Sociology Unit 2 dictionary

Glossary of key terms for unit 2


Absolute poverty – Lacking the minimum requirements to maintain life and health.

Achieved status – Status which is achieved through an individual’s own efforts.

Ageing population – A population in which the average age is getting higher with a greater proportion of people over retiring age, and a smaller proportion of young people.

Ageism – Stereotyping of, or prejudice and discrimination against, individuals on grounds of their age.

Agency of social change – Influencing social attitudes and government power.

Agenda setting – The process whereby the mass media select the list of subjects to report and bring to public attention.

Anomie – Confusion and uncertainty over social norms.

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Anti-school subculture – A set of values, attitudes and behaviour in opposition to the main aims of a school.

Ascribed status – Status which is given to an individual at birth and usually can’t be changed.

Audience – Everybody who comes into contact with the media.

Authority – Power which is accepted as fair and just.

Bias – A subject being presented in a one sided way, favouring one point of view over another.

Broadsheet – quality newspaper, usually printed on larger paper (traditionally for the middle class).

Bourgeoisie – Class owners of the means of production.

Caste system – A stratification system based on Hindu religious beliefs in which an individual’s position is fixed at birth and can’t be changed.

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Cathartic – Out of your system.

Censorship – preventing certain information from becoming public knowledge. (official secrets act – against the law at any time to reveal state secrets).

Charismatic Authority – Power seen as fair and just as it is based on a power-holders personal charm and magnetism.

Chivalry thesis – The suggestion that paternalism or sexism on the part of police or courts means they regard female offenders as a less serious threat than men, so they treat women more leniently.

Circulation figures – how many newspapers are sold daily.

Citizen journalism – Where members of the public, rather than professional journalists and media companies, collect, report and spread news stories and information.

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Citizenship – The legal, social, civil and political rights and responsibilities of individuals living in a democratic society.

Class consciousness – An awareness in members of a social class of their real interests.

Closed society – A stratification system where social mobility is not possible.

Coercion – Rule by violence or the threat of violence.

Commercialisation of children – children become adults because of advertising. Children need goods to feel happy.

Communism – An equal society, without social classes or conflict, in which the means of production are the common property of all.

Competition – companies compete for customers and customers compete with other people to be better off and own more goods.

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Conflict theory – A sociological approach that emphasizes social differences and conflicts, with inequalities in wealth, power and status all creating conflicts between individuals and social groups.

Conformity – compliance of social norms.

Consensus theory – A sociological approach that emphasizes the shared norms and shared values that exists between people and sees society made up of individuals and social institutions working together in harmony, without much conflict between people and groups.

Constituency – An area of the country, from which an MP is elected.

Consumer – Products and services that people buy to satisfy their needs and desires, such as food, clothes etc.

Consumerism – wanting more and better consumer goods such as cars, clothes, and the latest technologies.

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Content analysis – analyse how many times an image/word is portrayed in the media.

Convergence – where different forms of media join together, e.g. an online newspaper.

Corporate crime – Crimes committed by large companies which directly profit the company rather than individuals.

Crime – Behaviour which is against the law.

Culture of poverty – A set of beliefs and values thought to exist amongst the poor which prevents them from escaping from poverty.

Cycle of deprivation – poverty, poor living conditions, ill health, poor education, poor skills, back to poverty.

Dark figure of crime – The crimes that all go unreported/unrecorded.

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Dealignment – In voting, no clear alignment of particular social classes with one of the two main political parties. In particular, the working class is no longer clearly aligned with the Labour party, nor the middle class with the conservatives. And most voters no longer show loyalty to a party according to their social class.

Delinquency – behaviour (usually of young people) that is disapproved of by others.

Democracy – A form of government in which the people participate in political decision making, usually by electing individuals to represent their views.

Dependency culture – A set of values, norms and beliefs and a way of life centred on the dependence on others. Normally used in the context of those who depend on welfare state benefits.

Desensitised – There is so much crime in the media that people don't think it is as bad as it is and begin thinking it is acceptable.

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Deviance – Failure to conform to social norms.

Deviancy amplification – The process by which the mass media through exaggeration and distortion actually create more crime and deviance.

Deviant career – Where people who have been labelled as deviant are pushed into committing more deviant acts.

Devolution – Transfer of power from central government to parliament and other regions.

Dictatorship – A form of totalitarianism in which power is concentrated in the hands of one person.

Digital divide – The gap between those people with effective access to the digital divide and information technology making up the new media and those who lack such access.

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Direct action – when a group of people take action, intending to solve an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue.

Direct democracy – taking an active role in society.

Disinhibition effect – young people feel that some violence is acceptable.

Economic inequality – Refers to differences in all those material things which affect the lives of individuals, such as their wealth, their income and the hours they work.

Elite – A small group holding great power and influence in society.

Embourgeoisement – The idea that, with higher wages, the working-class are becoming part of the middle class. The opposite of proletarianization.

Ethnic group – A group of people who share a common culture.

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Executive power – The civil service – the bureaucracy – advice and support.

Femenist – Someone who believes that women are disadvantaged in society, and should have rights, power and status equal to those of men.

Floating voter – A voter who has no fixed political opinion, or is not a committed supporter of any political party.

Folk devils - Individuals or groups posing as imagined or exaggerated threat to society.

Formal sanction – Reward/punishment for breaking a norm, enforced by someone such as the police.

Freedom of speech – the democratic principle that protects legitimate comment regarding the actions of the government or matters of public interest.

Free press – governments do not interfere with the media.

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Gate keeping – The media’s refusal to cover some issues.

Gender role – The pattern of behaviour which society expects from a man or woman.

Gender socialization – the cultural differences (rather than biological) between men and women that are associated with masculinity and femininity.

General election – occurs every 5 years, decides who will run the country.

Glass ceiling – An invisible barrier of discrimination which makes it difficult for women to reach the same top levels in their career as similarly qualified men.

Grey pound – Same as pink pound but for old people.

Globalization – The growing interdependence of societies across the world, with the spread of the same culture and economic interests across the globe.

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Hate crime – Any crime that is motivated by hostility and prejudice based upon a victim’s identity, such as their race, disability, religion, beliefs or sexual orientation.

Hypodermic syringe model – suggests that the media has a direct effect on the audience, giving them a daily injection (of influence).

Identity – How individuals or groups see and define themselves and how other people see and define them.

Image – the identity that individuals wish to present to the world, for example, the media may want to make a politician look young and dynamic.

Income – The flow of money which people obtain from work, from their investments or from the state.

Indirect democracy – not participating because you feel your actions would do nothing.

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Informal sanction – Reward/punishment for breaking a norm from someone like friends or family.

Insider groups – Pressure groups which have an active and close relationship with governments with representatives providing evidence to, and being consulted by, them.

Institutional racism – When the way an organisation works has the effect, usually unintentional, of discriminating against a certain group.

Interactivity – the idea that there is a 2-way transfer of information between a user and the mass media.

Judicial power – The judiciary – the courts – law enforcement.

Juvenile delinquency – Crime committed by those between the ages of 10 and 17, though the term delinquency is often used to describe any anti-social or deviant behaviour by young people, even if it isn’t criminal.

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Labelling – Defining a person or group in a certain way – as a particular ‘type’ of person or group.

Law – An official legal rule, formally enforced by the police, courts and prison, involving legal punishments if it is broken.

Legal-rational authority – Power is seen as fair and just as it is based on formal rules and laws. It is gained through elections.

Legislative power – house of commons and laws – parliament – law making.

Life chances – The chances of obtaining those things defined as desirable and of avoiding those things defined as undesirable in a society.

Manifesto – political party produces a leaflet explaining their promises and what they wish to do.

Marketization – Where something is left to free market competition and the forces of supply and demand.

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Marxist – someone who believes in the ideas of Karl Marx and sees the main divisions in society as being based on social class, operating in a capitalist system.

Master status – The dominant status of an individual which overrides all other characteristics of that person, such as an 'ex-con'.

Materialism – valuing the ownership of material goods more highly than spiritually or inner contentment.

Matriarchy – Power and authority held by women.

Media imperialism – the idea that western cultural values are imposed by a dominant media empire.

Meritocracy – A society in which social and occupational positions are achieved by merit, such as educational qualifications, talent and skill.

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Meritocratic society – A society in which social and occupational positions are are allocated on the basis purely of people's individual experience, talent and abilities – their individual merit.

Minority ethnic group – A social group which shares a cultural identity which is different from that of the majority population of a society.

Moral panic – A wave of public concern about some exaggerated or imaginary threat to society, stirred up by sensationalized reporting in the mass media.

Neo-liberalism – A political approach based on the belief that governments should limit their activity to maintaining 'law and order'. In particular, governments should not interfere with market forces in the economy.

New media – media such as digital television, based on the latest communications technology.

News values – The values and assumptions held by journalists which guide them in choosing what to report and what to leave out, and how what they choose to report should be presented.

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Norm-setting – The process by which the mass media emphasize and reinforce conformity to social norms, and seek to isolate those who don't conform by making them feel the victims of unfavourable public opinion.

Norms – Social rules which define correct behaviour in a society or group.

Open society – A stratification system in which social mobility is possible.

Parliament – the assembly of representatives and politicians that makes a country's laws.

Patriarchy – Power, status and authority held my men.

Peer group – A group of people of similar age and status with whom a person mixes socially.

Pink pound – Gays have lots of money and care about their appearance so are good to advertise to and not discriminate against.

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Poverty line – The dividing point between those who are poor and those who are not. The official poverty line used in Britain today is 60% of the average income.

Power – The ability of people or groups to exert their will over others and get their own way.

Pressure groups – Organizations which try to put pressure on those with power in society to implement policies which they favour.

Proletarianization – The process of decline in the pay and conditions of sections of the middle class, so they become more like the working class.

Proletariat – The class of workers who have to work for wages as they do not own the means of production.

Proportional representation – A voting system in which the number of representatives elected accurately reflects the proportion of the votes received.

Prosumers – You have a say in the production.

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Pluralism (power) – A view that sees power in society spread among a wide variety of groups and individuals, with no single one having a monopoly on power and influence.

Pluralism (mass media) – theories about mass media that see variety and competition as healthy signs of a working democracy.

Political participation – the different ways that people can participate in politics, e.g. voting.

Political party – A group of people organised with the aim of forming the government in a society.

Political socialization – the concept of learning about politics, it is through this that orientations towards political parties are formed.

Politics – The struggle to gain power and control in a relationship, group or society, by getting in a position to make decisions and implement policies.

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Race – Humans classified into different groups according to physical characteristics like skin colour.

Racial discrimination – When racial prejudice causes people to act unfairly against an ethnic group.

Racial prejudice – A set of assumptions about an ethnic group which people are reluctant to change even when they receive information which undermines these assumptions.

Racially aggravated offence – someone has committed an offence based on the race of the victim.

Racism – Believing or acting as though an individual or group is superior or inferior on the grounds of their racial or ethnic origins.

Referendum – Single issue vote, which can be done at local or national level, and the government does not have to act on it.

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Relative deprivation – The sense of lacking things compared to the group with which people identify and compare themselves.

Relative poverty – Poverty defined in relation to a generally accepted standard of living in a specific society at a particular time.

Reliability – Whether another researcher, using the same method for the same research on the same or a similar group, would achieve the same results.

Role conflict – The conflict between the successful performances of two or more roles at the same time.

Safe seat – it is clear that a political party will win as they already have so many votes and so much support.

Sanction – A reward or punishment for breaking a norm to encourage social conformity.

Scapegoats – Individuals or groups blamed for something which is not their fault.

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Selective exposure – Individuals exposing themselves only to media output which fits in with their existing views and interests.

Selective retention – Individuals ignoring or forgetting and interpreting media output that is not in line with their own views and interests.

Self-fulfilling prophecy – People acting in response to predictions which have been made regarding their behaviour, their-by making the prediction come true.

Sensationalise – exaggeration to attract the attention of the public.

Sex – The biological differences between men and women.

Sexism – Prejudice or discrimination against people (especially women) because of their sex.

Social class – An open system of stratification consisting of broad groups of people who share a similar economic situation such as income, occupation and ownership of wealth.

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Social construction – Something, like official statistics or the definition of crime and deviance that is created by people's interpretations and actions, that only exists because people have constructed it by giving it a particular meaning, interpretation and label.

Social control – The process of persuading or forcing individuals to conform to values or norms.

Social convention – expected form of behaviour that is seen as the norm.

Social exclusion – The situation where people are marginalized or excluded from full participation in mainstream society.

Social media – The ability to connect with others via the internet/mobile.

Social mobility – Movement of individuals or groups up or down the social hierarchy.

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Social order – the way that society is formally organised so that its citizens are aware of sanctions, in order to conform.

Social policy – The packages of plans and actions adopted by national and local government or various voluntary agencies to solve social problems or achieve other goals which are seen as important.

Social problem – Something that is seen as harmful to society in some way, and needs something doing about it to sort it out.

Social stratification – The division of society into a hierarchy of unequal social groups.

Social structure – The social institutions and social relationships that form the 'building blocks' of society.

Spin – Managing the message to influence the way in which it is being reported.

Status – The amount of prestige or social importance a person has in the eyes of other members of a group or society.

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Status frustration – A sense of frustration arising in individuals or groups because they are denied status in society.

Status symbols – Things that show off people's status to others such as their house, car, gadgets etc.

Stigmatise – to regard someone/a group as different, disapproved of, or dangerous to others.

Stereotype – A generalized, over simplified view of the features of a social group, allowing for few individual differences between its members.

Sub-culture – A smaller culture shared by a group of people with the main culture of a society, in some ways different from the main culture, but with many aspects in common.

Tactical voting – In an election, where supporters of a political party which has no chance of winning vote for another party which is not their preferred choice, in the hope of defeating the predicted winning party.

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Technological change – the changing technology of communication.

Traditional authority – Power which is seen as fair and just as it is based on established traditions and customs e.g. the queen.

Traditional media – older media such as newspapers, radio and books.

Underclass – A social group who are right at the bottom of the social class hierarchy, who are in some ways cut off or excluded from the rest of society.

Volatility – where people's voting in elections has become less predictable, with voters less committed to any one party, with their support swinging to and fro between different political parties.

Wealth – Property which can be sold and turned into cash for the benefit of the owner.

White collar crime – Crime that is committed by people in the course of their middle class job.

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 White collar workers – Non-manual clerical workers, sales personnel, and other office workers, whose work is non professional and non-managerial.

World information order – the idea that information is now available almost instantly in a global marketplace.

World view – A general view of the way that society works.

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I've got my Sociology Unit 2 exam tomorrow. Thank you very much.. this is helping me loads :) x



I've got my Sociology Unit 2 exam tomorrow. Thank you very much.. this is helping me loads :) x



thanks very much for your help



thanks very much for your help

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