Nature and Nurture: What do twin studies tell us about nature/nurture? Also, discuss the influence of heredity in explaining the process of one’s personality and intellectual development. Provide examples.
What is the self? According to Charles Horton Cooley, explain the “looking glass self” (discuss the three phases). George Herbert Mead also discusses the stages of the self: identify differences between I and Me. What is meant by significant others?  How are significant others related to the self? Identify Mead’s three-stage process of self-development.
Explain the dramaturgical approach. What occurs on front-stage? What happens in backstage? How can Erving Goffman’s idea of impression management and face-work be used to understand social behavior?
Identify the agents of socialization. What is the role of schools in gender role socialization? How has technology (computer, cell phone, email, & TV) influenced the socialization process?
What are total institutions? Identify Goffman’s four traits of total institutions. Discuss how a degradation ceremony is used to mortify one’s sense of self.
How does society deal with an elderly population? Discuss differences between disengagement theory and activity theory? Finally, provide solutions to ageism.2020/3/3
Introduction to Culture
Are there rules for eating at McDonald’s?
Generally, we do not think about rules in a
fast food restaurant, but if you look around
one on a typical weekday, you will see
people acting as if they were trained for the
role of fast food customer. They stand in
line, pick items from the colorful menus,
swipe debit cards to pay, and wait to collect
trays of food. After a quick meal, customers
wad up their paper wrappers and toss them
into garbage cans. Customers’ movement
through this fast food routine is orderly and
predictable, even if no rules are posted and
no officials direct the process.
If you want more insight into these
unwritten rules, think about what would
happen if you behaved according to some
other standards. (You would be doing what
sociologists call ethnomethodology: deliberately disrupting social norms in order to learn about them.) For
example, call ahead for reservations, ask the cashier detailed questions about the food’s ingredients or how it is
prepared. Ask to have your meal served to you at your table. Or throw your trash on the ground as you leave.
Chances are, you will elicit hostile responses from the restaurant employees and your fellow customers.
People have written entire books analyzing the significance of fast food customs. They examine the extensive,
detailed physicality of fast food: the food itself, wrappers, bags, trays, those tiny ketchup packets, the tables and
chairs, and even the restaurant building. Everything about a chain restaurant reflects culture, the beliefs and
behaviors that a social group shares. Sociological analysis can be applied to every expression of culture, from
sporting events to holidays, from education to transportation, from fashion to etiquette.
In everyday conversation, people rarely distinguish between the terms culture and society, but the terms have
slightly different meanings, and the distinction is important to a sociologist. A society describes a group of people
who share a community and a culture. By “community,” sociologists refer to a definable region—as small as a
neighborhood (Brooklyn, or “the east side of town”), as large as a country (Ethiopia, the United States, or Nepal),
or somewhere in between (in America, this might include someone who identifies with Southern or Midwestern
society). To clarify, a culture represents the beliefs and practices of a group, while society represents the
people who share those beliefs and practices. Neither society nor culture could exist without the other. In this
chapter, we examine the relationship between culture and society in greater detail, paying special attention to
the elements and forces that shape culture, including diversity and cultural changes. A final discussion touches
on the different theoretical perspectives from which sociologists research culture.
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Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism
Despite how much humans have in common, cultural differences are far more prevalent than cultural universals.
For example, while all cultures have language, analysis of particular language structures and conversational
etiquette reveal tremendous differences. In some Middle Eastern cultures, it is common to stand close to others
in conversation. North Americans keep more distance, maintaining a large “personal space.” Even something as
simple as eating and drinking varies greatly from culture to culture. If your professor comes into an early morning
class holding a mug of liquid, what do you assume she is drinking? In the United States, it’s most likely filled with
coffee, not Earl Grey tea, a favorite in England, or Yak Butter tea, a staple in Tibet.
The way cuisines vary across cultures fascinates many people. Some travelers pride themselves on their
willingness to try unfamiliar foods, like celebrated food writer Anthony Bourdain, while others return home
expressing gratitude for their native culture’s fare. Often, Americans express disgust at other cultures’ cuisine,
thinking it’s gross to eat meat from a dog or guinea pig, for example, while they don’t question their own habit of
eating cows or pigs. Such attitudes are an example of ethnocentrism, or evaluating and judging another culture
based on how it compares to one’s own cultural norms. Ethnocentrism, as sociologist William Graham Sumner
(1906) described the term,involves a belief or attitude that one’s own culture is better than all others.
Almost everyone is a little bit ethnocentric. For example, Americans tend to say that people from England drive
on the “wrong” side of the road, rather than the “other” side. Someone from a country where dog meat is
standard fare might find it off-putting to see a dog in a French restaurant—not on the menu, but as a pet and
patron’s companion.
A high level of appreciation for one’s own culture can be healthy; a shared sense of community pride, for
example, connects people in a society. But ethnocentrism can lead to disdain or dislike for other cultures,
causing misunderstanding and conflict. People with the best intentions sometimes travel to a society to “help” its
people, seeing them as uneducated or backward; essentially inferior. In reality, these travelers are guilty of
cultural imperialism, the deliberate imposition of one’s own cultural values on another culture. Europe’s colonial
expansion, begun in the 16th century, was often accompanied by a severe cultural imperialism. European
colonizers often viewed the people in the lands they colonized as uncultured savages who were in need of
European governance, dress, religion, and other cultural practices. A more modern example of cultural
imperialism may include the work of international aid agencies who introduce agricultural methods and plant
species from developed countries while overlooking indigenous varieties and agricultural approaches that are
better suited to the particular region.
Culture Shock
Ethnocentrism can be so strong that when confronted with all the differences of a new culture, one may
experience disorientation and frustration. In sociology, we call this culture shock. A traveler from Chicago
might find the nightly silence of rural Montana unsettling, not peaceful. An exchange student from China might
be annoyed by the constant interruptions in class as other students ask questions—a practice that is considered
rude in China. Perhaps the Chicago traveler was initially captivated with Montana’s quiet beauty and the
Chinese student was originally excited to see an American-style classroom firsthand. But as they experience
unanticipated differences from their own culture, their excitement gives way to discomfort and doubts about how
to behave appropriately in the new situation. Eventually, as people learn more about a culture, they recover from
culture shock.
Culture shock may appear because people aren’t always expecting cultural differences. Anthropologist Ken
Barger (1971) discovered this when conducting participatory observation in an Inuit community in the Canadian
Arctic. Originally from Indiana, Barger hesitated when invited to join a local snowshoe race. He knew he’d never
hold his own against these experts. Sure enough, he finished last, to his mortification. But the tribal members
congratulated him, saying, “You really tried!” In Barger’s own culture, he had learned to value victory. To the Inuit
people, winning was enjoyable, but their culture valued survival skills essential to their environment: how hard
someone tried could mean the difference between life and death. Over the course of his stay, Barger
participated in caribou hunts, learned how to take shelter in winter storms, and sometimes went days with little or
no food to share among tribal members. Trying hard and working together, two nonmaterial values, were indeed
much more important than winning.
Cultural Relativism
During his time with the Inuit tribe, Barger learned to engage in cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is the
practice of assessing a culture by its own standards rather than viewing it through the lens of one’s own
culture. Practicing cultural relativism requires an open mind and a willingness to consider, and even adapt to,
new values and norms. However, indiscriminately embracing everything about a new culture is not always
possible. Even the most culturally relativist people from egalitarian societies—ones in which women have
political rights and control over their own bodies—would question whether the widespread practice of female
genital mutilation in countries such as Ethiopia and Sudan should be accepted as a part of cultural tradition.
Sociologists attempting to engage in cultural relativism, then, may struggle to reconcile aspects of their own
culture with aspects of a culture they are studying.
Sometimes when people attempt to rectify feelings of
ethnocentrism and develop cultural relativism, they swing too far
to the other end of the spectrum. Xenocentrism is the opposite of
ethnocentrism, and refers to the belief that another culture is
superior to one’s own. (The Greek root word xeno, pronounced
“ZEE-no,” means “stranger” or “foreign guest.”) An exchange
student who goes home after a semester abroad or a sociologist
who returns from the field may find it difficult to associate with the
values of their own culture after having experienced what they
deem a more upright or nobler way of living.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for sociologists studying different
cultures is the matter of keeping a perspective. It is impossible for
anyone to keep all cultural biases at bay; the best we can do is
strive to be aware of them. Pride in one’s own culture doesn’t
have to lead to imposing its values on others. And an appreciation
for another culture shouldn’t preclude individuals from studying it
with a critical eye.
Though “society” and “culture” are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings. A society is a
group of people sharing a community and culture. Culture generally describes the shared behaviors and beliefs
of these people, and includes material and nonmaterial elements.. Our experience of cultural difference is
influenced by our ethnocentrism and xenocentrism. Sociologists try to practice cultural relativism.
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So far, the examples in this chapter have often described how people are expected to behave in certain
situations—for example, when buying food or boarding a bus. These examples describe the visible and
invisible rules of conduct through which societies are structured, or what sociologists call norms. Norms
define how to behave in accordance with what a society has defined as good, right, and important, and most
members of the society adhere to them.
Formal Norms
Formal norms are established, written rules. They are behaviors worked out and agreed upon in order to suit
and serve the most people. Laws are formal norms, but so are employee manuals, college entrance exam
requirements, and “no running” signs at swimming pools. Formal norms are the most specific and clearly stated
of the various types of norms, and the most strictly enforced. But even formal norms are enforced to varying
degrees, reflected in cultural values.
For example, money is highly valued in the United States, so monetary crimes are punished. It’s against the law
to rob a bank, and banks go to great lengths to prevent such crimes. People safeguard valuable possessions
and install antitheft devices to protect homes and cars. A less strictly enforced social norm is driving while
intoxicated. While it’s against the law to drive drunk, drinking is for the most part an acceptable social behavior.
And though there are laws to punish drunk driving, there are few systems in place to prevent the crime. These
examples show a range of enforcement in formal norms.
Informal Norms
There are plenty of formal norms, but the list of informal norms—casual behaviors that are generally and widely
conformed to—is longer. People learn informal norms by observation, imitation, and general socialization. Some
informal norms are taught directly—”Kiss your Aunt Edna” or “Use your napkin”—while others are learned by
observation, including observations of the consequences when someone else violates a norm. But although
informal norms define personal interactions, they extend into other systems as well. Think back to the discussion
of fast food restaurants at the beginning of this chapter. In the United States, there are informal norms regarding
behavior at these restaurants. Customers line up to order their food, and leave when they are done. They don’t
sit down at a table with strangers, sing loudly as they prepare their condiments, or nap in a booth. Most people
don’t commit even benign breaches of informal norms. Informal norms dictate appropriate behaviors without the
need of written rules.
Norms may be further classified as either mores or folkways. Mores (mor-ays) are norms that embody the
moral views and principles of a group. Violating them can have serious consequences. The strongest mores
are legally protected with laws or other formal norms. In the United States, for instance, murder is considered
immoral, and it’s punishable by law (a formal norm). But more often, mores are judged and guarded by public
sentiment (an informal norm). People who violate mores are seen as shameful. They can even be shunned or
banned from some groups. The mores of the U.S. school system require that a student’s writing be in the
student’s own words or use special forms (such as quotation marks and a whole system of citation) for crediting
other writers. Writing another person’s words as if they are one’s own has a name—plagiarism. The
consequences for violating this norm are severe, and can usually result in expulsion.
Unlike mores, folkways are norms without any moral underpinnings. Rather, folkways direct appropriate
behavior in the day-to-day practices and expressions of a culture. Folkways indicate whether to shake
hands or kiss on the cheek when greeting another person. They specify whether to wear a tie and blazer or a Tshirt and sandals to an event. In Canada, women can smile and say hello to men on the street. In Egypt, it’s not
acceptable. In regions in the southern United States, bumping into an acquaintance means stopping to chat. It’s
considered rude not to, no matter how busy one is. In other regions, people guard their privacy and value time
efficiency. A simple nod of the head is enough.
Many folkways are actions we take for granted. People need to act without thinking to get seamlessly through
daily routines; they can’t stop and analyze every action (Sumner 1906). People who experience culture shock
may find that it subsides as they learn the new culture’s folkways and are able to move through their daily
routines more smoothly Folkways might be small manners, learned by observation and imitated, but they are by
no means trivial. Like mores and laws, these norms help people negotiate their daily life within a given culture.
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Theoretical Perspectives on Culture
Music, fashion, technology, and values—all are products of culture. But what do they mean? How do sociologists
perceive and interpret culture based on these material and nonmaterial items? Let’s finish our analysis of culture
by reviewing them in the context of three theoretical perspectives: functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic
Functionalist View
Functionalists view society as a system in which all parts work—or function—together to create society as a
whole. In this way, societies need culture to exist. Cultural norms function to support the fluid operation of
society, and cultural values guide people in making choices. Just as members of a society work together to fulfill
a society’s needs, culture exists to meet its
members’ basic needs.
Functionalists also study culture in terms of
values. Education is an important concept in
the United States because it is valued. The
culture of education—including material culture
such as classrooms, textbooks, libraries,
dormitories—supports the emphasis placed on
the value of educating a society’s members.
Conflict Theorist View
Conflict theorists view social structure as
inherently unequal, based on power
differentials related to issues like class, gender,
race, and age. For a conflict theorist, culture is
seen as reinforcing and perpetuating those
inequalities and differences in power. Women
strive for equality in a male-dominated society.
Senior citizens struggle to protect their rights, their health care, and their independence from a younger
generation of lawmakers. Advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union work to protect the rights
of all races and ethnicities in the United States.
Inequalities exist within a culture’s value system. Therefore, a society’s cultural norms benefit some people but
hurt others. Some norms, formal and informal, are practiced at the expense of others. Women were not allowed
to vote in the United States until 1920. Gay and lesbian couples have been denied the right to marry until a few
recent opportunities have emerged. Racism and bigotry are very much alive today. Although cultural diversity is
supposedly valued in the United States, many people still frown upon interracial marriages. Same-sex marriages
are banned in most states, and polygamy—common in some cultures—is unthinkable to most Americans.
At the core of conflict theory is the effect of economic production and materialism: dependence on technology in
rich nations versus a lack of technology and education in poor nations. Conflict theorists believe that a society’s
system of material production has an effect on the rest of culture. People who have less power also have less
ability to adapt to cultural change. This view contrasts with the perspective of functionalism. In the US culture of
capitalism, to illustrate, we continue to strive toward the promise of the American dream, which perpetuates the
belief that the wealthy deserve their privileges.
Symbolic Interactionist View
Symbolic interactionism is a sociological perspective that is
most concerned with the face-to-face interactions between
members of society. Interactionists see culture as being
created and maintained by the ways people interact and in
how individuals interpret each other’s actions. Proponents of
this theory conceptualize human interactions as a
continuous process of deriving meaning from both objects in
the environment and the actions of others. This is where the
term symbolic comes into play. Every object and action has
a symbolic meaning, and language serves as a means for
people to represent and communicate their interpretations of
these meanings to others. Those who believe in symbolic
interactionism perceive culture as highly dynamic and fluid,
as it is dependent on how meaning is interpreted and how
individuals interact when conveying these meanings.
There are three major theoretical approaches towards the interpretation of culture. A functionalist perspective
acknowledges that there are many parts of culture that work together as a system to fulfill society’s needs.
Functionalists view culture as a reflection of society’s values. Conflict theorists see culture as inherently unequal,
based upon factors like gender, class, race, and age. An interactionist is primarily interested in culture as
experienced in the daily interactions between individuals and the symbols that comprise a culture. Various
cultural and sociological occurrences can be explained by these theories; however, there is no one “right” view
through which to understand culture.
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We began this lesson by asking what culture is. Culture is comprised of all the practices, beliefs, and behaviors
of a society. Because culture is learned, it includes how people think and express themselves. While we may like
to consider ourselves individuals, we must acknowledge the impact of culture; we inherit thought language that
shapes our perceptions and patterned behavior, including about issues of family and friends, and faith and
To an extent, culture is a social comfort. After all, sharing a similar culture with others is precisely what defines
societies. Nations would not exist if people did not coexist culturally. There could be no societies if people did not
share heritage and language, and civilization would cease to function if people did not agree to similar values
and systems of social control. Culture is preserved through transmission from one generation to the next, but it
also evolves through processes of innovation, discovery, and cultural diffusion. We may be restricted by the
confines of our own culture, but as humans we have the ability to question values and make conscious
decisions. No better evidence of this freedom exists than the amount of cultural diversity within our own society
and around the world. The more we study another culture, the better we become at understanding our own.
Introduction to Socialization
In the summer of 2005, police detective Mark Holste followed an investigator from the Department of Children
and Families to a home in Plant City, Florida. They were there to look into a statement from the neighbor
concerning a shabby house on Old Sydney Road. A small girl was reported peering from one of its broken
windows. This seemed odd because no one in the neighborhood had seen a young child in or around the home,
which had been inhabited for the past three years by a woman, her boyfriend, and two adult sons.
Who was the mystery girl in the window?
Entering the house, Detective Holste and his team were shocked. It was the worst mess they’d ever seen,
infested with cockroaches, smeared with feces and urine from both people and pets, and filled with dilapidated
furniture and ragged window coverings.
Detective Holste headed down a hallway and entered a small room. That’s where he found the little girl, with big,
vacant eyes, staring into the darkness. A newspaper report later described the detective’s first encounter with
the child: “She lay on a torn, moldy mattress on the floor. She was curled on her side . . . her ribs and collarbone
jutted out . . . her black hair was matted, crawling with lice. Insect bites, rashes and sores pocked her skin . . .
She was naked—except for a swollen diaper. … Her name, her mother said, was Danielle. She was almost
seven years old” (DeGregory 2008).
Detective Holste immediately carried Danielle out of the home. She was taken to a hospital for medical
treatment and evaluation. Through extensive testing, doctors determined that, although she was severely
malnourished, Danielle was able to see, hear, and vocalize normally. Still, she wouldn’t look anyone in the eyes,
didn’t know how to chew or swallow solid food, didn’t cry, didn’t respond to stimuli that would typically cause
pain, and didn’t know how to communicate either with words or simple gestures such as nodding “yes” or “no.”
Likewise, although tests showed she had no chronic diseases or genetic abnormalities, the only way she could
stand was with someone holding onto her hands, and she “walked sideways on her toes, like a crab”
(DeGregory 2008).
What had happened to Danielle? Put simply: beyond the basic requirements for survival, she had been
neglected. Based on their investigation, social workers concluded that she had been left almost entirely alone in
rooms like the one where she was found. Without regular interaction—the holding, hugging, talking, the
explanations and demonstrations given to most young children—she had not learned to walk or to speak, to eat
or to interact, to play or even to understand the world around her. From a sociological point of view, Danielle had
not had been socialized.
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What is Socialization?
Socialization is the process through which people are taught to be proficient members of a society. It
describes the ways that people come to understand societal norms and expectations, to accept society’s beliefs,
and to be aware of societal values. Socialization is not the same as socializing (interacting with others, like
family, friends, and coworkers); to be precise, it is a sociological process that occurs through socializing. As
Danielle’s story illustrates, even the most basic of human activities are learned. You may be surprised to know
that even physical tasks like sitting, standing, and walking had not automatically developed for Danielle as she
grew. And without socialization, Danielle hadn’t learned about the material culture of her society (the tangible
objects a culture uses): for example, she couldn’t hold a spoon, bounce a ball, or use a chair for sitting. She also
hadn’t learned its nonmaterial culture, such as its beliefs, values, and norms. She had no understanding of the
concept of “family,” didn’t know cultural expectations for using a bathroom for elimination, and had no sense of
modesty. Most importantly, she hadn’t learned to use the symbols that make up language—through which we
learn about who we are, how we fit with other people, and the natural and social worlds in which we live.
Sociologists have long been fascinated by
circumstances like Danielle’s—in which a child receives
sufficient human support to survive, but virtually no
social interaction—because they highlight how much we
depend on social interaction to provide the information
and skills that we need to be part of society or even to
develop a “self.”
The necessity for early social contact was
demonstrated by the research of Harry and Margaret
Harlow. From 1957 to 1963, the Harlows conducted a
series of experiments studying how rhesus monkeys,
which behave a lot like people, are affected by isolation
as babies. They studied monkeys raised under two
types of “substitute” mothering circumstances: a mesh
and wire sculpture, or a soft terrycloth “mother.” The
monkeys systematically preferred the company of a soft, terrycloth substitute mother (closely resembling a
rhesus monkey) that was unable to feed them, to a mesh and wire mother that provided sustenance via a
feeding tube. This demonstrated that while food was important, social comfort was of greater value (Harlow and
Harlow 1962; Harlow 1971). Later experiments testing more severe isolation revealed that such deprivation of
social contact led to significant developmental and social challenges later in life.
DeGregory, Lane. 2008. “The Girl in the Window.” St. Petersburg Times, July 31. Retrieved January 31, 2012
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Why Socialization Matters
Socialization is critical both to individuals and to the societies in which they live. It illustrates how completely
intertwined human beings and their social worlds are. First, it is through teaching culture to new members that a
society perpetuates itself. If new generations of a society don’t learn its way of life, it ceases to exist. Whatever is
distinctive about a culture must be transmitted to those who join it in order for a society to survive. For American
culture to continue, for example, children in the United States must learn about cultural values related to
democracy: they have to learn the norms of
voting, as well as how to use material objects
such as voting machines. Of course, some
would argue that it’s just as important in
American culture for the younger generation to
learn the etiquette of eating in a restaurant or
the rituals of tailgate parties at football games.
In fact, there are many ideas and objects that
Americans teach children in hopes of keeping
the society’s way of life going through another
Socialization is just as essential to us as
individuals. Social interaction provides the
means via which we gradually become able to
see ourselves through the eyes of others,
learning who we are and how we fit into the
world around us. In addition, to function
successfully in society, we have to learn the basics of both material land nonmaterial culture, everything from
how to dress ourselves to what’s suitable attire for a specific occasion; from when we sleep to what we sleep on;
and from what’s considered appropriate to eat for dinner to how to use the stove to prepare it. Most importantly,
we have to learn language—whether it’s the dominant language or one common in a subculture, whether it’s
verbal or through signs—in order to communicate and to think. As we saw with Danielle, without socialization we
literally have no self.
Nature versus Nurture
Some experts assert that who we are is a result of nurture—the relationships and caring that surround us.
Others argue that who we are is based entirely in genetics. According to this belief, our temperaments, interests,
and talents are set before birth. From this perspective, then, who we are depends on nature.
One way that researchers attempt to prove the impact of nature is by studying twins. Some studies followed
identical twins who were raised separately. The pairs shared the same genetics, but, in some cases, were
socialized in different ways. Instances of this type of situation are rare, but studying the degree to which identical
twins raised apart are the same and different can give researchers insight into how our temperaments,
preferences, and abilities are shaped by our genetic makeup versus our social environment.
For example, in 1968, twin girls born to a mentally ill mother were put up for adoption. However, they were also
separated from each other and raised in different households. The parents, and certainly the babies, did not
realize they were one of five pairs of twins who were made subjects of a scientific study (Flam 2007).
In 2003, the two women, then age 35, reunited. Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein sat together in awe, feeling
like they were looking into a mirror. Not only did they look alike, but they behaved alike, using the same hand
gestures and facial expressions (Spratling 2007). Studies like these point to the genetic roots of our
temperament and behavior.
Though genetics and hormones play an important role in human behavior, sociology’s larger concern is the
effect that society has on human behavior, the “nurture” side of the nature versus nurture debate. What race
were the twins? From what social class were their parents? What about gender? Religion? All of these factors
affect the lives of the twins as much as their genetic makeup and are critical to consider as we look at life
through the sociological lens.
Sociologists all recognize the importance of socialization for healthy individual and societal development. But
how do scholars working in the three major theoretical paradigms approach this topic? Structural functionalists
would say that socialization is essential to society, both because it trains members to operate successfully within
it and because it perpetuates culture by transmitting it to new generations. Without socialization, a society’s
culture would perish as members died off. A conflict theorist might argue that socialization reproduces inequality
from generation to generation by conveying different expectations and norms to those with different social
characteristics. For example, individuals are socialized differently by gender, social class, and race. An
interactionist studying socialization is concerned with face-to-face exchanges and symbolic communication. For
example, dressing baby boys in blue and baby girls in pink is one small way that messages are conveyed about
differences in gender roles.
Socialization is important because it helps uphold societies and cultures; it is also a key part of individual
development. Research demonstrates that who we are is affected by both nature (our genetic and hormonal
makeup) and nurture (the social environment in which we are raised). Sociology is most concerned with the way
that society’s influence affects our behavior patterns, made clear by the way behavior varies across class and
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In the process of resocialization, old behaviors that were helpful in a previous role are removed because
they are no longer of use. Resocialization is necessary when a person moves to a senior care center, goes to
boarding school, or serves time in jail. In the new environment, the old rules no longer apply. The process of
resocialization is typically more stressful than normal socialization because people have to unlearn behaviors
that have become customary to them.
The most common way resocialization occurs is in a total institution where people are isolated from society and
are forced to follow someone else’s rules. A ship at sea is a total institution, as are religious convents, prisons, or
some cult organizations. They are places cut off from a larger society. The 7.1 million Americans who lived in
prisons or penitentiaries at the end of 2010 are also members of this type of institution (U.S. Department of
Justice 2011). As another example, every branch of the military is a total institution.
Many individuals are resocialized into an
institution through a two-part process. First,
members entering an institution must leave
behind their old identity through what is
known as a degradation ceremony. In a
degradation ceremony, new members lose
the aspects of their old identity and are
given new identities. The process is
sometimes gentle. To enter a senior care
home, an elderly person often must leave a
family home and give up many belongings
which were part of his or her long-standing
identity. Though caretakers guide the
elderly compassionately, the process can
still be one of loss. In many cults, this
process is also gentle and happens in an
environment of support and caring.
In other situations, the degradation
ceremony can be more extreme. New prisoners lose freedom, rights (including the right to privacy), and
personal belongings. When entering the army, soldiers have their hair cut short. Their old clothes are removed
and they wear matching uniforms. These individuals must give up any markers of their former identity in order to
be resocialized into an identity as a “soldier.”
After new members of an institution are stripped of their old identity, they build a new one that matches the new
society. In the military, soldiers go through basic training together, where they learn new rules and bond with one
another. They follow structured schedules set by their leaders. Soldiers must keep their areas clean for
inspection, learn to march in correct formations, and salute when in the presence of superiors.
Learning to deal with life after having lived in a total institution requires yet another process of resocialization. In
the U.S. military, soldiers learn discipline and a capacity for hard work. They set aside personal goals to achieve
a mission, and they take pride in the accomplishments of their units. Many soldiers who leave the military
transition these skills into excellent careers. Others find themselves lost upon leaving, uncertain about the
outside world, and what to do next. The process of resocialization to civilian life is not a simple one.
Monday, August 05, 2013 OpenStax College. Textbook content produced by OpenStax College is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution License 3.0 license.
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Socialization is a lifelong process recurring as we enter new phases of life, such as adulthood or senior age.
Resocialization is a process that removes the socialization we have developed over time and replaces it with
newly learned rules and roles. Because it involves removing old habits that have been built up, resocialization
can be a stressful and difficult process.
Note: To complete this puzzle, simply click on the space with the number of the clue where you want to start
typing, type the first letter. Terms that have two words will have a space between them (for example: SOCIAL
SCIENCE). If you choose to restart the puzzle, it will randomize the questions and will be different from what you
saw before. You are welcome to try this as many times as you would like to make certain you are familiar with
these terms.
Monday, August 05, 2013 OpenStax College. Textbook content produced by OpenStax College is licensed under a Creative
Commons Attribution License 3.0 license.
“Download for free at”

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