quiz feature

Can you spot any problems with this logic?

People argue about how important “socialization” versus “biology” is for causing shyness. Well, evidence is abundant that children who exhibit shy behaviors grow up to report higher levels of shyness on questionnaires as adults. Therefore, socialization is more important than biology. Sociology wins!

OK, if you see the problem with this, do you think you could still see the problem even if we placed the example in a more politically relevant context and included tables with numbers and stars and such?

If the answer is yes, I’ve received several manuscripts to review for sociological journals over the past few years that it would have been nice to have you as a fellow reviewer on, because I have come to feel kinda rude being apparently the only one who ever suggests that there is any problem to taking the adage “the past predicts the present” as some great triumph of the sociological imagination.*

* (In case I honestly do have to spell this all the way out: while I have many broader problems with the “biology vs. socialization” schtick, if one is going to work within that schtick, the only way data can be evidence for “socialization” is for it to be somehow different from what any hardcore sociobiologist would predict. That childhood behavior predicts adult behavior is the default prediction for both “biology” and “socialization.”)

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

3 thoughts on “quiz feature”

  1. I continue to be amazed at how frequently socialization is evoked as an explanation without any measure of actual socializing practices. Childhood behavior is not a direct measure of either socialization or biology, so it does not seem to a good candidate for adjudicating between these supposedly competing explanations.


  2. I used to do a riff on this about breasts. In America, we socialize girls to have breasts. Even toddler girls have to wear bathing suits that cover their chests. When they’re a few years older, we give them “training bras,” to further socialize them, etc. And in a very high percentage of cases, the socialization works. QED, or as Jeremy says, Sociology wins.


  3. Right, and the fact that I have breasts must mean that I was cross-socialized by an overbearing mother, not that I eat too much cheese. (Would eating too much cheese be biological or sociological? I’m confusing myself.)

    The ‘past predicts the present’ critique is right on, but I’m still stuck on the original notion that childhood shyness is clearly the product of socialization. So how would biologically shy children behave?


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