SOC 102 Topic 2 Discussion 2

SOC 102 Topic 2 Discussion 2



First of all, most people agree with the statement: I am a prisoner of socialization. Everybody follows the norms and rules of society. In our society, almost everybody goes to college, wears clothes (sometimes too much), have a job that they do because they need money to live. It’s normal in our society to not steal or kill people.

We are prisoners of socialization: we conform to social norms, expectations, and behavior since our youth. How do we explain this fact? We could argue that choosing to follow the rules is what’s in a person’s best interest (and it tends to be), so we do it of our own volition. Another option would be that we never really had any other choice, because under pressure and influence from others, making decisions against the norm was always more difficult than just choosing what everyone else was doing – is this choice actually free will? Having said that, most people continue to choose socially normative behavior even when they have no external source of pressure or control: after all, why rebel against something if you like it?

We are, unquestionably, prisoners of socialization. This is evident in the most mundane activities. If you look around when you enter a room, most likely everyone is facing something different. How do we answer the question of “What time is it?” The vast majority instinctively turn to watch a clock. Look at any group of people and watch their heads move with the sound of a car horn and then again when a siren goes off. Right or wrong, we must conform to what society expects of us and people who don’t conform are called out as outliers.

Humans are social animals. We are creatures that evolved with social hierarchies and the desire to fit in. However, this natural tendency for humans to want to be a part of a group does not mean that we are prisoners of socialization. Humans also have free will. We can decide for ourselves whether or not we want to do what is expected by society. Our minds are large enough to allow us to maintain some individuality while still being able to follow the rules and needs of society. Yes, human beings are social creatures but we can still think for ourselves and make our own decisions.

We Are Prisoners of Socialization

Looking at the world and human behavior from a sociological point of view, one can see numerous examples of socialization (in this conceptualization, socialization is the process by which we learn to behave in ways acceptable to society). Learning that wearing clothes is important is a basic type of socialization that many little boys do not master; they are stuck naked in their families’ apartments. If a child learns that obedience to parents is valued, some households teach good behavior, while others use physical means to control the child. Going to college and getting a degree, at least in the United States, is considered a social expectation. In our society stealing and killing are not accepted behavior patterns; if you break these laws, you go to jail.

When you are socialized, your parents teach you many things like who to be friends with and what to care about. We learn these things because they are key to prospering in our society. You may believe that we have free will, but we don’t – we are socialized everyday.

Let’s get one thing straight – all of us are socialized by family, by school, by the media and our culture, to a greater or lesser extent. As a baby, you learned that your needs came before everything else. You cried when you were uncomfortable and someone held you; you expressed your needs through crying. As parents or caretakers, it was our job to attend to your needs. (The same is true for children who grow up in poverty – no matter how poor their home conditions, it is almost unheard of for them to wet the bed because it would be too uncomfortable for their parent or caretaker to change their clothing.)

Some people believe that human nature is simply part of human beings’ genetic disposition. Humans are prisoners of their own biology, and all their actions and thoughts are controlled by the hormones and other chemicals in their brains. There is no such thing as free will or a strong will, it is just a fiction that encourages social harmony. Other people, on the contrary, believe that humans have inherent traits: intelligence, creativity, imagination and self-awareness. No amount of social conditioning can stifle these natural abilities.

In a culture or society, socialization is the way in which individuals learn the customs and behaviours that are considered appropriate, acceptable and ‘normal’ within the society they live in. From a young age, children are taught through direct communication and observation how to act, what to wear and how to talk expected by their family, friends. Friendships and school systems further reinforce this process of learning expected standards of behaviour and values (Smith, 2005).

This question really seems to come down to a matter of definition. If a choice is an action that one chooses to do and has no consequences, then yes, people are socialized and forced into societal norms.

The researchers developed a new approach for investigating the influence of culture on self-esteem. They used two methods to test the consistency of how participants viewed themselves: explicit measures and implicit measures. In the explicit measure, they asked students to rate their self-worth on items such as “I feel that I have a number of good qualities” and “Even taking into account my weaknesses, I am an all-around person.” Through an implicit measure (the Implicit Association Test), they measured the brain processes that occur when products, ideas, or people are paired with positive or negative words. Older students strongly associated Asian American with bad qualities and disassociated white American with bad qualities, while younger students didn’t show this same discrimination between Asian American–bad qualities pairings and white American–bad qualities pairings.


Are we prisoners of socialization – yes or no? If you answer yes, how do you explain the fact that we think of ourselves as having choices and free will? If you say no, how do you explain the fact that in almost every way, we conform to what society expects of us? (We wear clothes, we drive on the right-hand side of the road, we go to college, we don’t – usually – go around stealing things, killing people, or breaking most of the laws of society.) Discuss this question with a friend, then post your response as well as how your friend’s opinion was similar or different than your own.

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