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Title[Kathy S. Stolley] the Basics of Sociology(Bookos.org)
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Page 1

THE BASICS OF
SOCIOLOGY

Kathy S. Stolley

GREENWOOD PRESS

Page 2

The Basics of Sociology

Page 161

These “isms” reinforce, and are reinforced by, another common and po-
tentially destructive form of prejudice, stereotypes. Stereotypes are beliefs that
generalize certain exaggerated traits to an entire category of people. These com-
mon images can assign either positive or negative traits to various groups. They
may arise out of observations of behaviors or traits that the observer applied to
all people in the actor’s category (sex, ethnicity, club membership, hair color,
etc.). Like the “isms,” stereotypical beliefs are used to justify unequal treatment
of groups. If stereotypes are accepted by the people to which they refer, they can
also become self-fulfilling prophecies (see chapter 6).

Stereotypes abound across society. For example, black professionals
have reported troubles hailing cabs (Cose 1993). Research has shown that chil-
dren’s picture books tend to depict women in more traditional roles, working in-
side the home rather than in an occupation (e.g., Peterson and Lach 1990;
Williams et al. 1987). Women are even depicted more negatively than men in
college sociology textbooks (Ferree and Hall 1990). The elderly are frequently
stereotyped as senile and less capable and competent in many areas of life than
younger people (Butler 1975). Images of elderly women may be especially neg-
ative (Bazzini et al. 1997). Research on college textbooks used for courses cov-
ering issues in marriage and family courses has shown that the elderly tend to be
included primarily under “elderly” subjects such as widowhood and retirement.
They are not often mentioned in chapters on race/ethnicity, sexuality, and gen-
der (Stolley and Hill 1996). Regarding poverty specifically, many of those who
are not poor, including policymakers, stereotype the poor as being irresponsible
or without ambition when, in reality, most poor do want to work (e.g., Dunbar
1988).

Prejudices may also result in scapegoating, focusing blame on another
person or category of people for one’s own problems. Hitler blamed Jews and
other “enemies of the state” for Germany’s troubles before World War II (Scheff
1994). Modern-day white-supremacist groups blame other races for economic
problems.

Discrimination, unequal treatment of people based on their group
membership, also perpetuates stratification. Discrimination differs from preju-
dice. Prejudice is an attitude; discrimination is a behavior. Although the two may,
and often do, occur together, they can also exist separately (Merton 1976). When
discrimination becomes part of the operation of social institutions, it is known
as institutional discrimination. It perpetuates stratification patterns by sys-
tematically disadvantaging certain groups. According to Joe Feagin and Melvin
Sikes (1994), racism is still alive and well, although less overt than in the past.
However, institutional racism is rampant. It manifests in patterns of residential
and educational segregation. The result is a social structure that adversely im-
pacts the chances of those subjected to prejudice and discrimination.

These ascribed factors require a multidimensional approach to stratifi-
cation. They can have multiple, interrelated effects. Stratification also applies to
many more social factors than race, ethnicity, gender, and age. We are also
ranked to varying degrees by other factors such as religious affiliation and sex-

The Basics of Sociology

142

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ual preference. People are even socially ranked by their physical appearance.
These rankings have identifiable outcomes for their lives. The popular 1979
movie 10, starring former model Bo Derek, was built around the idea of rating
women on a 1–10 scale of physical attractiveness. Research has shown that
highly attractive people receive better grades, jobs, promotions, salaries, and
nursing home and medical care. They may fare better when charged in criminal
cases. Having a beautiful wife can even improve how men are perceived (see the
summary in Katz 2001). There is also a “halo effect” of physical attractiveness.
Physically attractive people are perceived as having more positive characteris-
tics, such as better classroom behavior, credibility, kindness, and sociability
(Dion, Berscheid, and Walster 1972; Katz 2001).

Some sociologists are also starting to explore stratification and oppres-
sion regarding animals, just as they have long studied the impact of stratifica-
tion and oppression of the poor, women, and minorities. They have added
another “ism” to the sociological vocabulary with the term speciesism, a belief
in the superiority of humans over other species of animals. They cite examples
such as food industries that rely on animals bred and raised under poor condi-
tions, experimentation on animals, and the use of animals in circuses, rodeos,
and shows to argue that “animals are severely oppressed in modern, industrial-
ized cultures” (Alger and Alger 2003, 209).

SOCIAL MOBILITY

Sociologists interested in stratification also focus on social mobility,
movement within the stratification system from one position, or strata, to an-
other. This movement can be upward or downward. It can be studied at the col-
lective level using characteristics such as ascribed status (e.g., the upward
mobility of African Americans in the United States since the end of slavery, the
status of women) or even at the level of entire nations (e.g., ranking by economic
factors such as gross domestic product). However, social mobility is usually ad-
dressed at the micro level by examining individual or family level movement
within the social structure. Interestingly, these micro-level patterns of mobility
are “considered a core characteristic of a society’s social structure,” even though
structure which is typically considered a macro-level area of study (Riain and
Evans 2000). (Chapter 2 provides a discussion of micro and macro perspectives.)

Mobility can be examined by how much time it takes to occur. Intra-
generational mobility is movement that occurs within the lifetime of an indi-
vidual. Individuals that change their social position over the course of their
lifetime achieve this type of mobility (e.g., an employee that starts in the mail
room and becomes corporate vice president). Intergenerational mobility is
movement that occurs from generation to generation (e.g., the mail-room clerk’s
son becomes the corporate officer).

Mobility can also be examined by the factors behind the change. Mo-
bility that occurs as a result of changes in the occupational structure of a soci-
ety is structural mobility. A strong economy can create new options for upward

Stratification

143

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Wallerstein, Immanuel, 146, 149–50
War, 153, 154, 158, 159, 182. See also

Military; Operation Iraqi Freedom;
names of specific wars

Ward, Lester Frank, 10, 238
“War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, 184
Washington, Booker T., 38, 148, 174
Waters, Maxine, 8
Weber, Max, 6, 9, 14, 36, 37–38, 104, 175,

205, 236; on bureaucracy, 94–95, 97; on
stratification, 140–41; on verstehen, 28,
209

Weddings, symbols used in, 48
Wellman, Barry, 86, 170, 175–76
Wells-Barnett, Ida, 6, 17–18, 26
Western Electric Hawthorne Plant, 211
Westheimer, Dr. Ruth, 8
White supremacists, 49, 84, 142, 194–95
Whorf, Benjamin Lee, 48, 56
Whorf Hypothesis, 48
Whyte, William Foote, 6, 208–9, 238–39
Williams, Robin, 8
Wilson, Edward O., 51, 56–57
Wilson, William Julius, 7, 144–45, 150
Winger, Debra, 8
Wirth, Louis, 6, 164, 165, 174, 175, 176
Witchcraft, 69, 113

Women, 137, 142, 143; and deviance, 111,
113, 117–18, 125, 126; and discrimina-
tion, 141, 147; and fertility rates, 154;
and globalization, 147, 194; and poverty,
137, 138; and social mobility, 144–45;
and sociology, 7, 220–21, 225–26, 233,
235

Women’s movement, 26–27, 32, 188, 189,
193, 195; and globalization, 194. See
also Feminism

Women’s Studies, 50. See also Feminism
Women’s suffrage, 7, 18, 36, 78, 148, 189,

191, 236. See also Feminism
World-systems theory, 12, 26, 146–47, 149
World Trade Center bombing, 186
World War I, 10, 38, 92, 236
World War II, 6, 10, 33, 48, 75, 76, 92, 99,

100, 142, 154, 167, 168, 171, 204, 212
Wright, Richard Robert, 7
Wrigley Field, 24–25

Yanomamo, 42, 50, 53

Zimbardo, Philip G., 92–93, 104–5, 211,
212

Zukin, Sharon, 168
Zurcher, Louis A., 68–69

Index

302

Page 322

About the Author

KATHY S. STOLLEY is an applied sociologist, managing an electronic meet-
ing facility, providing advisory, consulting, and facilitation services on organi-
zational processes and issues in a multinational organization. In addition, she is
an online Adjunct Professor for Anne Arundel Community College. She is also
the editor of the journal Social Insight: Knowledge at Work.

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