Generally, learning sociology provides us with what sociologists call the sociological imagination.
Sociological imagination is a particular way of looking at the world around us through sociological lenses. It is a way of looking at our experiences in light of what is going on in the social world around us. This helps us to appreciate the social and non-biological forces that affect, influence and shape our lives as individuals, groups, and communities (Giddens, 1982). Sociological imagination helps us look beyond individual psychology to the many and varied facets of social and cultural forces, and “the recurring patterns in peoples’ attitudes and actions, and how these patterns vary across time, cultures and social groups.” (Henslin and Nelson, 1995)
Learning sociology helps us understand how social forces influence our goals, attitudes, behavior, and personality. We become more sensitive towards the social issues. Furthermore, learning sociology helps to cast aside our own biased assumptions, stereotypes and ethno-centric thinking and practices to become more critical, broad- minded and respectful in our interpersonal and inter- group relationships. By learning sociology, we can be more humane and people – centered; we give high value to human dignity.
In general, sociology increases our self-knowledge.
Learning sociology can provide us with self-enlightenment. When we learn sociology, we gain more knowledge about the conditions of our own lives, and about the way our society and social system function. As such knowledge increases, we can be more empowered to influence the direction of forces and circumstances that affect our lives. We can also be more responsive to the various policies set by governments; and can suggest our own policy initiatives and alternatives (Giddens, op cit).
In addition to the aforementioned theoretical benefits, sociology has certain practical benefits. There is what we call applied sociology, the application of sociological knowledge, principles, methods, concepts and theories to provide the solutions to the contemporary social pathologies. Sociology plays practical roles to tackle social pathologies.
Sociological knowledge is highly applicable in dealing with today’s most crucial social problems, and in facilitating developmental activities in socioeconomic sectors.
Before closing this section, it is important to note why health/ medical sciences students need to take a course in introductory sociology.
The following are some of the arguments for the necessity of such a course:
- Health, disease and illness are as much socio-cultural in their nature as they are physical.
- So far, despite certain steps being taken, the dominant trend in the medical/ health sciences training is to highly focus on the biomedical and ecological dimensions of health and disease. However, given the bio-psycho-social nature of human being and health, this is very partial. This restricted approach to health disease does not provide the students with appropriate and whole picture about the issue. Such highly narrow focus in the training of health professionals and design of health policies and strategies is not appropriate.
- In the objective realties of developing societies such as Ethiopia human health and well-being are deeply linked to sociocultural factors such as the entrenched poverty, the roles of traditional values and institutions in shaping people’s worldviews about health and disease.