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  • What puts thescienceinsocial science”?

  • The things you probably think of asscience” – like biology, or physics, or chemistry

  • can seem a world apart from sociology and the concepts we've introduced so far.

  • But sociology is a type of science; it's just not one that uses beakers or microscopes.

  • Rather than investigating the physical, natural world, sociology explores the social world.

  • Now, there are different schools of thought within sociology about the best way to understand the social world.

  • But one of the primary means of conducting sociology uses many of the same, basic principles and methods as any of your hard, clinical sciences.

  • Can sociology use the scientific method? Check.

  • Does it rely on empirical data? Check.

  • And graphs? Heck yeah!

  • [Theme Music]

  • A science is really any practice that uses a systematic method of observation to gain knowledge.

  • And you probably know that systematic method as the scientific method.

  • Basically, you come up with some question about the world, and then develop a testable theory about how you could answer that question.

  • And you develop and test your theory by gathering empirical evidence;

  • that is, verifiable information that's collected in a systematic way.

  • Now, whether you're using it to explore the natural world or the social world, the scientific method is rooted in the philosophy known as positivism.

  • First laid out by Auguste Comteyes, the same Auguste Comte that we introduced as the founder of sociology a couple episodes ago

  • positivism argues that phenomena can be studied through direct observation,

  • and that these observations can be pulled together into theories or facts that can help us understand how the world works.

  • Now, you might be wondering where thepositiveinpositivistcomes into play.

  • Was Comte just a glass half-full kinda guy?

  • Well, “positivein this case doesn't refer to optimism, and it doesn't mean “I'm POSITIVE that I'm right!”

  • Instead, a 'positive' theory is one that's objective and fact-based, whereas a 'normative' theory is subjective and value-based.

  • Which brings us to the first of our three types of sociological inquiry:

  • Positivist sociology, or the study of society based on systematic observations of social behavior.

  • And here, “objectiveis the key word.

  • As scientific researchers, sociologists must set aside their own values and beliefs to approach their work as neutral observers,

  • and use empirical evidence to answer questions about how the social world works.

  • So what kind of evidence are you looking for?

  • If you're doing quantitative research, you want data.

  • Quantitative research is the study of observable relationships in the world, using mathematical or statistical methods.

  • Basically, quantitative evidence is information that you can count or tally up.

  • But this doesn't just mean number-based data, like income or age.

  • You can also use it to categorize people or things, like the state you live in, your gender, or your race.

  • And quantitative evidence can be used in lots of different ways.

  • For example, there's descriptive data, which does just what it sounds like:

  • It describes facts relevant to the question you're researching.

  • Like, maybe you want to know how income is distributed across households in the United States.

  • Quantitative data are your friend here.

  • This graph is the distribution of household incomes in 2014, produced by the US Census Bureau.

  • The height of the bars in the graph indicate the number of households at a certain income level.

  • And the point labelled “50this an important one because it's the median income, the absolute middle observation in the sample.

  • That means that 50% of households have lower incomes than that level, and 50% have higher incomes.

  • In this case, the median income is $53,700.

  • But, be careful about the conclusions you draw from this graph!

  • The median may be the observation in the middle, but it's not the same as average household income.

  • That distinction goes to the mean, which is the sum of all the values, divided by the number of observations.

  • So in 2014, the mean household income was $75,700.

  • That's a lot higher than the median!

  • What's up with that?

  • Why is there a gap between the mean and the median?

  • Well, think back to the group that the Occupy Wall Street movement was concerned with: “the 1%”

  • That political label is actually a descriptive statistic!

  • It describes the percent of the population with the highest income.

  • And the fact that the income of that 1% is so much higher than the incomes of the other 99% – that's why we have a gap between the mean and median.

  • And I'm not being political here; it's pure mathematics:

  • If you have 99 people making $50,000 per year and 1 person making $50 million per yearwhat's gonna happen to the mean income?

  • It's gonna be pulled way up by the one, very rich person.

  • Even though the modeor the most common observation in your sampleis the same as the median income, $50,000, the mean will be over $500,000.

  • Another type of evidence that sociologists use is qualitative dataor information that's not in numerical form.

  • Where quantitative data try to measure, qualitative data try to illustrate, or characterize.

  • Sometimes the information that you need can't, or shouldn't, be distilled into a number in a spreadsheet.

  • Instead, you use descriptions of the world, gathered through interviews, questionnaires, and first-hand observation.

  • Like, why do some people get married and some people commit to a long term partnerships without getting married?

  • Maybe some of that is quantifiable, but a lot of the process behind making a decision like that is going to come down to how the couple feels about marriage.

  • And that can't be easily stated in a statistic.

  • There are, of course, limitations to sociology as a positivist discipline.

  • Not everything you want to know about society is going to fit into observable, measurable categories.

  • And what's worse: I don't know if you've noticed this, but human beings are pretty unpredictable.

  • In much of the natural sciences, the environment in which research is done in is completely controlled by scientists.

  • Like, microbes in a petri dish: They're probably not going to develop free will and mess around with your carefully designed experiment.

  • But if you're studying human behavior, you can't control the environment or how your subject interacts with that environment.

  • So if you're interested in, say, the effects of quality parenting on child development, you can't randomly assign babies to parents.

  • Because, ethics. Parents apparently want to raise their own spawn.

  • But more than that, you might not want to be controlling the environment so much.

  • If you're interested in how humans behave in the real world, you don't want your research methods to make them act differently than they otherwise would.

  • Because the fact is, subjects might change how they behave if they know they're being observed.

  • For a really fun and fascinating example of this let's go to the Thought Bubble!

  • In the late 1920s, Austrian sociologist Elton Mayo went to a telephone factory known as the Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois.

  • His goal was to help the Western Electric company figure out how to make its workers more productive.

  • So Mayo split the factory staff into groups: a control group who kept working under the same conditions as always, and an experimental group.

  • For the experimental group, Mayo made a series of changes to their working environment.

  • He gave them different work hours, changed up their rest breaks, even turned up the lights on the factory floor.

  • And lo and behold, the changes seemed to work!

  • The workers in the experimental group became more productive, and absenteeism dropped.

  • But the truth is, the changes to the physical environment weren't what made the difference.

  • Yes, brightening up the room made the workers more productivebut it turned out, so did dimming the lights!

  • And so did reversing all the other changes that Mayo made.

  • Eventually, Mayo realized that the workers were working harder because he was observing them.

  • The fact that the workers knew someone was watching how hard they worked made them want to work harder.

  • And this finding at the Hawthorne Works led future researchers to be much more aware of how their own presence influenced their findings.

  • And to this day, the influence of an observer on the behavior of her participants is known as the Hawthorne Effect!

  • Thanks Thought Bubble!

  • So, yes, studying humans and their behavior scientifically can be challenging.

  • But yet another problem with positivist sociology is that not all social facts can be applied to all people, in all time periods.

  • In other words, truth is not always objective.

  • It's like when you tell someone about your favorite book.

  • If you're trying to convince them that Harry Potter isobjectivelythe best book series ever written, then you don't know what the wordobjectivelymeans at all.

  • There is no objective truth about what the best book is.

  • That's strictly subjectivean idea that's built on your own experiences and feelings.

  • But as sociologists, we still find subjective experiences to be valid, and important,

  • and even worth studyingeven if we can't generalize them into some capital-T truth about the world.

  • Instead, we might be interested in how patterns in people's subjective experiences form the structures that make up our social world.

  • In sociology, we talk about subjectivity as the meaning that people give their own lived experiences.

  • And this brings us to another way of doing sociology:

  • Interpretative sociology is the study of society that focuses on the meanings that people attach to their social world.

  • While positivist sociology is more interested in whether a person acts a certain waysomething you can see as an outside observer

  • interpretative sociology asks: Why this behavior?

  • What's the meaning behind it?

  • And how do people view their own actions and thoughts?

  • Interpretative sociologists approach their subjects with the aim of seeing the world from their subject's perspective, rather than through quantitative data.

  • So, there are fewer statistics involved in this type of research.

  • Instead, interpretative sociologists often use interviews or face-to-face interactions with their subjects to understand the world.

  • Now, there's one more school of thought about how the science of sociology can be conducted.

  • And it actually relaxes some of the assumptions we made early on about the objectivity of the researcher.

  • These thinkers believe there's plenty of room in sociology for subjectivityespecially, for values.

  • Values are the ideas a person has about what's good, and the attitudes they hold about how the world works.

  • And curiosity about a research topic often springs from these very values.

  • Many researchers are drawn to the study of sociology out of a desire to understand moral or political questions about how societies work.

  • Like, what's the relationship between race and poverty in the United States?

  • How can understanding that relationship help break the connection between race and poverty?

  • The argument for value-driven research, rather than value-free research, is one of the origins of Critical Sociology,

  • or the study of society that focuses on the need for social change.

  • These ideas go back a long time, starting as early as the 19th century when Jane Addams developed the Hull House,

  • an organization that not only provided things like housing and education to low-income people in Chicago,

  • but also researched the causes of, and solutions to, the ills of poverty.

  • We'll explore all of these schools of thought throughout the rest of series.

  • But for now, we talked about sociology as a science.

  • We discussed positivist sociology and how sociologists use empirical evidence to explore questions about the social world.

  • And we introduced two alternatives: interpretative sociology and critical sociology.

  • Next time, we're going to learn about how sociologists actually do their research.

  • Crash Course Sociology is filmed in the Dr. Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio in Missoula, MT,

  • and it's made with the help of all these nice people.

  • Our animation team is Thought Cafe and Crash Course is made with Adobe Creative Cloud.

  • If you'd like to keep Crash Course free for everyone, forever, you can support the series

  • at Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows you to support the content you love.

  • Speaking of Patreon, we'd like to thank all of our patrons in general, and we'd like to

  • specifically thank our Headmaster of Learning David Cichowski.

  • Thank you for your support.

What puts thescienceinsocial science”?

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社会学と科学的方法。クラッシュ・コース 社会学 #3 (Sociology & the Scientific Method: Crash Course Sociology #3)

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    koru1130 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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