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Social Science: Practical Applications

Social Science: Practical Applications

This article determines how Social Science can be used to address social concerns as it demonstrates an understanding of the role of Social Science in the real world and illustrates situations and contexts in which Social Science can be applied.

Structural-functionalism, an approach in social science, recognizes that as one part of the system changes, other parts of the system have to readjust to accommodate the change that has taken place elsewhere. A change in one part of the system may have manifest, latent, and dysfunctional consequences. An example of a change that has had a number of consequences is the addition of lighting at Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field. Built in 1914, Wrigley Field is the home stadium of the Chicago Cubs professional baseball team. All games at Wrigley Field traditionally had to be played during daylight hours because the field did not have lighting for nighttime games. In 1988, lights were added to the field as a result of a lengthy and contentious process aimed at generating income and reviving the economy in the immediate area of the field.

Studying the Lake View neighborhood around Wrigley Field as a social system allows application of a functionalist perspective to this situation. Nighttime games can now be played at the field. This one change resulted in a number of other complicated neighborhood effects (Spirou and Bennett 2002). The Cubs have a more flexible schedule and can take economic advantage of televised evening programming, thus achieving the manifest function of lighting the field. A number of other manifest and latent functions can also be noted.
 
For example, the nighttime games have resulted in needed new investments in the surrounding area, population growth, and an acceleration of residential investments by affluent buyers. Sports-oriented businesses catering to a younger crowd, such as sports bars, have flourished. However, dysfunctions have also occurred. Some smaller businesses not catering to the baseball trade have suffered. For example, pharmacies, bookstores, dry cleaners, and restaurants have seen business decline as bar business increased. Automobile traffic around the ballpark has also increased, and area residents and businesses have been faced with more elaborate parking restrictions.
 
On the other hand, symbolic interactionism (another approach in social socience) has been an important theoretical perspective in family studies. The approach used qualitative methods (e.g., case studies and novels) to study family dynamics, particularly processes of interpersonal conflict, bargaining, and exploitation. It suggests that the person least interested in or committed to the marital or dating relationship has the most power in that relationship and frequently exploits the other.

More direct and practical applications of social science approaches can be found in psychology. Psychoanalysis, for example, is commonly used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. It is only having a cathartic (i.e. healing) experience can the person be helped and "cured".
 
Many psychologists today work in the emerging area of health psychology, the application of psychology to the promotion of physical health and the prevention and treatment of illness. Researchers in this area have shown that human health and well-being depends on both biological and psychological factors. Many psychologists in this area study psychophysiological disorders (also called psychosomatic disorders), conditions that are brought on or influenced by psychological states, most often stress. These disorders include high blood pressure, headaches, asthma, and ulcers. Psychological approaches have discovered that chronic stress is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Practically, they propose that people who have family, friends, and other forms of social support are healthier and live longer than those who are more isolated.

Many psychological approaches also contribute to our understanding of teaching, learning, and education. Some help develop standardized tests used to measure academic aptitude and achievement. Others study the ages at which children become capable of attaining various cognitive skills, the effects of rewards on their motivation to learn, computerized instruction, bilingual education, learning disabilities, and other relevant topics. Perhaps the best-known application of psychology to the field of education occurred in 1954 when, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court of the United States outlawed the segregation of public schools by race. In its ruling, the Court cited psychological studies suggesting that segregation had a damaging effect on black students and tended to encourage prejudice.
 
Psychological approaches also deal with issues concerning the workplace and the marketplace. They study the factors that influence worker motivation, satisfaction, and productivity. Others study the personal traits and situations that foster great leadership. Still others focus on the processes of personnel selection, training, and evaluation. Studies have shown, for example, that face-to-face interviews sometimes result in poor hiring decisions and may be biased by the applicant’s gender, race, and physical attractiveness. Consumer psychologists study various aspects of marketing, such as the effects of packaging, price, and other factors that lead people to purchase one product rather than another.

In judicial processes, many psychologists today work in the legal system. They are consulted by lawyers, testify in court as expert witnesses, counsel prisoners, teach in law schools, and research various justice-related issues. Studies in forensic psychology have helped to illuminate weaknesses in the legal system. For example, based on trial-simulation experiments, researchers have found that jurors are often biased by various facts not in evidence—that is, facts the judge tells them to disregard. In studying eyewitness testimony, researchers have staged mock crimes and asked witnesses to identify the assailant or recall other details. These studies have revealed that under certain conditions eyewitnesses are highly prone to error.

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