by Hall Beck at Appalachian University announced in 2011 that they thought Little Albert was actually Douglas Merritte, the son of a wet nurse at John Hopkins University where Watson and Rayner were based. According to this sad account, Little Albert was neurologically impaired, compounding the unethical nature of the Watson/Rayner research, and he died aged six of hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). However, this account was challenged by a different group of scholars led by Russell Powell at MacEwan University in 2014. They established that Little Albert was more likely William A Barger (recorded in his medical file as Albert Barger), the son of a different wet nurse. Earlier this year, textbook writer Richard Griggs weighed up all the evidence and concluded that the Barger story is the more credible, which would mean that Little Albert in fact died 2007 aged 87.
Chris Costner Sizemore is one of the most famous patients to be given the controversial diagnosis of multiple personality disorder, known today as dissociative identity disorder. Sizemore’s alter egos apparently included Eve White, Eve Black, Jane and many others. By some accounts, Sizemore expressed these personalities as a coping mechanism in the face of traumas she experienced in childhood, including seeing her mother badly injured and a man sawn in half at a lumber mill. In recent years, Sizemore has described how her alter egos have been combined into one united personality for many decades, but she still sees different aspects of her past as belonging to her different personalities. For example, she has stated that her husband was married to Eve White (not her), and that Eve White is the mother of her first daughter. Her story was turned into a movie in 1957 called The Three Faces of Eve (based on a book of the same name written by her psychiatrists). Joanne Woodward won the best actress Oscar for portraying Sizemore and her various personalities in this film. Sizemore published her autobiography in 1977 called I’m Eve . In 2009, she appeared on the BBC’s Hard Talk interview show.
One of the most famous patients in psychology, Reimer lost his penis in a botched circumcision operation when he was just 8 months old. His parents were subsequently advised by psychologist John Money to raise Reimer as a girl, “Brenda”, and for him to undergo further surgery and hormone treatment to assist his gender reassignment.
Money initially described the experiment (no one had tried anything like this before) as a huge success that appeared to support his belief in the important role of socialisation, rather than innate factors, in children’s gender identity. In fact, the reassignment was seriously problematic and Reimer’s boyishness was never far beneath the surface. When he was aged 14, Reimer was told the truth about his past and set about reversing the gender reassignment process to become male again. He later campaigned against other children with genital injuries being gender reassigned in the way that he had been. His story was turned into the book As Nature Made Him, The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl by John Colapinto, and he is the subject of two BBC Horizon documentaries. Tragically, Reimer took his own life in 2004, aged just 38.
Christian Jarrett ( @Psych_Writer ) is Editor of BPS Research Digest
This article was originally published on BPS Research Digest . Read the original article .
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A case study is where sociologists investigate in great detail a particular individual or group, as opposed to trying to gather a representative sample from the target population. Normally a case study will feature methodological pluralism (using a range of research methods to achieve triangulation ) and they are often longitudinal studies (the researcher regularly revisiting the case over a long period of time).
Advantages of case studies include the ability to gather qualitative and quantitative data and the comparative lack of expense compared with attempting the same research with a large sample.
Disadvantages would be the inability to ensure the reliability of the data and the extent to which it could be generalisable.
An example of a Case Study is Paul Willis’ ‘Learning to Labour’ which involved an in-depth study of a group of male students from a school in Wolverhampton. Another is Heelas and Woodhead’s case study of spirituality in Kendal (the Kendal Project).
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Conducting Case Study Research in Sociology
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A case study is a research method that relies on a single case rather than a population or sample. When researchers focus on a single case, they can make detailed observations over a long period of time, something that cannot be done with large samples without costing a lot of money. Case studies are also useful in the early stages of research when the goal is to explore ideas, test, and perfect measurement instruments, and to prepare for a larger study. The case study research method is popular not just within the field of sociology, but also within the fields of anthropology, psychology, education, political science, clinical science, social work, and administrative science.
Overview of the Case Study Research Method
A case study is unique within the social sciences for its focus of study on a single entity, which can be a person, group or organization, event, action, or situation. It is also unique in that, as a focus of research, a case is chosen for specific reasons, rather than randomly , as is usually done when conducting empirical research. Often, when researchers use the case study method, they focus on a case that is exceptional in some way because it is possible to learn a lot about social relationships and social forces when studying those things that deviate from norms. In doing so, a researcher is often able, through their study, to test the validity of the social theory, or to create new theories using the grounded theory method .
The first case studies in the social sciences were likely conducted by Pierre Guillaume Frédéric Le Play, a 19th-century French sociologist and economist who studied family budgets. The method has been used in sociology, psychology, and anthropology since the early 20th century.
Within sociology, case studies are typically conducted with qualitative research methods . They are considered micro rather than macro in nature , and one cannot necessarily generalize the findings of a case study to other situations. However, this is not a limitation of the method, but a strength. Through a case study based on ethnographic observation and interviews, among other methods, sociologists can illuminate otherwise hard to see and understand social relations, structures, and processes. In doing so, the findings of case studies often stimulate further research.
Types and Forms of Case Studies
There are three primary types of case studies: key cases, outlier cases, and local knowledge cases.
- Key cases are those which are chosen because the researcher has a particular interest in it or the circumstances surrounding it.
- Outlier cases are those that are chosen because the case stands out from other events, organizations, or situations, for some reason, and social scientists recognize that we can learn a lot from those things that differ from the norm .
- Finally, a researcher may decide to conduct a local knowledge case study when they already have amassed a usable amount of information about a given topic, person, organization, or event, and so is well-poised to conduct a study of it.
Within these types, a case study may take four different forms: illustrative, exploratory, cumulative, and critical.
- Illustrative case studies are descriptive in nature and designed to shed light on a particular situation, set of circumstances, and the social relations and processes that are embedded in them. They are useful in bringing to light something about which most people are not aware of.
- Exploratory case studies are also often known as pilot studies . This type of case study is typically used when a researcher wants to identify research questions and methods of study for a large, complex study. They are useful for clarifying the research process, which can help a researcher make the best use of time and resources in the larger study that will follow it.
- Cumulative case studies are those in which a researcher pulls together already completed case studies on a particular topic. They are useful in helping researchers to make generalizations from studies that have something in common.
- Critical instance case studies are conducted when a researcher wants to understand what happened with a unique event and/or to challenge commonly held assumptions about it that may be faulty due to a lack of critical understanding.
Whatever type and form of case study you decide to conduct, it's important to first identify the purpose, goals, and approach for conducting methodologically sound research.
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Which theorist argued that religion is the opiate of the masses? Who debated with Marx through their text? Which colonial thinker introduced the world to reception theory? This explanation will introduce you to a number of famous sociologists.
Every discipline has its signature individuals, from founding fathers to founding mothers who have changed how we think about the subject. Hold tight! Let's begin and explore some famous sociologists.
- Who are the most famous sociologists in history?
- Who are some of the most famous sociologists alive today?
- Who are the famous female sociologists?
- What are some famous sociologists and their theories?
- What are some quotes by famous sociologists?
Famous sociologists in history
If we were to try and explore every sociologist to have an impact on the discipline, we would be here all day. But had it not been for Auguste Comte , or Karl Marx, whose works would form the basis of Marxist theory, the discipline may not be what it is today. You should understand who helped to shape the discipline, and how they did so.
We will move chronologically, starting at the birth of the discipline and working our way forward to the modern day. So tuck in, and let’s begin with Auguste Comte .
Famous sociologists today: modern sociology
We’ve now entered the modern stage of sociologists. While not all of these theorists are still with us today, they’ve had a tremendous impact on the growth of the discipline in the 21st century.
Robert K. Merton’s theories formed Strain theory, a key functionalist theory for explaining crime, while C. Wright Mills explored the significance of the sociological imagination. Read on to learn more about the famous sociologists of the modern day.
Famous female sociologists
As can be seen, most of those explored have been men, but there are still very famous female sociologists. Harriet Martineau , while being pivotal to the development of early sociology, also went on to become a hallmark in British feminism.
Not to be forgotten is Catriona Mirrlees-Black , whose research into domestic violence is now a starting point for domestic violence studies in the UK.
Ann Oakley is also a key female sociologist that has spoken about several issues concerning women, including the division of labour and housework and how women experience motherhood.
Famous sociologists and their theories
Famous sociology quotes.
Religion is the opiate of the masses."
Education is preparation to live completely."
The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal what is hidden."
Famous Sociologists - Key takeaways
- Every discipline has its signature individuals, from founding fathers to founding mothers who have changed how we think about the subject.
- Famous sociologists in history include Auguste Comte , Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim and Harriet Martineau.
- Famous sociologists in modern history include Robert Merton, Albert Cohen and Ann Oakley.
- There were also notable famous female sociologists, including Harriet Martineau, Catriona Mirrlees-Black and Ann Oakley.
Frequently Asked Questions about Famous Sociologists
--> who is the most famous sociologist.
There are many famous sociologists, but many believe August Comte to be famous as he coined the term 'sociology'.
--> Who are the 3 fathers of sociology?
Some claim that, Émile Durkheim Max Weber and Karl Marx are the 3 fathers of sociology.
--> Who are well-known sociologists?
Well-known sociologists include Émile Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber. However, there are many well-known sociologists.
--> Who is the mother of sociology?
Harriet Martineau is stated to be the mother of sociology.
--> Who is the first professor of sociology?
Émile Durkheim became the first professor of sociology. He developed sociology as an academic discipline of sociology, allowing the subject to be taught in universities.
Final Famous Sociologists Quiz
In which year did Comte enter the École Polytechnique in Paris?
Why did Comte eventually leave the École Polytechnique ?
Comte was reported to have disputed with some of his fellow professors and eventually had to leave the school in 1842.
Auguste Comte invented the word 'sociology'. True or false?
Which famous theorist institutionalised sociology?
Fill in the blanks:
1. _____ believed that society progresses through changes in dominant modes of production.
2. _____ believed that society progresses as it adapts to a shift in values.
1. Karl Marx believed that society progresses through changes in dominant modes of production.
2. Émile Durkheim believed that society progresses as it adapts to a shift in values.
Comte believed that social change is caused by...
Comte believed that social change is caused by a shift in how we interpret reality, and as our way of knowing the world around us changes.
What is the name of the model which Comte devised to explain social change?
The Law of the Three Stages of the Human Mind
What are the three stages through which society progresses, according to Comte?
According to Comte, society progresses through:
- The theological (religious) stage
- The metaphysical (philosophical) stage
- The positivist (scientific) stage
How does Comte explain the social unrest that followed the French Revolution?
Comte suggests that the social unrest that followed the French Revolution was caused by a crisis in the intellectual realm - that some people were still in the theological stage, others were in the metaphysical stage, and a few had pushed forward into the positivist stage.
What is 'positivism'?
Positivism is a theoretical position which suggests that knowledge is best obtained and produced through systematic, scientific methods. It should be presented in numerical form and objectively interpreted.
The opposite of positivism is ________.
The opposite of positivism is interpretivism .
Which statement is correct?
Comte was a precursor of functionalism before it was formally created.
In what way did Comte believe science could replace religion?
Comte believed that science could replace religion as a new common ground for society. A shared set of ideas could bring members of society and perform the function of social cohesion, as religion was no longer able to do.
Comte maintained his stance on religion all throughout his life. True or false?
What is 'altruism'?
'Altruism' is a code of conduct which dictates that all moral action should be guided by the aim of being good to others. This is the direct opposite of 'egoism'.
Who is Ann Oakley?
Ann Oakley is a British researcher, writer and sociologist.
What are some of Oakley's sociological research topics?
Oakley has written about:
- Childbirth and motherhood
- Women and housework
- Relationships between men and women
Sex and gender
- Social science methodology
What kind of feminist is Oakley regarded as?
What was Oakley's first academic book, and when was it published?
Oakley published her first academic book Sex, Gender and Society in 1972.
Which two of Oakley's books were published in 1974 about housework?
The Sociology of Housework and Housewife
In Sex, Gender and Society (1972), between which two concepts did Oakley make a distinction?
What did The Sociology of Housework (1974) talk about?
This publication explored how far the role of women as housewives was a natural extension of women’s roles as wives and mothers.
What was the methodology for the study in The Sociology of Housework (1974)?
Oakley wrote about the findings from her 40 interviews with London housewives, where she asked about their experiences.
In the study in The Sociology of Housework (1974), what percentage of women who found housework monotonous were also dissatisfied?
What were the other findings from the study in The Sociology of Housework (1974)?
Other findings include:
- Many women felt lonely and experienced a lack of social interaction with others
- The phrase ‘being one’s own boss’ was a valued aspect of the housewife role, quoted by nearly half of the sample
- Housework is the least liked aspect of being a housewife
- The average working week in the sample was 77 hours
- Those who had high status jobs before being a housewife were dissatisfied
Which popular sociological idea of a family did Oakley criticise?
Oakley criticised Wilmott and Young’s idea of a symmetrical family (1973). This idea argued that in modern times, both men and women split their chores and tasks equally - bearing ‘symmetrical’ roles.
What did Oakley say about the expectation to live in a nuclear family structure?
She argued that it was a form of social control, as people found it difficult to live alternative lifestyles.
What is canalisation?
Canalisation signifies the narrow channelling of young children to gender stereotypes.
According to Oakley, what is the impact of gender socialisation?
Through gender socialisation, gender identity is shaped and formed before children even enter school. The process of gender socialisation serves the interests of patriarchy and has negative impacts on women's lives.
How is gender socialisation reinforced through the division of labour?
It is reinforced through the division of labour at home, such as when young girls begin to help with housework, but their brothers are allowed to play.
Robert K. Merton is known as the father of modern sociology. True or False?
What did the 'K' in Robert K. Merton stand for?
For which contribution of his was Merton awarded the National Medal of Science in 1994?
'Sociology of Science'
Which association did Merton preside over?
Merton served as the 47th President of the American Sociological Association.
Which fields of study did Merton engage in?
Merton wore many hats - sociologist, educator and academic statesman. While sociology of science remained the field closest to Merton’s heart, his contributions deeply shaped developments in numerous fields such as - bureaucracy, deviance, communications, social psychology, social stratification and social structure.
Explain Merton's strain theory .
As per Merton, social inequality can sometimes create situations in which people experience anomalies or strain between the goals they should be working towards (such as financial success) and the legitimate means they have available in order to meet those goals. These anomalies or strains can then pressurise individuals into committing crimes.
What are two types of strain, according to Merton?
Structural - this refers to processes at the societal level that filter down and affect how the individual perceives his or her needs
- Individual - this refers to the frictions and pains experienced by an individual as he or she looks for ways to satisfy individual needs
What are the different types of deviance according to Merton?
According to Merton, there are five types of deviance:
What is the difference between 'retreatism' and 'rebellion' as per Merton?
Retreatism involves the rejection of both the cultural goals and the traditional means of achieving those goals.
Rebellion involves a special case of retreatism wherein the individual rejects both the cultural goals and traditional means of achieving them, but actively attempts to replace both with different goals and means.
What is Merton's main contribution to structural functionalism?
Merton’s main contribution to structural functionalism was his clarification and codification of functional analysis.
What three key assumptions of Parson's systems theory did Merton criticise?
Merton provided the most significant criticisms of Parson's systems theory by analysing three key assumptions made by Parsons:
What is Merton's dysfunction theory ?
Merton's dysfunction theory claims that similar to how societal structures or institutions could contribute to the maintenance of certain other parts of the society, they could also most definitely have negative consequences for them.
What is an example of Merton's dysfunction theory?
A good example is discrimination against females. While this is dysfunctional for society, it is generally functional for males and continues to be a part of our society to date.
What did Merton study in his doctoral thesis?
In this work, he explored the interdependent relationship between the development of science and the religious beliefs that are associated with Puritanism. His conclusion was that factors such as religion, culture and economic influences impacted science and allowed it to grow.
What did Merton mean by s elf-fulfilling prophecy ?
According to Merton, the self-fulfilling prophecy is a false definition of the situation evoking a new behaviour, which makes the originally false conception come true.
Mention some of Merton's major publications.
Social Theory and Social Structure (1949)
The Sociology of Science (1973)
Sociological Ambivalence (1976)
On The Shoulders of Giants: A Shandean Postscript (1985)
Who is known as the father of sociology?
Who is the father of Marxism?
Which country was Harriet Martineau born in?
Name 3 famous female sociologists.
- Catriona Mirrlees-Black
- American Identity
- Families and Households
- Sociological Approach
- Beliefs in Society
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Case Studies in the Social Sciences
Case study is a social science research method that can provide valuable insights into phenomena or situations. Case studies are used to “explore and investigate
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contemporary real-life phenomena through detailed contextual analysis of a limited number of events or conditions, and their relationships . ” (Zainal 2007) .
Case studies are used to:
- Understand more about how and why a present circumstance is happening.
- Explore complex phenomena (particularly salient in socio-environmental systems work).
- Formulate “lessons learned” which may be applicable to future cases.
- Communicate information through real life stories.
Case studies can be exploratory, descriptive, evaluative, or explanatory. We present exploratory and explanatory case studies below to demonstrate relevance in EPA research. Data collection methods vary, but common methods include participant observation, interviews, and/or archive analysis. Case studies can also use mixed methods where researchers combine qualitative and quantitative data and analysis.
On this page:
An Exploratory Case Study
An explanatory case study.
- Is Case Study Research Broadly Useful
The St. Louis River AOC and City of Duluth area was chosen as the study site because of its potential to provide rich insights as decisions related to R2R2R were actively unfolding, and because EPA researchers had access to many community decision processes.
Data were collected through participant observation (when a researcher participates in and makes detailed observations of an experience) and document analysis in order to capture the experiences of state and government officials, as well as those of concerned residents. The data collected were analyzed to identify and characterize important aspects of the decision processes such as historical context, constraints, relationships, funding, and vision. The insights generated in the study contributed to an understanding of the variables that influence decision processes beyond a simple focus on the lack of data or information.
Explanatory case studies are often used to understand the how and why of a phenomenon when it cannot be distinguished from its context. EPA scientists at the Atlantic Coastal Environmental Sciences Division (ACESD) in Narraganset, RI conducted socio-ecological systems research to address the three dimensions of sustainability (environment, society and economy) as they intersect with watersheds, water quality, and community support for decisions regarding nitrogen management in Cape Cod, MA. Cape Cod is highly dependent on its water resources and related ecosystem goods and services which serve diverse communities of residents, tourists and second homeowners or seasonal residents. However, most communities on Cape Cod lack sewer systems – which creates a non-point source challenge for nitrogen management of sensitive water resources with significant social and economic considerations.
ACESD scientists studied the social acceptability of various scientific approaches to reducing nitrogen. Social scientists conducted interviews with managers, government officials, consultants, and researchers on Cape Cod to determine:
- What makes different technologies seem more/less feasible for use in managing nitrogen?
- How can we optimize the use of different technologies to meet: economic constraints; ecological efficiency; social values?
Is Case Study Research Broadly Useful?
The two examples of case study research provided here illustrate how intensive qualitative social science provides a window into the human system where decisions are made.
The flexibility of the case study approach facilitates bringing different fields together to deepen our understanding of factors governing complex problems such as habitat restoration or nitrogen mitigation.
Case studies make it possible to deeply understand the context in which a solution is implemented, and to theorize the relationships between programs, agencies, and citizens from evidence. Understanding contextual factors that influence outcomes enhances the transferability of solutions or approaches to other programs, questions or issues.
Social science training, which emphasizes the ability to identify different perspectives (including one’s own), greatly contributes to understanding the biases and assumptions that operate in all social situations and can confound the sharing of knowledge between ORD researchers and the communities they work with.
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An case study examples on sociology is a prosaic composition of a small volume and free composition, expressing individual impressions and thoughts on a specific occasion or issue and obviously not claiming a definitive or exhaustive interpretation of the subject.
Some signs of sociology case study:
- the presence of a specific topic or question. A work devoted to the analysis of a wide range of problems in biology, by definition, cannot be performed in the genre of sociology case study topic.
- The case study expresses individual impressions and thoughts on a specific occasion or issue, in this case, on sociology and does not knowingly pretend to a definitive or exhaustive interpretation of the subject.
- As a rule, an essay suggests a new, subjectively colored word about something, such a work may have a philosophical, historical, biographical, journalistic, literary, critical, popular scientific or purely fiction character.
- in the content of an case study samples on sociology , first of all, the author’s personality is assessed - his worldview, thoughts and feelings.
The goal of an case study in sociology is to develop such skills as independent creative thinking and writing out your own thoughts.
Writing an case study is extremely useful, because it allows the author to learn to clearly and correctly formulate thoughts, structure information, use basic concepts, highlight causal relationships, illustrate experience with relevant examples, and substantiate his conclusions.
Examples List on Sociology Case Study
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Research Paper Guide
Sociology Research Topics
Interesting Sociology Research Topics & Ideas for Students
10 min read
Published on: Jan 22, 2018
Last updated on: Dec 15, 2022
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There are different types of research papers, and among those, sociology research papers are very different. Such papers allow students to explore sociology concepts and sociology research techniques.
These papers need to have an abstract, introduction, discussion, main body, outcome, and bibliography. You might need to outline first before you start writing a research paper on any topic. It is also important to know what is covered in sociology research before starting the paper to do good research work.
Here are 100+ sociology research topics for your next paper that you can choose from. Feel free to choose any topic and conduct thorough research
How to Choose Interesting Sociology Research Topics?
It is important to know how to choose a good topic for a research paper. An instructor may assign you one, but you are often asked to come up with your own topic of interest. The following are some important tips to choose a sociology research topic.
- Brainstorm and think of sociology topics that have interested you
- Decide on a type of sociology paper for narrowing down your topic idea
- Consider choosing a topic that relates to sociology majors or minors you might be studying
- Ensure the topic has enough material available online
- Be flexible in choosing the methods of sociological research
Refer to the above tips if you are unsure about choosing a perfect topic for your sociology paper.
Current Sociology Research Topics for Students
Sociological studies cover different areas of life. Below you can find some unique sociology research topics from different areas of study.
The following easy sociology research topics list ranges from simple social psychology research paper topics to social science research topics.
Simple Sociology Research Topics for High School Students
- Write about religious beliefs and rituals
- Is striking a form of protest?
- Discuss sexual harassment and gender discrimination
- Why is there no need for too much data?
- Why should we not test on animals?
- What are the rights of the minority in the United States?
- Why is it important to recognize the rights of transgender people?
- Why did the civil rights movement expand?
- Is Bigotry bad for society?
- Why are social movements important?
Good Sociology Research Topics for College Students
- What are the important characteristics of sustainable consumption?
- Discuss the main reasons behind school violence
- What are the effects of drug legalization?
- What causes social isolation?
- How to stop bullying at school and college?
- Should children be allowed to transition?
- What is the most powerful form of advertising?
- Discuss the problems of third world countries
- Children and teenagers should receive vaccinations. Why?
- Enlist the main causes of depression in children
Sociology Research Topics for PhD Students
- What is the relationship between religion and class?
- How are religious polarization and religious fractionalization different configurations of religious diversity?
- How to fit music in homeschool?
- What is the history of racial segregation?
- What are the effects of increased housing density on quality of life?
- How have family values changed over time?
- What is the role of social workers in abusive marriages?
- Discuss the effects of social working
- Are video games dangerous for young people?
- What is the impact of globalization on different cultures?
Sociology Research Topics on Mental Health
- How does law influence morality?
- What is the link between mental health and child obesity?
- What is the influence of divorce on children?
- Discuss the relationship between crimes and people with mental health issues
- Write about the effects of different kinds of torture
- Is divorce counseling helpful?
- Bipolar disorder and what are the main causes?
- Can mental health be improved through tolerance?
- Compare introvert behavior vs. extrovert behavior
- Differentiate between short and long-term memory
Research Topics for Social Work Students
- Individual therapy vs. group therapy: Which one is effective?
- Children with autism spectrum disorder: What is the impact on parents?
- What is depression and its main causes?
- What are the effective measures to prevent future drug abuse in children?
- What are the coping strategies for LGBT individuals to face discrimination?
- Discuss different types of child abuse
- How to understand the symptoms of grief
- Critically analyze the life of homeless people
- Discuss the main factors contributing to homelessness
- What are some common myths about dyslexia?
Sociology Scientific Research Topics
- In what ways is social media a help or hindrance to personal interactions?
- Post-traumatic stress disorder among soldiers: Why don't they get treatment after returning home?
- How terrorism affects the social community?
- Polls: How do they work?
- How does social media affect job searches?
- How can sociology research be used in business to create better products?
- What are the politics of sleep deprivation?
- What are the social implications of making music illegal in the Middle Ages?
- What are the main causes of consumerism?
- How can we develop healthy social connections in the workplace?
Sociology Research Topics on Family
- Discuss the effects of divorce on children
- What are the effects of cross-racial adoption on society?
- How does an unstable home affect a child?
- What are the negative effects of single parenting?
- Families and marriage sociology. Discuss different ideologies.
- Describe the concept of LGBT parenting in the United States
- Parenting and its effects on children. Discuss.
- How do nontraditional families affect childhood?
- What role does family play in class structure?
- What are social programs needed to help children experiencing communication difficulties with their parents?
Sociology Research Topics on Crime
- Sexual harassment in the workplace
- Unwarranted arrest and human rights
- Teenagers and dating abuse
- Capital punishment in the justice system
- Rape culture and the victim’s rights
- Carrying a concealed weapon
- Child support and incarcerated parents
- False accusation: How can a person defend himself?
- Police officers limited rights
- War crimes versus civil crimes
Sociology Research Topics on Gender
- Discuss the roles of men and women in politics
- Evaluate the gender discrimination in sports
- What is the future of gender norms?
- What is gender identity?
- Why are so few women in STEM?
- Describe the importance of gender studies for children
- Explain the gender roles in the family
- How do gender studies affect self-esteem?
- Gender stereotypes in the media. Discuss.
- What are some important women’s rights in different countries?
Sociology Research Topics on Education
- Why is it important to allow students to choose any subject they want?
- Discuss the best ways to prevent bullying in schools
- What are the pros and cons of standardized testing?
- Metal detectors and school security
- How to earn more money as a teacher?
- Why should religious education be taught in schools?
- What are the strategies for dealing with difficult students?
- What are the ethical values in education?
- Compare education military spending
- Education as a government priority. Critically analyze the concept
Sociology Research Topics on Religion
- Why do people believe in magic?
- Religion and spiritualism: What are the main differences?
- Theocracy or democracy. Which is better?
- How does religion affect everyday life?
- Why is religion important to nationalism?
- Can students opt-out of state testing?
- What are the significant causes of the faith crisis?
- How does religion influences terrorism?
- Polytheistic religion and mythology. Discuss the concept.
- Compare the sociology of religion and the sociology of mythology.
Social Media Research Paper Topics
- What is the role of visuals on social media?
- Discuss the role of social media for start-ups
- What is the impact of social media on education?
- Why do we want to get more likes on Facebook?
- What are the ways of depoliticization of social media?
- How can we use social media for charity?
- Are social sites good or bad?
- What are the types of political propaganda on social sites?
- How can we stop cyberbullying on social sites?
- Which type of posts on social sites get more likes and why?
Medical Sociology Research Topics
- What are the effects of medicine on the body?
- How are treatments developed?
- What is the connection between mental health and physical health?
- How should a doctor-patient relationship be?
- Discuss globalization and the health of the population
- Why is adolescent health important?
- Describe the pros and cons of medical marijuana
- What are the social effects of mental disorders?
- How can we achieve health equity?
- Can happiness cure diseases?
Urban Sociology Research Topics
- Urbanization in the United States
- Sociology and globalization
- Urban poverty and the city
- Urban inequalities and uncertainties
- Individual strategies of coping with contemporary urban challenges
- Urban political strategies in times of crisis
- Social responses to the crisis
- Mobility of urban inequalities
- Urban issues in developing world
- Urban sustainability problems
Rural Sociology Research Topics
- Community sociology in a non-rural sociology program
- Inviting undergraduate students to sociology carnival: A way of introducing the sociological imagination
- The sociology of food banks in Canada: Issues and current research
- High levels of social capital within an internationally connected network
- Social capital can be measured
- Study of sociology addressing issues such as global warming
- Green Sociology: A framework for considering the environmental dimensions of rural society
- Interpreting social change in rural communities
- The roles of women in local rural committee work
- Social problems facing the elderly in Chinese arable regions
Environmental Sociology Research Topics
- Discuss the effects of global warming on climate change
- How do environmental hazards affect human health?
- Why are coral reefs endangered?
- Why are hurricanes becoming more intense?
- Can we reverse global warming?
- How does an ecosystem work?
- What is the process of recycling?
- What is responsible consumption?
- Explain the causes of acid rain
- What is the phenomenon of climate refugees?
Political Sociology Research Topics
- Discuss the formation of the modern state
- How the information age brings personal freedom?
- What does sociology say about free will?
- Why people participate in crowds, and how participation shapes social order.
- Why are some risks perceived as greater than others by governments?
- How can people create social institutions?
- How can sociology be applied in our daily political decisions?
- Why is sociology important in the modern political world?
- Can sociology explain everything about society and politics?
- Which form of government can explain sociology in a better way?
Applied Social Research Topics
- What are the different ways to market products to millennials?
- How does immigration affect the economy?
- Should pilots be armed?
- How to improve school readiness for children?
- How to overcome social anxiety?
- How can obesity be prevented?
- How to abolish hate crime?
- Should vaccinations be avoided to prevent autism?
- Is genetically modified food good for health?
- How can the government help manage climate change?
Feel free to choose any topic and start working on the research paper outline . We are sure that these topics are more than enough to help you get started. However, make sure to choose a specific one that reflects the sociology discipline.
You can combine or modify these topics the way you want. But if you are still unsure what is the best topic to write your social issues essays on, we can help.
Professional essay writers at MyPerfectWords.com can help you decide on an interesting topic for your sociological research paper. We can also provide you essay writing help by writing a complete essay from scratch within your deadline.
Get help from the top essay writer service if you are unable to choose the right topic for your research paper. Simply contact us now and get professional research paper writing paper help.
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From theoretical works to case studies and research experiments to political treatises, read on to discover some of the major sociological works that have helped define and shape the fields of sociology and the social sciences. 01 of 15 'The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism'
2014 - The Domestic Abuse in the Lift Experiment A Swedish social experiment recently showed only one person of 53 reacting to what seemed like a scene of domestic abuse in a lift. Researchers set up a hidden camera in a lift while members of the group played an abusive boyfriend and his victim.
Discovery and Study (1970-1975) Genie's story came to light on November 4, 1970, in Los Angeles, California. A social worker discovered the 13-year old girl after her mother sought out services for her own health. The social worker soon discovered that the girl had been confined to a small room, and an investigation by authorities quickly revealed that the child had spent most of her life in ...
The Middletown studies were sociological case studies of the white residents of the city of Muncie in Indiana initially conducted by Robert Staughton Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, husband-and-wife sociologists.The Lynds' findings were detailed in Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture, published in 1929, and Middletown in Transition: A Study in Cultural Conflicts, published in 1937.
Famous Experiments in Psychology 1. The Marshmallow Experiment Psychologist Walter Mischel conducted the marshmallow experiment at Stanford University in the 1960s to early 1970s. It was a simple test that aimed to define the connection between delayed gratification and success in life.
Participant observation is one the main research methods on the A level sociology syllabus, but many of the examples in the main text books are painfully out of date. This post provides some more recent examples of research studies which employed participant observation as their main research method. Covert Participant Observation
3. Grant Study Duration: 1942 - Present The Grant Study is one of the most ambitious longitudinal studies. It attempts to answer a philosophical question that has been central to human existence since the beginning of time - what is the secret to living a good life? (Shenk, 2009).
8 Famous Social Psychology Experiments By Kendra Cherry Updated on April 20, 2020 Fact checked by Emily Swaim Do people really stop to appreciate the beauty of the world? How can society encourage people to engage in healthy behaviors? Is there anything that can be done to bring peace to rival groups?
5. The Milgram Social Psychology Experiment. The Milgram experiment, led by the well-known psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s, aimed to test people's obedience to authority. The results of Milgram's social psychology experiment, sometimes known as the Milgram obedience study, continue to be both thought-provoking and controversial.
Chris Costner Sizemore is one of the most famous patients to be given the controversial diagnosis of multiple personality disorder, known today as dissociative identity disorder. Sizemore's alter...
Normally a case study will feature methodological pluralism (using a range of research methods to achieve triangulation) and they are often longitudinal studies (the researcher regularly revisiting the case over a long period of time).
The first case studies in the social sciences were likely conducted by Pierre Guillaume Frédéric Le Play, a 19th-century French sociologist and economist who studied family budgets. The method has been used in sociology, psychology, and anthropology since the early 20th century.
Free Nightfall Creative Writing Example. It was a Saturday, and here I was, walking along what should have been, a resplendent beach, like I have been doing for the past few years. There were a few early morning walkers, some of whom I knew by face, and a few whom I knew by name. Being bred in a cosmopolitan city, I had an eye for details, and ...
Famous female sociologists . As can be seen, most of those explored have been men, but there are still very famous female sociologists. Harriet Martineau, while being pivotal to the development of early sociology, also went on to become a hallmark in British feminism.. Not to be forgotten is Catriona Mirrlees-Black, whose research into domestic violence is now a starting point for domestic ...
One famous case study of a feral child was the child known as Genie. She was raised in a single bedroom with little human interaction. She never gained the cognitive ability of a normal adult, even though she was found at age 13. Later in life, she regressed and stopped speaking altogether.
Case study is a social science research method that can provide valuable insights into phenomena or situations. Case studies are used to "explore and investigate Contact Katie Williams Email: [email protected] Phone: 218-529-5203
Socialization Studies. An example can be seen in the tragic, well-known case of Anna, an unwanted child of a farmer's daughter. Her mother confined Anna to a dark, windowless room and, although ...
in the content of an case study samples on sociology , first of all, the author's personality is assessed - his worldview, thoughts and feelings. The goal of an case study in sociology is to develop such skills as independent creative thinking and writing out your own thoughts.
The definition of psychology is the study of how people think and how they behave as a result. It is studying the micro of the mind vs. the macro of society. Psychology may study why people how ...
Urban Sociology Research Topics. Urbanization in the United States. Sociology and globalization. Urban poverty and the city. Urban inequalities and uncertainties. Individual strategies of coping with contemporary urban challenges. Urban political strategies in times of crisis. Social responses to the crisis.