EXERCISE 1 THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE Learning Objectives of the Workbook Exercise After completing Exercise 1, students will: Know how to use the ExplorIt software to open data files and view variable lists. Be familiar with the ExplorIt Mapping task. Be able to compare maps and recognize similarities and differences among regions of the United States. Appreciate how social aspects of regions of the country influence suicide rates, magazine circulation rates, murder rates, and poverty rates. Begin to understand some of the fundamental elements of the sociological perspective. Synopsis of the Workbook Exercise The major purpose of Exercise 1 is to have students begin to appreciate how their social backgrounds, broadly defined, influence their behaviors, attitudes, and life chances. Students often come into their first sociology class with a very psychological, individual-oriented perspective and do not readily recognize the social influences influencing human behavior and attitudes. The exercise thus starts with a focus on suicide, which is ordinarily considered a very individualistic act, and which most students will explain in terms of individual-level problems such as depression or unhappiness. As they discover regional variations in suicide rates and then ponder why these differences exist, students will begin to realize that a person’s odds of committing suicide are influenced by external factors, not just by their own individual problems. The preliminary part of the exercise ends with examinations of regional variation in teenage births and in magazine circulation rates. If the suicide discussion was a bit abstract for some students, the teenage births and magazine circulation discussion should be very down-to-earth. They will see that teenage births and decisions to subscribe or not to subscribe to a particular magazine are at least to some degree the result of aspects of one’s social environment. The worksheets for Exercise 1 continue the emphasis on regional differences in the United States by having students examine murder, poverty, and high school dropout rates. The final example in the worksheets has students assess whether regional differences in education might account for regional differences in subscriptions to the popular magazine Cosmopolitan. Topic for Discussion Although Exercise 1 emphasizes how differences in social and physical characteristics of the United States help account for such diverse behaviors as suicide, magazine circulation rates, and murder, some students may respond that different types of people live in these regions, and the regional differences examined in the exercise simply reflect the different kinds of people living in the regions. In particular, for the suicide discussion they may argue that unhappy people tend to move out West in search of personal fulfillment and not find it. Promote a discussion that focuses on whether the examples in the exercise provide greater support for a “kinds of places” (i.e. the social environment) argument to explain the behaviors examined in the exercise, or instead provide greater support for a “kinds of people” (i.e., an individual-level explanation) argument. To deal with the argument that unhappy people move out West, encourage the students to think about being born and raised in these regions, and how aspects of these regions might then influence their behaviors and attitudes. A good “regional” example of another type would be to have students think of two babies that are identical twins (or clones, if you want to get a little more fanciful), one of which is raised in a big city, and the other of which is raised in a rural area. Then ask them to speculate on which twin/clone is more likely to be delinquent 16 or 17 years later and to give the reasons for their speculation. Because of the premises of the discussion, the reasons they give will largely focus on aspects of an urban environment that promote criminality. This example should provide convincing evidence of the sociological perspective at work. Sample Exam Questions Multiple Choice 1. Exercise 1 emphasizes that human beings are, according to the sociological perspective, _______ above all else. a. social beings b. individuals c. unhappy d. afraid to be alone 2. The “fundamental truism” of the sociological perspective is that: a. good nutrition is important for children’s intellectual development b. girls mature earlier than boys c. our social backgrounds influence our attitudes, behavior, and life chances d. suicide is caused by depression and other personal factors 3. Suicide rates in the Unites States are highest in: a. the Northeast b. the West c. the South d. the Midwest 4. A rate or percent used in the STATES data set takes into account: a. differences among the states in the size of their population b. the fact that some states were members of the original thirteen colonies c. whether a particular state is in the Northeast, South, Midwest, or West d. None of the above 5. To determine the percent of a state that is poor, we divide _______ by ________. a. the number of people living in a state/the number of people in the state who are poor b. the number of poor women living in a state/the number of poor men living in the state c. the number of people in a state who are poor/the number of people living in the state d. the number of poor children living in a state/the number of people in the state 6. Which one of the following is NOT one of the sociological explanations Exercise 1 offers for the regional differences in the United States in suicide rates? a. differences in geographical mobility b. differences in population density c. differences in religiosity d. differences in unhappiness 7. The workbook uses maps for Field & Stream magazine and percent of a state that is rural to support which of the following conclusions? a. Subscribing to Field & Stream magazine leads someone to move to a rural area b. Living in a rural area increases the likelihood of subscribing to Field & Stream magazine c. People who subscribe to Field & Stream magazine often are not college-educated d. Field & Stream magazine has been gaining in circulation in recent years 8. The Mapping task in ExplorIt allows you to do which of the following? a. view regional differences for a variable b. determine which state ranks highest or lowest for a variable c. view the similarities or differences between two variables d. all of the above 9. This map shows the percentage of each state’s population that is living in a state or federal prison. Figure 1.1 PRISON -- 2002: NUMBER OF STATE PRISONERS INCARCERATED PER 100,000 POPULATION (BJS) Which of the following statements best interprets the map? a. Several Southern states have a high incarceration rate b. The Midwest has the highest incarceration rate of all the regions c. The Northeast has the highest incarceration rate of all the regions d. Maine has a higher incarceration rate than does California 10. This map shows the robbery rates for each state. Figure 1.2 ROBBERY -- 2002: NUMBER OF ROBBERIES PER 100,000 POPULATION (UCR) Which of the following statements best interprets the map? a. The South has a low robbery rate. b. The Midwest has a low robbery rate. c. The far West has a low robbery rate. d. Florida has a lower robbery rate than does Maine Essay question In Exercise 1, we explored several possible reasons for why the West has the highest suicide rate in the United States. These reasons emphasized the importance of our social environment for suicide rates. The sociological perspective raises the question of whether people are merely “puppets” responding to their social environments and social backgrounds, or whether they have free will to make their own decisions and to have their own beliefs. Using suicide as an example, discuss the degree to which you think people are influenced by their social backgrounds. Homework/Independent Research Exercises As you’ve seen in Exercise 1, the states differ on many factors. Use the ExplorIt Mapping task, including the List:Rank view option, to generate maps and rankings that compare the state in which your college is located with the other states for the following factors: 33) MARR_RATE, 97) DOCTORS, and 119) SSAULT. Provide a brief narrative describing the results of your comparison of your state with the other states. Your narrative should include a map for each of these variables and should also draw a conclusion regarding whether your state is doing better than other states, worse, or about the same as the other states on these variables. Instructor guidelines: Expect a map for each of the three variables. Students should also succinctly describe their state’s relative standing compared to other states for each of these variables. EXERCISE 2 CULTURE AND SOCIETY Learning Objectives of the Workbook Exercise After completing Exercise 2, students will: Be familiar with ExplorIt’s Scatterplot and Univariate tasks Know the difference between correlation and causation Have an understanding of statistical and substantive significance when dealing with ecological data Be familiar with some international differences in material and nonmaterial culture Be familiar with regional differences in the United States in material culture Appreciate the importance of survey data for understanding American attitudes and behavior Synopsis of the Workbook Exercise Exercise 2 furthers the student’s appreciation of the sociological perspective by demonstrating international and, within the United States, regional differences in various aspects of material and nonmaterial culture. The differences displayed in the international maps and rankings should be especially striking and should begin to give students a sense of the dramatic international differences that will appear in almost every exercise. The U.S. map for phone ownership will give students a sense of the important regional differences within the United States in possession of one of the modern-day necessities of life. A key part of this exercise is the introduction of scatterplots as a tool for sociological understanding. Instructors should make sure that students understand the nature and purpose of scatterplots and their associated significance levels, and that students also understand that the correlations displayed in the scatterplots do not necessarily mean causation. This exercise also introduces students to the General Social Survey data set by having them determine the percentage of Americans who think their coworkers work hard and who believe that the nation’s ethnic groups have the right to maintain their “own unique traditions.” Students will find that large majorities of Americans perceive that their coworkers work hard and also think that the nation’s ethnic groups should have the right to preserve their subcultures. The worksheets for this exercise continue the strategy of having students map international and U.S.regional differences in material and nonmaterial culture. One worksheet example will have students obtain a scatterplot showing how phone ownership varies strongly with national wealth. This scatterplot should help students begin to appreciate one of the workbook’s substantive themes, namely international stratification and its implications for life chances. Topic for Discussion In the preliminary section, students will see from GSS data that more than 60 percent of Americans believe that their coworkers work hard as a way of illustrating that hard work is part of the American culture. They will also find that more than 80 percent think that it is important for the nation’s ethnic groups to preserve their subcultures. Either of these findings should provide an excellent topic for class discussion. For example, you could point out to students that even though hard work seems to be an important aspect of the American culture, hard work has its benefits and costs. They could then explore the actual costs and benefits and assess the relative value of this cultural belief. Regarding the ethnic group and subculture item, you could ask students why prejudice against certain ethnic groups exists even though so many Americans apparently support the right of these groups to maintain their subcultures. Sample Exam Questions Multiple Choice 1. Which two regions below have the lowest rate of TV ownership? a. North America and Asia b. Africa and Asia c. North America and Europe d. Asia and Europe 2. In which of the following regions is religious attendance relatively low? a. North America b. South America c. Africa d. Europe 3. A scatterplot depicts: a. how one variable causes another to happen b. how three variables are related to each other c. how two variables are related to each other d. none of the above 4. When two maps are completely different from each other, the correlation coefficient depicting the relationship between the maps’ variables will be: a. 1.0 b. 0.0 c. -1.0 d. None of the above 5. An r (correlation coefficient) between .3 and .6 should be regarded as a ________ relationship. a. weak b. moderate c. strong d. none of the above 6. The workbook points out that a correlation between two variables doesn’t necessarily indicate which variable is affecting which. This is called the ___________question. a. causal order b. chicken and rice c. green eggs and ham d. directionality 7. The workbook displays a scatterplot from the STATES data set for phone ownership and poverty rates. This scatterplot depicted a(n) ______ correlation. a. Insignificant b. Weak c. Moderate d. Strong 8. A conclusion to be drawn from Exercise 2 is that: a. a majority of Americans think their coworkers work hard and do not believe that ethnic groups need to preserve their traditions b. a majority of Americans think their coworkers work hard and also believe that ethnic groups need to preserve their traditions c. a majority of Americans think their coworkers do not work hard and also do not believe that ethnic groups need to preserve their traditions d. a majority of Americans think their coworkers do not work hard and also believe that ethnic groups need to preserve their traditions 9. In the worksheets for Exercise 2, you mapped international differences in phone ownership. Which region had the lowest rate of phone ownership? a. Africa b. South America c. North America d. Europe 10. The following scatterplot using NATIONS data shows the relationship between per capita income and the percent of women using contraception. Figure 2.1 90 C O N T R A C E P T 0 550 33910 GDP/CAP r = 0.477** Prob. = 0.000 N = 81 Missing = 91 Which statement below best interprets this scatterplot? a. The wealthier a nation, the higher its contraceptive use b. The wealthier a nation, the lower its contraceptive use c. A nation’s wealth and contraceptive use are not at all related d. None of the above 11. The following scatterplot shows the relationship within the United States between the percent of a state’s residents who have a college education and the percent with no religious preference. Figure 2.2 30 % N O R E L I G 0 15 35 COLLEGE Line Equation Y = 6.694 + 0.363 X r = 0.317* Prob. = 0.015 N = 48 Missing = 2 Which statement below best interprets this scatterplot? a. There is no correlation between a state’s level of college education and level of no religious preference b. There is a weak correlation between a state’s level of college education and level of no religious preference c. There is a moderate correlation between a state’s level of college education and level of no religious preference d. There is a strong correlation between a state’s level of college education and level of no religious preference Essay question One of the worksheet examples in Exercise 2 indicates the percentage of GSS respondents who say that people get ahead through hard work or instead by being lucky. In an essay answer the following two sets of questions. (a) How would you respond to this question? Why would you respond this way? (2) Do you think people from different economic or racial backgrounds than yours would respond differently from how you do? Why or why not? Homework/Independent Research Exercises In the worksheets for Exercise 2 you obtained a correlation that compared nations’ phone ownership rates with their per capita income. Using the NATIONS data set, obtain scatterplots between per capita income and the following variables that represent a nation’s material or nonmaterial culture. You should have one scatterplot between per capita income and each of the variables. 9) LARGE FAML 13) ABORTION 45) LITERACY Underneath each scatterplot write a brief summary of what the scatterplot is telling you regarding the relationship it is depicting. In doing so, keep in mind not only whether the relationship in the scatterplot is statistically significant, but also the size of the correlation coefficient, r. After you summarize the last scatterplot between per capita income and radio ownership, write a brief narrative where you draw a conclusion about the extent to which the wealthy and poor nations of the world differ in material and nonmaterial culture. Instructor guidelines: Students should produce scatterplots and concisely describe the relationship, if any, depicted by each one, and should indicate in their summaries the strength of the relationship if one exists. Their brief narrative should draw extensively on their scatterplots to draw some conclusions on international differences by wealth and poverty for material and nonmaterial culture.