June26, 2014.

Sociologyis a large field that is encompasses several sociological conceptsthat attempt to explain and understand human behavior in differentsocial contexts. As an empirical science, sociology uses variousconcepts as ‘social facts’ in seeking interpretation of socialactions, social aspects of different societies, individuals’behaviors and group dynamics. In this way a sociologist can explain,interpret and understand various issues that occur in the societyusing sociological perspectives and empirically researched concepts.This research paper seeks to explain different sociological conceptsand examples of their application in the society.


Inthe sociology, social stigma is associated with aspects of socialdisapproval or discontent directed towards a particular person orgroup of individuals based on their status that are presumed todiffer and deviate from the culturally accepted norms. In the literalsense, stigma is social labeling of certain individuals with uncalledcharacteristics due to their deviating difference from other membersof the society either in their character, physical form or mentalstatus. Stigma arises from wrong or positive perception about aperson’s condition (Macionis,1991).Ideally, social stigma is associated with people who have a certainkind of attributes that do not conform to a particular communitynormative expectation. These attributes may occur in the form ofmental or physical disability. In some cases, social stigma isdirected to individuals who have deviant sexual orientation gay,lesbian, pedophile, rapists, or intersect gender.

Furthermore,social stigma may be directed to individuals who suffer from certaindisease that are held in awe by the society AIDs, TB, cancer, STDsand leprosy. Other cases of social stigma may be attributed toindividuals on the basis of their ethnicity, race, education,religion, criminality or ideology. However, while there are differentforms of social stigma, their variations differ from region to regionbased on the sociopolitical and geographic context of that society(Landis,1989).According to sociologist, Irvan Goffman, social stigma occurs due toexternal attributes of a person (social or physical disability),deviations from normal traits (alcoholism or criminality) and ‘tribalstigmas’ (race, nationality or religion). Social stigma is akin tostereotyping, discrimination or labeling and has severe effects onthe behavior and general life of the stigmatized individuals(Giddens,2006).


Theunderlying basis of society is through social interactions. Every dayindividuals meet and interact with different members of the societyin different contexts. As such, individuals get socialized intovalues, ideas and way of life of individuals involved in theinteractions. Anticipatory socializations are when persons learnvalues and norms of another group that they wish to join or interactwith in order to make interactions easier during the actualinteractions (Landis,1989).As such, individuals change their behaviors, attitudes, train and‘groom’ themselves in anticipatory shift to the other group. Forinstance, in the African setup, initiates who wish to transit toadulthood, change their behaviors and attitudes in readiness to thenew role and adulthood association. In a different perspective, wouldbe drug addicts or criminals engages in anticipatory socializationbefore fully submerging into the gangs.


Ethnocentrismis a sociological concept that explains how individuals judge othermembers of different community based on their culture, values,customs, language, behaviors and religion. In this case, one grouptends to differentiate itself from the other based on a falseperception, beliefs, pride and vanity that their group is superior tothe other (Giddens,2006).Ideally, people are born and socialized in their own culture whichmakes them accustomed to the cultural values and norms as such, itbecomes difficult to appreciate and understand the behavior andcultural values of different community from their own. Theethnocentric spirit has been the root of many cultural and tribaldivisions in the world. Through ethnocentrism ethnic subdivisionsare created to define the ethnicity or cultural identity of anotherperson. In the modern world, ethnocentrism has been overtly used tocreate ethnic subdivisions (Landis,1989).

InKenya for instance, the society is laden with ethnocentric ideologiesthat have created tribal animosity. William Summer observed that,ethnocentrism makes a particular group feel more superior to theother, resulting in contempt of the other groups. In the contemporarysociety, this concept is evident from several social problemswitnessed for instance, it is recorded that the Rwandan genocideresulted from one tribe (Hutu) hating the other tribe (Tutsi) basedon their social, cultural and political differences. The decade-longwar in Somalia could be attributed to an extent, on ethnocentrismbetween clans the Somali society is a conglomeration of differentclans who engage in intergroup superiority contests in quest tocontrol the political and economics means of the country.


Areference group is that which individuals use as a standard measureof drawing comparison. In most cases, a reference group is that whichan individual aspires to evaluate, relate and determine one’sbehavior (Landis,1989).In short, a reference group is that which forms individuals’ frameof comparison in experience, understanding one’s perception, ideasand cognition. As such, a reference group forms an important basisthrough which individuals evaluate, reflect, and measure, compare andcontrast their performance and appearance in life (Macionis,1991).In this case, the reference group becomes the source of anindividual’s sense of identity, attitude and social ties. As RobertMerton, observed, individuals make reference group based on personswho hold social roles that are aspired by the society (Giddens,2006).For instance, a student uses his mentors, teachers, parents and othersuccessful individuals as a source of reference. In daily lives,friends and family members become reference group when evaluatingones circumstances, values, behaviors and achievements.


Lifein the society is characterized by shifting social positions througheducation, class, wealth and marriage among others. Individuals lifein families, community and the society is occasioned by upward ordownward social mobility movement or shifting social positions inthe society (Macionis,1991).For instance, an illiterate person who gets educated and earns adegree could be said to have undergone social mobility, a poor manwho becomes affluent could be said to have moved up the socialladder, likewise an unmarried person change their social status uponmarriage. As such social mobility is changing in social statusbetween groups, parents and families. Intergenerational mobility is asociological concept that denotes changes in social status fromprevious family generation. For instance, a poor farmer’s son whobecomes president, the son could be said to have undergoneintergenerational mobility.

Intergenerationalmobility occurs over one’s lifetime, through education, economicand political status among others. Individuals acquire new socialpositions different from that of their parents. Ideally,intergenerational mobility is measured in regard to wealth and incomemobility. Business ventures and education have been considered asimportant aspects that give individuals a head start tointergenerational mobility (Landis,1989).In the contemporary society, the nature of family life and inparticular at individual level has undergone great intergenerationalmobility. Most children of poor parents are now wealthy, holdimportant government offices and have amassed great wealth.


Thisis a sociological phrase associated with Robert Merton, who arguedthat, individuals have a self-prediction in which ‘falsesituations’ evokes behaviors that in turn makes original falsesituations come ‘true.’ In a broader sense, strong delusions orbeliefs that may be false may influence individuals engage inreactions that could fulfill the beliefs to reality. For instance, aman who is convinced that a lady might love him may use more effortin his wooing than when he is convinced otherwise. The expectationsone has through certain beliefs May reinforce actions needed toachieve such prophesy (Giddens,2006).In real life, people change their self -perception and attitudes inaccordance to what they profess. Self-fulfilling prophesy occurswhen an individual expects, aspire to get certain things in life,these expectations and beliefs in turn transform into behaviors thatlead to achieving the cherished things.


Povertyrefers to the general lack or a state of deprivation to basicmaterial possession. Extreme poverty, complete deprivation orscarcity of basic materials for human needs is abject poverty(Landis,1989).Relative poverty is a measure of individuals’ income in relation toa fixed proportion of income of another group. It is denoted as beingin a state of economic inequality when compared to other individuals.In this context, individuals are considered poor if their incomefalls behind that of other members of the community. However, theexact definition and connotation of ‘relative poverty’ variesfrom region to region.

Accordingto sociologist, relative poverty is when individual cannot affordresources, diets, amenities, living conditions or participating inactivities prevalent in a given society. As such, relative poverty isdefined in relation to the economic level of the society in question.For instance, the American worker who earns daily wages of $ 100 maybe considered relative poor in the American society. However, inKenya a person earning such amount of money a day is considered rich.Most people in third world countries living on $5 a day could beconsidered relative poor but not living in abject poverty.


Individualshave several roles to play in the society. The individual could be amother, bank manager, wife and student. In this context, the womenhave different and varying roles that she must fulfill. Often, theseroles have different demands and obligations associated with andeventually make individuals overwhelmed (Macionis,1991).In that case, individuals suffer from role conflict roles haveincompatible demands and meeting these demands leads to roleconflict. For instance, a woman who has the above mentioned roles mayfind it overwhelming, fulfilling job demands of being a manager,wife, mother and a student. If a child gets sick, there are meetingsto attend, exams in school and cooking for the family may pose greatrole conflict to the woman (Landis,1989).In this case, the woman would attend the sick child and maybe forfeitjob obligations or the School exams. Such conflict arises whenindividuals pursue diverging goals in their desire to achieve asuccessful life. Life in the modern society is characterized by roleconflict many individuals are juggling different roles and statusesin pursuit of successful lives (Giddens,2006).


Insociological terms, a fad is a collective behavior followed by manypeople enthusiastically in a given period (Landis,1989).Fads are ‘popular’ ‘trendy’ or ‘cool’ behaviors that‘catch on’ in a given time. However, they fade quickly as theyappear people keep on adopting new fads. Fads could be associatedwith language, food, music, walking style or any other novelty thatbecomes a popular trend (Giddens,2006).In the modern world, trends in fads are set through social Medias,celebrities and media programs. For instance, the classical pop danceby Madonna was an instant hit in the late 90s but with the onset ofnew millennia, classical rock became a new fad. In the present daysocieties, tattooing, shaggy hairstyles, piercing and revealingclothes have become a fad across the young generation.


Sexismis a social problem characterized by extreme obsession to prejudiceand discrimination towards particular individuals on the basis oftheir gender. This sexist attitude is attributed to traditionalsocial perception of one sex or gender being superior to the other.The person may be discriminated against in the job applicationprocess, salary and social treatment on the basis gender type(Macionis,1991).Sexism is depicted through sexual harassment, sexual violence, rapeand gender stereotyping. In most cases, individuals are judged inregard to their sex when assessing their capacity to lead (power),job functions, behaviors and the capacity to spearhead economicprogress. The overt nature of sexism is attributed to the varyinggender role expectations between men and women.

Therefore,women who occupy or play the role of man in the society is faced withsexism overtures from the other members of the society. Professionaldiscrimination on women remains one of the decade-long sexisms. Inmost societies, women continue to be discriminated at in differentsegments of the social, political and economic levels. For instance,when Hillary Clinton expressed her presidential bid and herappointment as secretary of State under Obama Administration, shefaced several instances of sexism from the media fraternity who werepessimist in her capacity to spearhead U.S foreign policy.


Insociological terms, informal structures refer to organizations madeof a group of individuals without formal or official set up. Thesestructures are formed by community members to address immediateproblems thereby saving time and making work easier. Informalorganizations consist of individuals who shares common norms,professional of personal relationships and have a common interest(Giddens,2006).Informal structures are characterized by fluidity, evolve constantly,collective decision making, all people are treated equally, and theyare responsive and dynamic. Such informal structures exist invillage groups, class groups, dorm residency groups among others.


Thisis a group of individuals within a major culture that differentiatesitself from the larger group by associating themselves with aparticular subculture. Some members of the larger culture may adopt adifferent mode of behavior that varies from that of the mainstreamculture. For instance, in the modern world, there exist numeroussubcultures that differentiate themselves from the rest in terms ofdressing code, music, ideology, religion, political inclination,geographic region, sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian movements havebecome common subcultures in the modern society(Landis, 1989).


Charismais a sociological term used to describe an individual who exhibits anexemplary character, virtue or personality. Individuals ascribed tosuch characters are deemed to have exceptional qualities and powersthat have divine origin. Leaders with these qualities command largeinfluence from the society through their charismatic authority(Macionis, 1991).Charismatic individuals become the centre of influence as the societyaccepted their authority as ethical and having divine powers(Giddens,2006).Therefore, charismatic authority becomes legitimate through theinspiration of obedience and loyalty on the part of followers. Suchleaders are rarely challenged, and their authority is defined throughthe relationship between the followers and the leader. In order toreplace such leaders, a new charismatic leader is selected throughsearching, revelation and designation from qualified staffs. Forinstance, Dalai Lama and Joseph Stalin were considered as havingexceptional charismatic authority.


Differentsociological concepts have various meanings and applications in thesociety. Through these concepts, one can understand and have a socialperspective on various issues that happen in the society. In theabove analysis of different sociological concepts, one can understandand interpret how these concepts are applies in the real world. Theanalyzed concepts were social stigma, anticipatorysocialization,informal structures, charismatic authority, subculture, sexism, fads,role conflict, self-fulfilling prophesy, ethnocentrism,intergenerational mobility and reference groups.


Giddens,Anthony.2006. Sociology(5th edition), Polity, Cambridge. ISBN0-7456-3378-1OCLC&nbsp63186308

Landis,Judson R (1989). Sociology:Concepts and Characteristics(7th ed.). Belmont, California: Wadsworth. ISBN&nbsp0-534-10158-5.

Macionis,John J (1991). Sociology(3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.ISBN&nbsp0-13-820358-X.&nbsp