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Social Phenomena: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is Social Phenomena?
  • 1:50 Behavioral Social Phenomena
  • 3:06 Historical Social Phenomena
  • 4:05 Political Social Phenomena
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
Social phenomena are an incredibly important aspect of everyone's lives. In this lesson, you'll explore a number of examples of social phenomena that should provide insight into how they influence the evolution of societies.

What is Social Phenomena?

If you think about all of the knowledge and experiences that we gain over the course of our lives, the amount that helped shape our worldview are probably too numerous to count. For example, when we are young, our parents' perspectives directly inform our own opinions on things like politics or religion, while later experiences, like romantic relationships, shape our perception of love and the levels of emotional risk that we find acceptable.

In sociology, such knowledge and experiences are referred to as social phenomena, which are the individual, external, social constructions that influence our lives and development, and are constantly evolving as we age. If this definition sounds vague or confusing, it's probably because the category of social phenomena is incredibly broad and complicated, but the fundamental principle of social phenomena is that it is created by society, as opposed to something that occurs naturally in the world, like earthquakes, viruses, or acts of weather.

One of the most important aspects of social phenomena is that it involves one person's observable behavior influencing another person. For example, racism is a social phenomenon because it is an ideology that people have constructed that directly affects another group, forcing them to change their behaviors. On the other end of the spectrum, marriage is also a social phenomenon because it is an observable act for which people have created and applied meaning, which alters the concept of love and relationships as that meaning evolves.

Weddings are an example of a social phenomenon because it is an act that changes the opinions or behaviors of others
weddings

There are many different types of social phenomena and it would be impossible to explain them all within this single lesson. The following examples, however, should give you some insight into how social phenomenon works and why it influences our lives so significantly.

Behavioral Social Phenomena

There are many different ways that other people can influence or change our lives, but among them, behavioral phenomena are probably one of the most significant. For example, imagine if you were walking down a city street and were suddenly mugged by a stranger. Once the initial shock of the experience had worn off, think of the ways that it could alter your own behavior from that point forward. You would probably become much more cautious in similar situations, perhaps more fearful of strangers, and so on.

In the context of social phenomena, crime and other acts of violence are incredibly influential when it comes to shaping our behavior or opinions on certain subjects. In the example we just used, one person's behavior, a criminal act towards you, has affected your sense of physical and emotional safety, and changed the way that they will behave and think from that point forward.

Similarly, wars have an equally important influence as a social phenomenon. Take, for example, the ongoing conflict in Israel between Palestinians and Israelis. In this case, the actions and rhetoric of each side is constantly influencing the individuals within those groups, and subsequently changing the way that they behave and the ways that they perceive the other side.

Historical Social Phenomena

Unlike other types of social phenomena, historical social phenomena tend to be a little more complicated and less easy to identify. In the simplest sense, a historical social phenomenon refers to the ways in which previous actions or events influence the lives of and behaviors of a particular person or group.

The civil rights movement is an example of historical social phenomena because it is influenced by the oppressive actions and racism of the past
civil rights

For example, over the last year, the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States has been actively protesting the modern abuse and oppression of African Americans, but they are also addressing the historic abuse of African Americans in general. In this case, the long history of slavery, oppression, and civil rights activism is directly influencing the present day behaviors and opinions of individuals who are trying to initiate change for future generations.

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