By Wayne Mellinger
Instructor, Antioch University
Casual connections might be some of the most consequential
relations in our lives, helping us to land jobs, deal with our personal issues,
and providing us with a sense of identity and belonging. And in our world of social media, such as
Facebook, modern humans probably have more casual acquaintances than most
humans ever have had before.
Continue reading "The Power of Acquaintances" »
By Todd Schoepflin
There I was, sitting on a bar stool, having a beer and
shooting the breeze with my brother-in-law Jim, and watching people bowl
together. I don’t get out much, so it was eventful just to hang out at a
bowling alley for a few hours. But a surprising interaction occurred that night.
A woman, who appeared to be drunk, touched my face as she walked by me and said
something about my eyes that I think was intended as a compliment.
Continue reading "Social Interactions" »
Wright Mills famously described how “personal troubles” and “public issues” are related; understanding this relationship is essential for developing a sociological
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a handful of students
to encounter serious “personal troubles” during the course of a semester. These
are not simply excuses to try and get an extension on an assignment, but
serious crises that may prevent them from continuing in my class—or with their
education entirely. Let’s consider how these “personal troubles” might be
linked with “public issues.”
Continue reading "The Sociological Imagination and Personal Crises" »
Did you know that turning in a class assignment copied
directly from your textbook without quotes is a form of plagiarism? A student
who did this in one of my classes claimed not to.
Each year I encounter some form of academic dishonesty, the
most common being copying from another source, directly or paraphrased, without
quotes or attribution. The most egregious example: a student copied directly
from a book I wrote. (In this case,
imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery).
Why do people cheat? And how can sociology illuminate—and
potentially reduce—this behavior, particularly in academia?
Continue reading "Cheating: A Sociological Perspective" »
Matthew (not his real name) was once a student of mine. He
regularly left class early, arrived late, and seemed bored when he was there.
His coursework was mediocre at best, and when he got his grade at the end of
the semester—which was consistent with his scores throughout the semester—he
came to my office to complain. He didn’t do well in the participation part of
the course, which he argued “wasn’t fair.”
Imagine my surprise when he then asked me for a letter of
Continue reading "Impression Management and Letters of Recommendation" »
By Peter Kaufman
Six-year old Emily Parker was one
of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
At her funeral her father, Robbie Parker, offered
his love and support to the family of the shooter.
In 2012, nineteen-year old Conor
McBride shot and killed Ann Grosmaire, his girlfriend of three years. When it
came time for the District Attorney to recommend punishment, Ann’s
parents advocated for a reduced sentence so that Conor would not have to
spend his entire life in jail.
In 2006, Charles Roberts killed
five Amish girls at the West Nickel Mines School in Lancaster, Pennsylviania.
Soon after the shooting, the parents of the deceased girls raised
money to assist the gunman’s wife and children and they consoled his father
during the gunman’s funeral.
Continue reading "Forgiveness is a Social Act" »
I am in the process of moving to a new home. The move has
been planned for over a year, so I have been preparing to pack and get rid of
things for a while. Coincidentally, our department recently moved to a new
building and a family member is in the process of moving too, so I have had
many chances to pack, unpack, and reflect.
Moving reminds me of the meanings we assign to our stuff.
According to sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, we socially
construct meaning of reality. We don’t just construct these meanings
individually, but socially as well. These meanings become habitual and part of
our social institutions, reinforcing the meanings that we collectively create
about our social world and ultimately our realities.
Continue reading "The Social Construction of Stuff" »
Did you or anyone you know find this last holiday season
stressful? Sociology can help us understand some of the reasons why holiday
celebrations might be difficult—and why people keep doing things the same way
each year nonetheless.
As you begin to get back in your non-holiday routine, now is
a great time to use our sociological imaginations to think about the many
sociological concepts that help us understand end-of-the year routines.
Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically About Holidays" »
By Jonathan Wynn
I like crowds. I remember
feeling emotionally overcome as part of the group when I was in the front row
at a Radiohead concert in Madison Square Garden or at the greatest
comeback in NFL history. Being caught
up in the moment, succumbing to the mass and losing a sense of one’s own
individualism was something sociologist Emile
Durkheim called collective
effervescence: the emotional energy binding a group and a person. He was
more interested in religious rituals, but I thought of this concept when
watching this YouTube video
of frenzied shoppers on Black Friday:
Continue reading "Shopping and Crowds" »
I recently received an email from a student, asking me to
email him PDF files of book chapters (I’m not sure which book, but maybe he
wasn’t either) on several sociological topics ASAP. What made this request
especially unusual is that this wasn’t my student; in fact, I had no idea who
he was. Presumably he found my email address online and thought perhaps I would
take the time to violate copyright laws and scan book chapters out of the
kindness of my heart.
How many messages do you get from strangers? And how might
your interactions differ with people based on whether you have met them or
not…or other important contexts?
Continue reading "Primary and Secondary Groups in the Internet Age" »