Studying for Sociology

I’ve been doing some serious catching-up the past week for my Soc 5 class. And you know what? Sociology is actually pretty interesting.

I especially like the case studies that we read. Very interesting and even applicable to every day life.

I just finished reading “The False Enforcement of Unpopular Norms,” which basically talks about how people will verbally agree with the majority, even when they don’t agree themselves and the majority is obviously wrong.

But that’s not the game changer. The study also showed that people will publicly criticize a dissenter in order to prove they sincerely agreed with the majority, even when they didn’t.

When you think of it, this is commonly seen in real life. Here’s an excerpt from the study (Willer, Kuwabara and Macy, 375):

“The threat of informal sanctions by peers can allow unpopular norms to become surprisingly stable, as the following everyday examples suggest:

Homophobia: men deriding homosexuals in an attempt to affirm their gender identity in the face of masculine insecurity (Willer 2005)

Snobbery: gossiping about a faux paus or ridiculing those who fail to appreciate esoteric artwork among intellectual and cultural snobs anxious to affirm their superior intelligence, breeding, and aesthetic taste

Adolescent rebellion: students chiding one another for buying into educational achievement instead of engaging in self-destructive behaviors (e.g. shoplifting, reckless driving, binge drinking; Prentice and Miller 1993)

Witch trials: affirming the credibility of one’s confession by revealing the names of other religious or political heretics, thereby perpetuating the anxiety that fuels the accusations

Unintelligible scholarship: joining the chorus of praise for an obtuse scholar to address one’s own insecurity fostered by not understanding an unintelligible text that others appear to admire (Sokal and Bricmont 1998; Willer 2004)

Flag waving: congressional Democrats voting for the war in Iraq, despite deep private misgivings, to avoid appearing unpatriotic and to prove their “fortitude,” thereby increasing the vulnerability of any colleagues tempted to dissent”

As you can see, sociology is pretty applicable to real life. It seems to me that a lot of these examples stem from insecurity and the need to feel accepted, and it makes sense, because that’s human nature.

Sociology is pretty awesome, because you get to really look at why people and groups act the way they do.

One reading at a time at

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