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W.i. thomas and thomas’s theorem

W. I. Thomas (1863-1947) is justly famous for his work with Florian Znaniecki (1882-1958) concerning the assimilation processes undergone by Polish peasant immigrants to the United States. Indeed they are responsible for our concepts of the social types they defined as “the Philistine, the Bohemian, and the creative man” that informed our social dialogue both in academia and in popular culture in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. However, Thomas is most widely know for what has come to be called Thomas’s Theorem which, which, according to Merton states that:

if men define situations as real they are real in their consequences. . . .Once meaning has been assigned, their consequent behavior is shaped by [that] meaning. If people believe in witches such beliefs have tangible consequences—they may for example kill those persons assumed to be witches. This then is the power the human mind has in transmuting raw sense data into a categorical apparatus that could make murderers of us all. Once a Vietnamese becomes a “gook,” or a Black a “nigger,” or a Jew a “kike,” that human being has been transmuted through the peculiar alchemy of social definition into something wholly other who is now a target of prejudice and discrimination, of violence and aggression, and even murder. Masters of Sociological Thought: Ideas in Historical and Social Context . Lewis A. Coser. Harcourt. Fort Worth. 1977. p. 521.

In other words we act on what we think is real regardless of its ontological reality. Our beliefs, our perceptions, guide our behavior. We treat people based on what we perceive to be their basic (essential) characteristics often based solely on our perception of their place in the stratification hierarchy. Stereotypes and discriminatory behavior are almost always based on such perceptions. Our own position in the stratification hierarchy is judged just as we judge that of others and based on the same generally superficial qualities. What are the first things you notice when you meet someone for the first time? Do the things you notice color your analysis of that person?

It seems to be both a biological as well as social trait that humans place everything in our environment into categories that help us determine what is safe and not safe. Anything that is different is immediately suspect and until we have analyzed the difference and determined whether that difference is or is not harmful we are apt to separate ourselves from that real or perceived danger. Seminal Social-Psychologist Gordon W. Allport wrote:

No one quite knows why related ideas in our minds tend to cohere and form categories. Since the time of Aristotle, various “laws of association” have been proposed to account for this important property of the mind. The clusters formed do not need to correspond to outer reality as found in nature. For example there are no such things as elves but I have a firm category in my mind concerning them. Similarly, I have firm categories concerning groups of mankind although there is no guarantee that my categories correspond to fact.
To be rational, a category must be built primarily around the essential attributes of all objects that can be correctly included within the category. Thus all houses are structures marked by some degree of habitability (past or present). Each house will also have some nonessential attributes. Some are large, some small, some wooden, brick, cheap or expensive, old or new, painted white or gray. These are not the essential or defining attributes of a house. Allport Gordon W. The Nature of Prejudice: 25th Anniversary Edition . Perseus: Reading. 1979. p. 171.

Essential characteristics

Human beings create mental categories based on our current knowledge of our social and physical world.

We may know full well that there is no such thing as a werewolf, but when we hear a wolf howl while we are camping our minds conjure up certain visions of what may be lurking just beyond our campfire.
Ibid. Thus, we also use these categorical ideas to develop concepts of the essential characteristics of groups of people who differ in some way from ourselves; and yet, determining the essential qualities of any group is highly problematic:
[p]robably in no case can it ever be said that a group difference marks off every single member of a group from every single nonmember. . . . There is probably not a single case where every member of a group has all the characteristics ascribed to his group nor is there a single characteristic that is typical of every single member of one group and of no other group.
Allport Gordon W. The Nature of Prejudice: 25th Anniversary Edition . Perseus: Reading. 1979. p. 103; italics in original.

What are the essential characteristics of women? Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals? Blacks? Hispanics? Asians? American Indians? The disabled? The elderly? Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists? Or of any minority? What can be said that always applies to each and every member of the group without exception? According to Allport, (based on the J-curve theory of distribution), there are some (not necessarily essential) group traits that are exclusive to a particular group but are rare within that group. In statistical parlance, these are called rare-zero differentials. Unfortunately, we tend to generalize these rare-zero differentials and assume that they are widespread essential group characteristics. The J-curve theory states that the essential attributes of a group—these characteristics that define the group—tend to follow a J-curve type of distribution. Furthermore, a J-curve distribution, by definition, includes only group members—no non-group member can be fitted statistically into the distribution. Allport Gordon W. The Nature of Prejudice: 25th Anniversary Edition . Perseus: Reading. 1979. p. 97. All women are __________. All men are ___________. All Muslims are __________. All Jews are ___________. All blacks are ___________. What words did you use to fill in the blanks? Were those words categorical rare-zero stereotypes based on your perception of reality? Are you sure? Why?

Various Sociological, Psychological, and Social-Psychological studies indicate that, based on first impressions of strangers, we think physically attractive people are smart; fat people are sloppy and not very bright; well-dressed people are smarter, richer, and more attractive than people who are less well-dressed; nonwhite males are dangerous and sinister; white people are smarter, richer, more attractive, more honest, and more trustworthy than ethnic or racial minorities (even in the eyes of racial and ethnic minorities). In other words the way we form our initial opinions of the intrinsic human value—the basic human worth—of a stranger is based largely on those external aspects of the person that society has determined are acceptable or not acceptable. We are a class-driven society, but those American core values of equality and independence for all also blind us to the class structure, the social structure, the stratification hierarchy, and the prejudice and discrimination that effects so profoundly and with such grave consequences our day-to-day interactions with our fellow human beings.

Questions & Answers

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s. Reply
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s.
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Harper
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SUYASH
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Cied
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AMJAD
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Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
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AMJAD
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AMJAD
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Stotaw
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
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Prasenjit
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Prasenjit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Minority studies: a brief sociological text. OpenStax CNX. Mar 31, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11183/1.13
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