Within the social sciences there exists a common subject that links the various disciplines together. That is the scientific study of pattern and diversity in human adaptive behavior. Pattern and diversity distinguishes humans from all other living things, but does not make us unique or better. This adaptive behavior is locally patterned and globally diverse. Although it is genetically transmittable, learned behavior is not. Anthropology is the scientific study of human beings from a biological, social and humanistic perspective. Sociology is the scientific study of social relations or group life of a society. These two disciplines have similar ideas in their practices of material field and conceptions. They also have differences in their forms of methodologies.
There are four basic elements that are used in studying a discipline. They are conception, material field, methodologies, and subject-matter claims. Conceptions create images for structure and dynamics underlying observable phenomena. A discipline’s material field is the common-sense principality of objects and events that the discipline studies. Methodologies establish images of safe procedure and a clear conclusion by which a material field may be understood. Methodologies prescribe specific methods for collecting data that are used to evaluate a discipline’s conception. Subject matter claims are highly selective pictures of its material field that are made from inferences drawn out of individual methodological rules for the purpose of evaluating particular conceptions.
Eleanor Smith Bowen’s book, Return to Laughter takes a fictional approach to her study of the Tiv culture. She is an Anthropologist who examines the “rules of right behavior” as functions in the Tiv culture of West Africa. The material field of Bowen’s anthropological study is observing the Tiv people’s pattern of behavior in their everyday life. Some limitations to anthropology are that descriptions of the rules are reached with biased emotions, and you can’t do controlled experiments because it is real life. When anthropologists are participating with members of the culture, their own views and opinions become obstacles that get in the way of being objective. The conceptions (or culture) are learned through the rules of right behavior. An example of a rule of right behavior in the Tiv culture was laughing at disabled people. That behavior was extremely appalling to Bowen yet, it is a behavior that was acceptable in the Tiv culture. This is an example of how thick culture really does cut. Bowen learned the patterns of the Tiv people by using the methodology of participant observation. In order to thoroughly understand the culture and its people, Bowen had to assume the role of every possible member in society. She was her own best instrumental tool. In being assigned different names by the tribe, she was able to see what is expected from people of different social positions. As well as how the Tiv people interact with and treat individuals from different social positions. In making inferences from her experiences, Bowen arrived to her subject matter claims that the Tiv cultures focal point was witchcraft. The other was that older is more powerful and that power was cast in the male kindred line. It was a way of explaining the unexplained to the Tiv. It gave the Tiv a sense of hope and control, which showed they seriously, believed that’s the way it is; things happen for a reason. Bowen, in her study, was practicing normal science. She did not seem to be very innovative in her methods.
Peter Berger examines sociology and social structure in his book Invitation to Sociology. Sociologists study the functions of a population that function by specialization, and categorize members into groups that accomplish tasks in society. The material field is the study of a large population of people. This structure of society is thought to be an instrument of human adaptive behavior. The things that make up this structure must be different. Throughout history, structure endures a cycle of repetition. Roles are designed to establish social structure. The role provides a pattern to which the individual acts in a particular situation. Sociology’s conceptions is composed of a collection of like beings of the same kind, whose members live in a high state of interdependency, and who appear to be bent on enduring over time. Members of society find it necessary to seek the behaviors of others in order to satisfy their own wants and needs. They are not able to satisfy these needs on there own as individuals. In order for interdependency to work, it is important for members not to be carbon copies of each other. The limitations of sociology is that interdependency appears to relinquish freedom of choice. However, if freedom of choice were to be utilized by everyone the social system would break down. The methodologies used to study populations are survey research and experiments. This type of methodology can be difficult because it is impossible for every person within the population to be surveyed. Therefore, it is hard to be certain that it is an accurate demographic representation of the large society. The information collected from the surveys and experiments are formulated as the final outcome for the subject matter claims.
Anthropological and sociological sciences share similarities regarding material field and conceptions. The material field is objects and events that the discipline studies. An example of material field in anthropology was the small group of Tiv people that Bowen observed. The material field for sociology is a study of a large population. Conceptions in the study of anthropology consist of culture, which is the set of rules of right behavior that is shared by the people under study. These rules are shared and transmitted over generations. In sociology conceptions include a population in a high state of interdependency, which is built on trust. These studies involve examining people functioning in social systems, with an emphasis on external differentiation.
Anthropology and sociology have differences in the forms of methodologies.
Methodologies are specific methods for gathering data that can be used to evaluate conceptions of a discipline. Anthropology’s method of study is participant observation. The anthropologist observes a culture by participating as a member. Sociology utilizes survey research as a preferred methodology. This type of research includes questionnaires that are administered to carefully selected samples in the society under research.
The social sciences consist of different disciplines in which each studies certain aspects of the human adaptive behavior. Each discipline is geared to look at the pattern and diversity of humans in different ways, by asking different questions and using different material fields and methods. The conceptions, material field, methodologies and subject matter claims help to formulate scientific information as well as ideologies of human adaptive behavior. As has been shown, anthropology and sociology contain similarities as well as differences in their practices.
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