Category: Social Psychology & Lifecourse

What does the public think about health inequalities?

Politicians and researchers often appear to assume that the British public have a limited understanding of health inequalities. This is evident in efforts by researchers, non-governmental organisations and government bodies to raise awareness of persistent patterns of health inequalities (e.g. via creative visual maps that highlight how life expectancy varies by area) and health-damaging behaviours (notably smoking, drinking alcohol and eating unhealthy foods). Yet, remarkably few studies have explored public understandings of health inequalities in the UK so it is...

The Dock on Trial: Courtroom Design and the Presumption of Innocence

A recent article in the Journal of Law and Society examines the place of the criminal dock in courtroom design. Courtrooms may appear to embody immemorial tradition, an impression reinforced by the use of arcane rituals and archaic costumes. On closer inspection, however, courtroom designs can be seen to respond to contemporary influences – pressures of time and budgets, changing attitudes to human rights, security fears, and the interests of professional groups. Where different participants sit in the criminal courtroom...

Promoting better understanding of social work: Interview with Guy Shennan

Guy Shennan is a social worker of over 25 yrs, Chair of the British Association of Social Workers (‘BASW’) and an independent consultant and trainer in solution-focused practice. He spoke to Sociology Lens about promoting a better public understanding of social work, of the need for collaboration between social work organisations and with service users, and on the benefits of social media as a means of achieving this.   What are the aims and visions of the British Association of Social...

My Happiness Experiment

Last month I wrote about a new method of measuring happiness, or ‘subjective wellbeing’ as sociologists like to describe it, in our daily lives (you can read that post here if you haven’t already). My starting point was that most of us rely on our ‘evaluative self’ at the expense of our ‘experiencing self’. This means that when we are asked if we are ‘happy’ in our lives/job/relationship/location etc  (or if we reflect on this question internally), we too often...

Selected Politics Concerning Natural Hair

The term “natural hair” is used in the African American community to differentiate between hair that has been left in its natural state and hair which has been permed (which is to permanently straighten the hair follicle with chemicals). African American hair in its natural state appears tightly coiled or kinky and is often socially stigmatized. Social stigmas are any idea that individuals associate with negative connotations. Many individuals would agree that hair is a prevailing symbol of one’s self...

Learning to Fail or Failing to Learn    

Nobody really talks about how or why his or her research failed, or what you are supposed to do when you can see that the fieldwork you are in the middle of might be doomed. Those who decide to leave their research uncompleted rarely write up their experiences, and so the lessons that can be learnt about what not to do during your research, and how to avoid a similar outcome, are forever lost in the private notebooks of the...

Don't Quote Me On This!

  I am not going to cite, quote or reference anyone in this post, and I wonder if that will change the opinion of those who read it. Does citing someone else make what I write more valid, more accurate or more valuable? Citation and referencing are an important part of academic writing; it is a painstaking, laborious and often frustrating process that is, unfortunately, unavoidable. Of course, I understand why it is necessary. When communicating ideas or concepts it is...

Avery Gordon's "Ghostly Matters" and the Haunting of Sociological Research

  I recently stumbled upon a unique analysis of the construction of social reality.  In Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters, haunting is a method of sociological research.  She argues, “To study social life one must confront the ghostly aspects of it” (7).  Ghostly Matters is her attempt to understand the complexities of social life through an analysis of the hauntings surrounding Sabina Spielrein, the desaparecido of Argentina and the lingering impact of racial slavery during the Reconstruction period in the United States.  Her...

Laud Humphreys' Tearoom Trade: The Best and Worst of Sociology?

In Tearoom Trade (1970/1975), Laud Humphreys’ writes about the homosexual relations that took place in various “tearooms” (i.e., public bathrooms) in an unidentified American city during the mid- to late 1960s. By pretending to be a simple voyeur, Humphreys explains that he systematically observed these activities and even recorded the license plate numbers of a sample of tearoom participants. While the systematic observation part of his study permitted an understanding of the rules and roles, patterns of collective action, and...

Bystander (Non)Intervention: What Separates the “Doers” from the “Ignorers”?

It’s the type of story that we too often hear on the news. In 2008, 78-year-old Angel Arce Torres tried to cross Park Street in Hartford, Connecticut. Before he could make it across, a car driving on the wrong side of the road hit him. The driver left the scene of the accident as the elderly man lay bleeding in the middle of the street in the notoriously high-crime area. Nine other cars then drove around his body and it...

Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Topic of Growing Importance

In recent years, debates have swirled over whether or not physicians should be allowed to hasten the death of their incurable patients. Although the Hippocratic Oath forbids medical doctors from prematurely ending the lives of their patients, questions still remain over how physicians should respond to the needs and to the wants of terminally ill individuals. Although the legality and ethics surrounding assisted suicide have been pondered since antiquity, these issues were brought to the forefront in the U.S. during...

The Power of Comedy

Mark Twain once said “that the human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” Even if this is an exaggeration, it might explain our love for humor, specifically the art of comedy. Humor allows people to approach sensitive issues. No one is better at this than the Stand-up Comic.  The Comic’s job is to create, sustain, and guide the audience throughout their performance. In doing so, the comic touches on material that is taboo to the...

Rethinking Behavior Change, Nudge-style

A prevailing regime by which groups, organizations, and institutions attempt to alter the behavior of its members and constituents is through imposing penalties and fines, which seek to deter certain behaviors. Parking tickets intend to prevent people from parking in certain areas, sometimes at certain times. Prison sentences, and the death penalty, are intended to serve as deterrents for serious legal violations. However, fines often prompt behaviors different from what those trying to mould behavior (e.g., governments or organizations) intend....

The Potential of Epigenetics for Sociology

A careful understanding of epigenetic mechanisms allows sociologists to include a new biological perspective into research designs – when it is incorporated carefully and not used casually or blindly as a deus ex machina explanatory device that is. Epigenetics provides us with one of several “mechanisms by which social influences become embodied” (Kuzawa and Sweet 2008: 2). A promising place for sociologists to enter into this research or use it fruitfully is to examine how social environments and inequalities become embodied...

Old=conservative, young=liberal? Age, Generation, and Voting Patterns

We now find ourselves in a unique media period: after the midterm election digestion, and before every news outlet begins twenty-four hour coverage of the 2012 election. So, this seems like a good time to talk about age-related voting patterns. One of the most striking observations about the composition of voters in the midterm election was how few young people turned out, relative to their numbers in 2008. In 2008, about 18% of the voters were under thirty; about 16%...