Glossary of Sociology Pre-Midterm

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What is the approximate length of time that the earth has existed?
4.6 billion years
What is the approximate length of time of the existence of human beings (homo sapiens sapiens)?
Around 125,000 years
What is the approximate length of time of the evolution of human societies beyond the ancestral hunting and gathering level?
About 10,000 years (since the emergence of plant cultivation/food production)
Human society
A politically autonomous group of people which engages in a broad range of cooperative activities
The branch of science that specializes in the study of human societies... "Why are things the way they are?"
The branch of sociology that studies large social systems, especially human societies and the world system of societies
What are the three basic assumptions of ecological-evolutionary theory?
1)human societies are shaped by their environment (biophysical and social), 2)common human genetic heritage ("human nature"), 3)culture
How many genes do humans and chimpanzees have in common?
What are the two traits that are "uniquely" human?
1)spoken language, 2)an unusual capacity to create and manipulate symbols (the basis of culture)
Symbol systems and the information they convey
Tabula rasa
Means "blank slate" in Latin; idea that babies are born with a blank slate, culture shapes them
An entity made up of interrelated parts; component parts + their interrelationships
What are the 5 basic components of a sociocultural system?
1)Population, 2)Culture, 3)Material Products, 4)Social Organization, 5)Social Institutions
Society viewed as a collection of physical individuals ("bodies")
When one given gene affects several traits (ex: a gene for myopia is also associated with higher IQ)
"the mammalian ambivalance"
The tendency of humans to put their own needs and the needs of close family ahead of those of others
Subgroups of the human species with substantial differences in the frequencies of some genes
language acquisition device (LAD)
The innate, biologically-determined capacity of humans to learn to speak any language
l'arbitraire du signe"
French for the arbitrary nature of signs; means that symbols of language are genetically independent and arbitrary compared with signals
Blueprint copying
Copy and/or modify an available detailed "blueprint"
Idea diffusion
Borrow the basic idea of the innovation but reinvent the details
Cultural information
Knowledge acquired through experience and conveyed through symbols
Information used to interpret experience and help order societal life; composed of BELIEFS, not behaviors or institutions
Information about how to use the material resources of the environment to satisfy human needs and desires
Who wrote "The Origin of Species" in 1859 which proposed the idea of natural selection?
Charles Darwin
What 3 processes is natural selection based upon?
1)organisms have a tendency to multiply indefinitely, 2)they vary with respect to characteristics that affect their survival and reproduction, 3)these traits are heritable (traits of parents are passed on to their offspring)
What is a major principle of sociobiology?
The belief that natural selection operates at the level of the gene (rather than the level of the individual, group, or species)
Why "small enough to last for a large number of generations"?
Because of crossing over, smaller genetic units (=shorter segments of DNA) are more likely to remain intact over many generations
According to the gene-centered theory of evolution, what is the organism?
A "survival machine" for the genes
Group selectionism
The idea that a trait can evolve because it is "good for the species"; rejected by most biologists today
The basic unit of selection; evolution is the differential reproduction of genes
Viewed as a "survival machine" designed by its genes for their survival and reproduction, or as a "strategist" in pursuit of reproductive success
Almost never a unit of selection (except in rare cases), so that the evolution of behavior cannot be explained by selection "for the good of the group"
In the modern view of evolution, what is the basic unit of natural selection?
Refers to a behavior that benefits others at a cost (in reproductive fitness) to the individual organism engaging in the behavior
What is the paradox of altruism?
How can a behavior evolve by natural selection if it lowers the reproductive fitness of the individual who engages in it?
What are the 2 answers of sociobiology/evolutionary psychology to the paradoxes of altruism and cooperation?
1)the mechanism of relatedness (or "kin selection") with the notion of inclusive fitness and explain the evolution of altruistic behavior, 2)the mechanism of reciprocity can explainn the evolution of cooperation
Hamilton's theory of the evolution of altruism
To understand the evolution of behavior, one must consider the effect of that behavior on the inclusive fitness of the individual organism
Inclusive fitness of individual organism = ?
Own reproductive success + reproductive success of kin multiplied by degree of relatedness
Altruistic behavior
Behavior that is beneficial to others at a cost in fitness (reduced reproductive success) for the organism engaging in the behavior
Nepotistic altruism
From Latin word nepos, which means nephew; altruism benefiting relatives (also known as kin selection)
Eusociality ("good sociality")
Refers to animal societies such as bees in which the workers are sterile; only the queen reproduces
Avuncular relationship
In this custom the maternal uncle assumes a greater role in raising the child than the "father"; more prevalent in societies that have a high incidence of adultery because of uncertainities concerning the identity of the father
Sexual relations between close relatives; avoidance of incest is a universal feature of human societies
Inbreeding depression
The accumulation of deleterious recessive genes in inbred individuals (one reason for avoidance of incest)
What is a kibbutz?
Experiment in Israel; a collective farm or community that tried to raise children away from their parents
The finding that unrelated children raised together in Israeli kibbutzim do not have sexual relations as adults is an instance of what phenomenon?
Westermark effect
Reciprocal altruism (contingent reciprocity)
There is trading of beneficial acts so that over a period of time both participants enjoy a net gain in fitness (important to note that the individual is always tempted to cheat and adopt a selfish strategy); Robert Trivers's theory
What is the central insight to reciprocal altruism?
If interactions among individuals are frequent and repeated, individuals may "punish" cheaters by withholding future cooperation
Prisoner's Dilemma
A matrix set-up; helps explain evolution of cooperation
What is an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma?
Prisoner's Dilemma is repeated with the same players; the logic of the iterated PD suggests that cooperation based on the tit-for-tat strategy can evolve among individuals interacting repeatedly for extended periods
Tit-for-tat strategy
Begins with cooperation, then mimics other player's moves; Robert Axelrod shows that this strategy is optimal against pure cooperation, pure defection, and itself
In general, how does one call a strategy of behavior that cannot be improved upon if most members of a population adopt it?
Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS) - TFT is ALMOST an ESS
What did Leda Cosmides and John Tooby do?
Their experiments show evidence for a "cheater detection" module - the existence of a specialized mental mechanism to detect cheaters in social exchange
Asexual reproduction
What is the main advantage of sexual reproduction?
It enhances the genetic variability of the offspring, allowing adaptation to unforseen environments, and resistance to co-evolving parasites
Effective polygyny =
(Variance in reproductive success(RS) of males)/(Variance in RS of females); a measure of reproductive competition among males
Parental investment
"any investment by the parent in an individual offspring that increases the offspring's chance of surviving (and hence reproductive success) at the cost of the parent's ability to invest in other offspring" - Robert Trivers
Who is A.J. Bateman?
Conducted an experiment with fruit flies; found out that males gain by mating with more than one female and that males have greater variance in reproductive success
Because of different reproductive strategies men generally have a higher mean number of sexual partners?
Because of different reproductive strategies men generally have a higher variance in number of sexual partners?
What are the three female strategies?
1)Domestic Bliss, 2)He-Man, 3)Madame Bovary
What happens in the domestic bliss strategy?
Female tries to find a male who will stick around and help care for the offspring; look for signs of domesticity and control of resources
What happens in the he-man strategy?
In species in which males do not participate in raising the offspring, all a female can do is try at least to select a male with "good genes"; look for an older male and one with the most conspicuous display
What happens in the Madame Bovary strategy?
Female tries to keep a husband to provide care for the offspring, as well as a lover to provide "good genes"; high incidence of extra-pair copulation
A distinct period of sexual receptivity, or "heat"; does not exist in humans perhaps because it makes it harder for the male to track the sexual activity of the female
What is believed to be a "counterstrategy" to the Madame Bovary strategy?
What are the two male strategies?
1)Dad or 2)Cad
What happens in the Dad strategy?
Males invest parentally and are under selective pressure to prevent their mate from being inseminated by another male; generally exhibit jealousy and certain guarding behaviors
What happens in the Cad strategy?
The male has no parental investment
Sexual dimorphism
Difference in size and appearance between male and female; a greater sexual dimorphism is associated with a greater degree of polygyny (humans is 1.08, suggests they are mildly polygynous)
One female, many males
Which marriage practice (monogamy, polygyny, polyandry) is most common among human societies? Among human marriages?
Polygyny among human societies; monogamy among human marriages
What does sex differentiation depend on?
Hormonal exposure during early development in the womb (the organizing role of hormones) and later production of hormones at puberty (the activating role of hormones)
What is the r-strategy of reproduction?
Many offspring with high mortality rate
What is the K-strategy of reproduction?
Few offspring with low mortality rate
Are the human species r-strategists or K-strategists?
What is a meme?
A cultural gene; "an 'idea-meme' is an entity that is capable of being transmitted from one brain to another" (SG)
What is the meme analogous to?
The gene; a unit of imitation; a new kind of replicator
What are the three mechanisms of evolution (biological or sociocultural)?
1)Continuity, 2)Innovation, 3)Selection
What are some mechanisms of continuity?
1)Conscious recognition of adapative value of an item, 2)Standaradized behavior, 3)Cost of changing (learning a new convention), 4)Socialization and tradition, 5)Systematic nature of society, and resulting opposition by groups adversely affected by change
Is continuity an essential ingredient of evolution or an obstacle?
An essential ingredient; need some type of conservation mechanism
Biological evolution vs. sociocultural evolution
Biological evolution - innovations consists of random (nonpurposive) mutations
Sociocultural evolution - innovation consists of cultural innovations, often resulting from a combination of chance and purpose
What are some mechanisms of cultural innovation?
1)Human needs, 2)Environmental change, 3)Diffusion by contact with other societies, 4)Existing store of cultural information: the larger the number of items of information, the larger the number of combinations of these items
What is the multiplier effect?
Innovations are often combinations of existing items in the culture... each new innovation increases the probability of acquiring more
Biological selection vs. sociocultural selection
Biological evolution - natural selection consists of differential reproduction
Sociocultural evolution - selection corresponds to two mechanisms: intrasocietal and intersocietal selection
What is intrasocietal selection?
The selection of cultural elements WITHIN a society
What is intersocietal selection?
Selection BETWEEN societies, in which an entire society is destroyed following contact with another
The Great Paradox
Tremendous changes have occurred in human life during the past 10,000 years BUT most societies have changed very little during their entire existence
Absence of change
World System
The totality of human societies and their interrelationships
Sociocultural evolution
The process of change and development in human societies that results from cumulative growth in their stores of cultural information
What are some outcomes of sociocultural evolution?
1)The Great Paradox, 2)Role of Technology (advance in subsistence technology is the precondition for increase in size and complexity)
What are the two criteria that the typology of human societies is based upon?
1)Their subsistence technology (primary criterion), 2)Nature of their environment (secondary criterion)
What is the approximate date of the emergence of simple horticultural societies?
8000 BC
What is the approximate date of the emergence of simple agrarian societies?
3000 BC
What is the approximate date of the emergence of industrial societies?
1750 AD
What is the basic difference between horticultural and hunting and gathering societies?
Emergence of plant cultivation with horticultural societies
What is the basic difference between horticultural and agrarian societies?
Plow present with agrarian societies
Which type of society cultivates fields with iron plows?
Advanced agrarian societies
What are some main differences between societies?
1)Size, 2)Social complexity (measured as extent of craft specialization or existence of complex status system), 3)Ideology
Studies H&G societies of the distant past
Studies H&G societies of the present and recent past
What are some differences between modern and prehistoric H&G societies?
1)Modern H&G societies have often been in contact with more advanced societies and have acquired modern artifacts, 2)Modern H&G societies have been excluded from the more desirable (productive) regions of the world and forced into marginal habitats (ex: jungle, desert)?
What is the official name for our species?
homo sapiens sapiens
What may have contributed to the rising rate of technological innovation?
Appearance of language
Common features of population of H&G societies?
1)About 40 people, 2)Low population density, 3)Long period of nursing, 4)Nomadism
Marriage outside of the group (this produces a web of kinship ties)
Is polygyny widespread in H&G societies?
Common features of economy of H&G societies?
1)No accumulation of possessions, 2)Division of labor is minimal, based on sex and age
What about a head political authority?
Sometimes existed, called a headman, very limited authority
Belief that spirits inhabit everything (geared towards nature)
Education in H&G societies?
Focuse on independence and self-reliance, rather than obedience
Games of chance or strategy?
Cultural unit which provides a basis for distinctive language and culture
Demic expansions
The vast expansions of some populations that was caused by the adoption of horticultural technology
Comes from Latin word hortus which means "garden"; animal husbandry and plant cultivation without the plow, using the hoe and digging stick
When did the first horticultural societies appear?
8000 BC
This type of horticultural farming is also known as what?
"Swidden" or "slash-and-burn" farming
What marks the transition from simple horticultural societies to advanced horticultural societies?
Invention of metallurgy
What are some common characteristics of horticultural societies?
1)Cultivation is primarily a female responsibility, 2)High incidence of matrilienality, 3)High incidence of warfare, 4)Emphasis on ancestoral worship, 5)High incidence of slavery
Tracing descent through the maternal line
Extended kin groups; ancestor worship is related to the central role of kinship
Percentage of advanced horticultural societies where slavery was present
James Parsons noted similarities among numerals of several European languages
Colin Renfrew
Controversial theory stating that Indo-European languages and horticultural technology spread together as a "population wave of advance" caused by the higher population density allowed by horticultural technology compared to H&G technology
What does the independent emergence of horticulture in the New World suggest?
Similar environments + similar technologies = similar social outcomes

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