November 15, 2021

Attention in Everyday Life

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

I think about attention a lot. For years, I’ve taught Charles Derber’s The Pursuit of Attention in my Social Psychology course. Derber recognizes that attention is a fundamental human need. It’s normal and healthy to want attention. What’s unhealthy is when too many of us crave attention more and more of the time.

We can look at celebrities as massive attention getters. We can easily name famous people who have soaked up our attention through the years: Madonna, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Cardi B, Harry Styles, Lil Nas X. On a smaller scale there are influencers who fight for attention on YouTube and Instagram, and people using their talents to catch attention on TiKToK.

Reality television captures our attention in the form of pranks and shenanigans in shows like Jackass or shows that relish in interpersonal conflict and air dirty laundry like The Jerry Springer Show, or ones that showcase rich and glamorous lifestyles like Keeping up with the Kardashians, or ones that highlight relationship problems and dramas such as Catfish and 90 Day Fiancé.

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November 09, 2021

Striketober!

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

Over the past several weeks, we have seen a number of labor actions across the country, including strikes and walk-offs. Some observers have referred to this past month as “Striketober,” with the #striketober hashtag being popularized on social media, including Twitter.

As Catherine Thorbecke of ABC News reported:

A confluence of unique labor market conditions -- including record-high levels of people quitting their jobs and an apparent shortage of workers accepting low-wage jobs -- has contributed to the recent rash of work stoppages, experts say, but they also come after decades of stagnating wages and soaring income inequality in the U.S.

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October 18, 2021

Climate Change, Work and the Economy

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

One of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is that more people are now working from home, some permanently. While the initial purpose of working from home was to avoid the spread of infection, it also may have some environmental benefits too.

At my university, there is a big push towards sustainability and there is now even a Chief Sustainability Officer working with the president. In addition to liquidating fossil fuel investments, the university has been encouraging alternative means of transportation and telecommuting when possible. So far this semester, aside from in-person classes, all of my meetings have been video conferences, and the decision of several people in leadership positions has been to keep this going even after the threat of COVID-19 ends. This has saved me hours of Los Angeles’s infamous traffic.

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October 11, 2021

How to Read a Sociological Journal Article for Beginners

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Most people who aren’t sociologists don’t just stumble upon a scholarly journal article and think, “Hmm, this looks like a fun read!” (Truth be told, many sociologists don’t either.) But there are times when reading journal articles is necessary, like when you are learning from the literature in order to prepare to conduct your own research or are writing a scholarly paper for a class.

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October 04, 2021

I Have Questions about Norms!

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Each time I mow my lawn, I think about norms. It sounds silly, but the phrase “conventional mowing hours” comes to mind when I’m deciding what time to cut the grass. I’ve lived in my current neighborhood for ten years. I’ve rarely seen anyone mow before 9:00 a.m. I’d be going out of my way to irritate my neighbors if I mowed at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. We learn through observation and social interaction what’s considered to be socially acceptable behavior. A lot of norms operate as unwritten rules about what we should and shouldn’t do in everyday life.

When you intentionally break social norms, you might generate interesting reactions. Breaching experiments demonstrate the power of social norms, as explained in this post by Bradley Wright. It would be a breaching experiment to cut my lawn using scissors, or to fire up the lawnmower at midnight. If you’ve ever watched Impractical Jokers, you understand what breaching experiments look like.

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September 27, 2021

Pizza and Neighborhood Change

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

There are many unforgettable aspects of my first week as a college student. Number one by far: my first slice of St. Mark’s Pizza, located at the corner of Third Avenue and St. Mark’s Place in lower Manhattan.

Surely you’ve heard about the uniqueness of New York-style pizza: huge slices, thin crust, and in the case of St. Mark’s, lots of cheese. As a student, I would get a slice from St. Mark’s almost once a week. At the time it was relatively cheap—maybe $2?—and so satisfying when money was tight.

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September 21, 2021

How to Read a Sociological Journal Article for Beginners

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Most people who aren’t sociologists don’t just stumble upon a scholarly journal article and think, “Hmm, this looks like a fun read!” (Truth be told, many sociologists don’t either.) But there are times when reading journal articles is necessary, like when you are learning from the literature in order to prepare to conduct your own research or are writing a scholarly paper for a class.

Continue reading "How to Read a Sociological Journal Article for Beginners" »

September 20, 2021

Becoming a Doctor: Inequities in Medical Training

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The past year has taught us a lot about inequities within health care, from the disparities in COVID-19 infection and death rates to the impact of racial segregation on our health, and the disparities in receiving vaccinations during the early rollout phase.

Disparities also exist among health care workers, even between doctors.

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September 13, 2021

James Loewen and the Sociology of Sundown Towns

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

Sociologist James Loewen passed away on Thursday, August 19 at the age of 79. In an obituary in the New York Times, he is described as a “civil rights champion who took high school teachers and textbook publishers to task for distorting American history, particularly the struggle of Black people in the South, by oversimplifying their experience and omitting the ugly parts.”

Loewen first worked as a professor at Tougaloo College, a historically black college in Mississippi. He later worked at the University of Vermont, and as a visiting professor at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

Loewen is probably most famous for his book Lies My Teacher Told Me, which my friend Myron Strong writes about here. Loewen produced other important work as well. For example, Facing South, the online magazine for the Institute for Southern Studies republished Loewen’s article “Lies Across the South” from the Spring/Summer 2000 issue of Southern Exposure in an effort, “to deepen understanding of the long movement for memorial justice in the South — and appreciation for Loewen's critical contributions to it.” Memorials and landmarks continue to be sites where we continue to struggle over racism and place character, as I wrote about in an  Everyday Sociology Blog post about the removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina state house grounds in 2015. In this article written 15 years earlier, Loewen emphasized that, “All across the South, from Maryland to Texas, historical markers, monuments, and historic sites get history wrong, mostly on purpose.”

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September 06, 2021

Eating in Everyday Life

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

My 13-year-old has suddenly stopped eating meat. This came as a surprise to my wife and me, considering his voracious appetite and penchant for eating a variety of meats. It wasn’t long ago he was eager to participate in the chicken sandwich wars, comparing offerings from popular fast-food establishments. We live in Buffalo, which I consider a meat-centric place. After all, this is home of the chicken wing, and lesser-known meat treats that Western New Yorkers are proud to be associated with, like beef on weck sandwiches. Many a fund raiser in our region rely on chicken dinners sold in the parking lots of churches, schools, and fire halls.

My wife and I both come from meat and potato families. In my childhood, dinner was usually comprised of meat, a starch, and a vegetable. I remember eating pork chops, chicken, beef tacos, steak, and subs with cold cuts. My mom’s family is Italian. Our family Sunday dinners were pasta with meatballs and sausage. My kids have grown up eating breaded chicken cutlets that my dad makes, and my mom’s meatballs. Growing up Catholic, meat was only something to avoid only on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent. What family traditions have shaped the way you eat? What religious customs can you think of that influence how people eat?

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