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The Blog, now in its 10th year, features resources for teachers and students of Sociology, Psychology and Criminology and contains a mix of Revision Resources, Notes, Lesson Plans, PowerPoint Presentations, Films, Digested Research and more.

Search the nearly 1000 posts if you’re looking for something specific, browse the different Categories for more-general exploration, or simply read the latest posts on the Home Page (and follow the Related Research suggestions at the end of each Post to discover similar Posts).

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Spaced Repetition

The 7th film in our Dynamic Learning Series designed to introduce students to a range of important ideas and skills related to the science of studying.

The series combines both theoretical insights and practical demonstrations of how an understanding of study skills can enhance student exam performance.

This short film introduces a tried-and-tested technique for memorising information, both as part of a general course of study and as a way to fine-tune your revision. In basic terms the film explains why students should be doing spaced repetition and, more-importantly, how they can make it an integral part of their learning.

Historically, research has shown that when we learn new information we’ll have forgotten around half of it within a day and three-quarters within a week. This is called The Forgetting Curve and while it’s useful for getting rid of all the stuff we don’t need to remember, it can be a big problem if we forget the stuff we really need to recall.

This is where Spaced Repetition comes into play. It’s a simple to implement learning technique that helps us remember more of the material we need to remember by reviewing new information soon after we’ve learned it – and continuing to review and recall it at increasingly-lengthy interviews.

It is, in short, a relatively simple way to ensure the transfer of information into our long-term memory – where instead of forgetting 80 or 90% of what they’ve just learned, students actually remember 80 – 90% of it.

Dynamic Learning: Spaced Repetition is now available to Buy and on 7-day Rental.

Psychology OER PowerPoints

As with their Sociology counterpart, Lumen Learning also supply a range of Psychology PowerPoint Presentations to support their (free) online Psychology course and complement the equally-free Openstax Introduction to Psychology Textbook.

If you’re not familiar with this particualr text it’s an example of a growing field called OER (Open Educational Resources). These are resources created by educational institutions, companies and individuals that are given away under a Create Commons license to anyone who wants to use them. This particular Openstax CC license allows anyone to take the basic text and change it in any way they want to meet the needs of their particular students.

Each of the 16 modules contains around 30 individual slides and while they’re not going to win any prizes for pushing the boundaries of design they do their job.

Although one big advantage of having a basic design is that the slides are easy to edit, because there’s no need to mess around with tricky (or indeed tricksy) formatting.

You can either download the modules individually, if there’s some you don’t teach or don’t need, or in a Single Big (Zipped) Batch.

The choice, as they say, is yours…

Psychological Foundations
Psychological Research
Biopsychology
States of Consciousness
Sensation and Perception
Thinking and Intelligence
Memory Learning and Conditioning  
Lifespan Development
Social Psychology
Personality Emotion and Motivation
Industrial-Organizational Psychology
Psychological Disorders
Therapy and Treatment
Stress, Lifestyle, and Health  

Sociology OER PowerPoints

If you’re interested in free textbooks – of either the Sociology or Psychology variety – you may well have come across the Openstax Introduction to Sociology textbook published by Lumen Learning.

Deviance Powerpoint slide

And if you haven’t Openstax is an example of a growing field in education called OER (Open Educational Resources). These are resources created by educational institutions, companies and individuals that are given away under a Create Commons license to anyone who wants to use them. In this particular instance the Openstax CC license allows anyone to take the basic text and change it in any way they want to meet the needs of their particular students.

While the basic textbook is widely available online there aren’t that many free resources to accompany it. And while this isn’t an insurmountable problem – teachers are obviously well-used to making their own resource materials – it can help if you’ve got something to fall back on. This is where Luman Learning’s free PowerPoint Presentations come into the picture.

Each module runs to around 35 – 40 slides and while, as you can see from the screenshot, the slides are what one might charitably describe as “functional” they do the job.

Whatever that job might be.

One advantage of having such a  basic set of slides is, of course, that you can easily edit them, either to make them a bit more attractive / less text intensive or to add / subtract information.

Having said that, these are something of a gift horse and, as we know from bitter experience, we should look into a gift horse’s mouth.

Or something.

Anyway, there are 18 different modules from which to choose and you can either download them individually (if there are some you don’t teach / need):

Foundations of Sociology
Sociological Research
Culture
Socialization
Society and Groups
Deviance, Crime, and Social Control
Stratification and Inequality
Race and Ethnicity
Gender, Sex, and Sexuality
Marriage and Family
Religion
Education
Health and Medicine
Aging and the Elderly
Government and Politics
Work and the Economy
Population, Urbanization, and the Environment
Social Movements and Social Change

Or if you fancy having the lot then you can download them in a Single Big Batch.

Power Notes

In the normal course of events Power Notes are a simple way to organise your note-taking.

If push-comes-to-shove, however, they can also be a very effective way to re-organise your conventional linear notes to make them more revision-friendly.

Although there are a variety of patterned / visual note-taking techniques around, it’s a good bet the default mode for most teachers and students tends to be linear: which, when you come to think about it, isn’t that surprising.

Not only do linear notes mimic how we conventionally learn to write across a page, so there’s no great learning curve involved, they’re also well-suited to a variety of situations in which we need to take notes. This is particularly the case for fast-paced situations like lectures or videos where large amounts of information are often delivered and received at such a speed as to require an accurate recording system that can process this data quickly and efficiently.

Unfortunately, one downside to the speed and efficiency of linear note-taking tends to be that by the end of a two-year course you end up with a lot of notes. And by a lot I mean several folders packed with closely-written pages of text.

Power Notes Example

And if you’re the kind of student that leaves revision until you’ve finished the course, you’re going to have around 12 weeks max to relearn all the stuff you last studied up to a year and a half ago.

A relatively short amount of time, coupled with an intimidatingly large number of folders filled with notes tends to result in just one thing: a feeling of being overwhelmed. And this, in turn, makes it much less likely you’re going to remember what you’re revising because, of necessity, you’ll try to cover it all too quickly.

You’ll use, for example, techniques like reading and re-reading your notes, coupled with things like highlighting key ideas. While these are a super-efficient way to cover all the course information quickly, research has shown them to be a very inefficient way of remembering and understanding information.

The upshot of all this is that while you end-up doing a massive amount of work, you don’t really remember much of what you’ve revised. And you don’t have to take my word for it (although, if we’re being honest, you probably should). Tom Stafford, Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sheffield, says it’s pointless to “stress yourself with revision where you read and re-read textbooks and course notes” (Make study more effective, the easy way: 2011).

“Trying to remember something has been shown to have almost no effect on whether you do remember it. The implication for revision is clear: just looking at your notes won’t help you learn them” (Five secrets to revising that can improve your grades: 2014).

While this seems to leave you with no room for manoeuvre – on the one hand you’ve got all those notes taking up valuable storage space while on the other your exams are, if you’re lucky, a few short weeks away – all’s not lost:

“You’ll remember better (and understand much better) if you try and re-organise the material you’ve been given in your own way” (Make study more effective, the easy way: 2011).

While completely re-organising your notes might sound a bit desperate – why waste precious revision time restructuring notes you already have? – it’s actually going to help you revise. Power Notes are a tool to help you re-organise and categorise your existing notes in a way that focuses on the essential things you need to know for your exams. And by doing this you make your revision easier, more-productive and more-useful.

How to create power notes…

Revision Tips

You probably won’t be too surprised to learn that this is the time of the year when revision advice is thrown around more freely than confetti at a wedding. If you’re taking an exam in the next few months it probably feels like everyone and their dog is only too willing and able to offer guidance about how to revise.

exam tips poster

And I, of course, am no exception.

Although in my defence I would say I’m not so much offering advice as conveying that of others.

Which in this instance is some useful stuff I’ve found on the Innerdrive web site – a site that’s well-worth the time to visit for things like free posters and studies. Although you should probably be aware they really, really, really, like the work of Rosenshine and, to-a-lesser-extent-but-even-then-I-personally-wouldn’t-touch-him-with-a-ten-foot-pole, Lemov.

Even if you’re not particularly interested in Rosenshine (he seems harmless enough) and his “10 Principles of Instruction” the site actually offers a lot of solid study-related information and their “10 tips to prepare for your first exam” (I’m starting to sense a theme here…) gives teachers a Pretty Poster to put on the wall (so that SMT can see how seriously you take this whole revision thang) and students revision tips that range from the essential (spaced learning!) to the “Maybe we should have just gone with 6 or 7 tips?” (“surround yourself with positive people”).

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Defining Religion | 2: PowerPoint

You know that thing they say about buses – you wait ages for one and then two arrive at once? Well, by what some might call a mysterious and inexplicable coincidence, the same seems to be true of PowerPoint Presentations on religion.

Having seen neither hide nor hair of anything vaguely religious-looking on the site for ages, along came Defining Religion, to be followed in quick order by Defining Religion | 2 – about which you’ll probably be wanting to know a bit more before you download it.

So, where the first Presentation laid the groundwork by outlining three basic aspects of religion (Beliefs, Practices and Organisation), Part 2 digs quite a bit deeper by looking at three more complex areas:

  • religious diversity
  • inclusive approaches
  • exclusive approaches.

For the sake of continuity between the two Presentations, this second part continues with the Timeline format, where information slides on and off the screen like a thing that slides. While the basic navigation system is the same across both Presentations, Part 2 adds a new feature whereby moving the mouse pointer to the left or right edge of the screen automatically moves the Presentation forward or, indeed, backward.

As ever, you’ve got a range of download options, from the standard PowerPoint Presentation (.pptx) you can use if you have later versions of the program (2019, 365…) and want to see how it all works, to the PowerPoint Show (.ppsx) version you can use if you just want a Presentation that auto-runs without the need for the main PowerPoint program. As an added bonus there’s also a version that has background music.

Although you may be thankful this only runs when the main menu’s onscreen.

Defining Religion: PowerPoint

This PowerPoint Presentation is designed to be a fairly simple introduction to the topic of religion by suggesting how it can be defined in terms of three main criteria:

Background image of a church and title "Defining Religion"
  • Beliefs
  • Practices
  • Organisation

It introduces students, in other words, to some instances of how religious behaviour differs from other types of non-religious (secular) behaviour.

As such, it’s a perfectly serviceable Introduction to Religion and rather than go down the traditional “bullet point list” route, this Presentation uses a simple timeline effect to introduce the information.

And although I say “simple”, you probably wouldn’t believe the huge amount of sweat and tears that went into creating it and making it work (and yes, before you ask, that is a psuedo-parallax scoll you think you’re seeing).

One small step for PowerPoint. One giant leap for me…

Trust me when I say the relatively calm, stripped-down, visuals are hiding a whole heap of work going on under the hood – and this means you’ll need an up-to-date version of PowerPoint if you want to run the pptx version of the Presentation.

If you’ve got an earlier version of PowerPoint – or don’t have the program available at all – you can still run the standalone PowerPoint Show (ppsx) version.

Structuration: A Bluffer’s Guide

While A-level students are usually well-versed in the difference between structural and action approaches, a lot less time, effort and teaching tends to given-over to alternative perspectives, such as Structuration. Which is a national disgrace bit disappointing.

To remedy this potential learning deficit I’ve put together this quick ‘n’ dirty guide to the main features of Structuration that will undoubtedly get you out of a tight spot in an exam.

Which, since you’re reading this, is not something entirely beyond the realms of probability.

Structure and action represent two sociological approaches to understanding the social world in the sense that each is interested in seeing and understanding human behaviour in different ways.

  • Structural sociology – which includes perspectives like functionalism, Marxism and feminism – is similar to looking at a society from a satellite in space; from this view you might see things like the shape of a society’s borders, its road and railway systems and so forth. You would, in other words, get a broad picture of that society – but what you wouldn’t see is people.

Anthony Giddens
  • Interactionism, in a similar way to perspectives like postmodernism and post-feminism, is like observing behaviour from a street corner; you get a close-up view of the hustle and bustle of people going about their daily lives, but you would have little or no sense of the “bigger picture”.

We could, however, argue concepts of structure and action are both important, in terms of understanding the relationship between society and the individual and in some ways complementary. Although we’re all individuals, our behavioural choices are influenced, limited and enhanced by the network of rules and responsibilities (social structures) that surround us. Just as we can’t conceive of society without individuals, it’s impossible to think about people without referring to the various ways our behaviour is structured.

Giddens (1984) Structuration theory argues structure and action are equally significant in terms of our ability to understand the relationship between the individual and society and the key to understanding this perspective, he argues, is the idea of practices (the things people do):

Structuration states that the basic domain of social science study is neither the experience of the individual nor the existence of any form of societal totality, but social practices. Through social activities people reproduce the actions that make these practices possible’

In other words, as people develop relationships, the rules they use to govern their respective behaviours are formalised (as norms, for example) into practices or routine ways of behaving towards each other. Once we start to think of the huge range of practices surrounding our lives we start to develop a sense of structure to the social world, which necessarily involves:

• Rules considered in terms of both the way our actions create behavioural rules and the idea that such rules become externalised (they seem to take on a life of their own, separate from our individual behaviours). In effect, therefore, although we may be involved in rule-making behaviour, such rules ‘reflect back’ on our behaviour in ways that suggest or demand conformity.

• Resources refers to concepts such as power and relates to how and why rules are created. Some rules, for example, are negotiated between individuals (your relationship with your friends, for example, is based on a series of unwritten and unspoken rules you’ve negotiated among yourselves), but others – such as laws governing things like the definition of murder – are, in some respects, non-negotiable; some rules are created by powerful groups and are simply imposed on people. Whatever your beliefs about a particular law, it applies to you whether you believe it does or not.

A couple of key criticisms of this perspective relate to:

• Power: One possible criticism of structuration is it doesn’t sufficiently take account of the way power in society is unequally distributed (for example, the rich have more power than the poor, men have more power than women). The practices of the powerful may become entrenched, in the sense they are beyond the ability of the powerless to change. In other words, the relatively powerless do not, through their everyday practices, ‘create society’; rather, it’s through everyday practice that people experience the power of ‘society’.

• Structure or action: A number of criticisms have been aimed at the claim we can easily combine these two very different ideas. Clegg (1989), for example, argues that although structuration theory talks about structure and action being equally significant, Giddens, in effect, considers human action as being considerably more significant. Similarly, Layder (1987) argues structuration gives very little attention to the concept of social structures as ‘determinants of action’. In other words, there is little sense that social structures (as opposed to human practices) can have very much effect on people’s behaviour.

Anticipation Guides

Although Anticipation Guides are similar to pre-questioning in both form and purpose – they encourage much the same kinds of skills – there are significant differences between the two approaches.

Anticipation Guide Templates

Where pre-questioning asks students to predict the answers to a set of questions they receive before being exposed to a lecture, video or reading, Anticipation Guides require students to think about the extent to which they agree or disagree with a small number of statements, typically 4 – 6, about a topic both before and after they study it. In addition, Anticipation Guides can be used to ask students to explain both their pre-learning and post-learning beliefs about a topic.

The objective of Anticipation Guides is, in this respect, both subtly different and worth trying for a range of reasons:

1. They encourage students to identify and explore their own preconceived ideas about a topic. This can be both objective (asking them to estimate a number, for example) or subjective (such as asking them about their beliefs).

2. They can be used to demonstrate how sociological thinking can be counter-intuitive to commonsense thinking.

3. They encourage students to be curious about their beliefs and whether or not these beliefs are confirmed or refuted by sociological evidence. Curiosity is also a very valuable quality to encourage in students.

4. They can be used to encourage students to make predictions about things they don’t know (such as how many crimes were committed last year) based on what they do know (their perception of the extent of crime in society). This kind of predictive learning can be a valuable skill because it enables students to reasonably speculate about something they may not have explicitly studied based on the knowledge they have about a related topic.

If, for example, students understand the general principles of a sociological perspective like functionalism or interactionism they should be able to broadly predict how functionalists or interactionists view institutions like the family or education system.

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PowerPoint: The ABC of Investigating

This spin-off from the burgeoning Sociological Detectives Universe™ is a vehicle by which you can simply and not-a-little-secretly introduce a soupcon of Study Skills into what we’re contractually obliged to call “The Student eXperience” (sic).

In other words this PowerPoint Presentation is a slightly different way to encourage your students to take information you provide (via lectures, handouts, books, video, audio or whatever else you use) and do something more with it than simply store it neatly away somewhere.

And the “more” in this instance involves three simple tasks (Attach, Broaden and Challenge (hence the “ABC” method) that will help your students master some simple – but hugely effective – study skills without really being aware this is what they’re doing).

study skills

Although the Presentation has been designed (yes, really) to be fairly self-explicable there’s a couple of things you might want to note before launching it upon unsuspecting students.

Firstly, you need to provide some sort of information they have to analyse / understand. This can take whatever form you want (lecture, book chapter, video, podcast…) so you could, if you want use the Presentation at the end of a lecture to push your students into extending their knowledge and understanding.

Secondly, you can use the Presentation in a couple of different ways, depending on your teaching style and the time available. You could, as I’ve said, introduce it as a whole class exercise. Alternatively you could take a flipped teaching approach whereby your students do the tasks in their own time and then you spend time in the classroom discussing their ideas. If you go down this route it will probably be easiest to run the Presentation past the whole class first so your students can understand what the three tasks involve.

Aside from these choices all you really need to do before you use the Presentation is familiarise yourself with its little foibles. As ever, while the basic mechanics are fairly simple I’ve added a few little twists you’d do well to understand before you let the Presentation loose in the wild.

As ever, for reasons I’ve previously explained and can’t be bothered to explain again (that’s what hyperlinks were invented for. Possibly), I’ve included two versions of the Presentation:

Choose PowerPoint Presentation if you want to have a look at how I’ve put it together (or if you want to alter any of the text. Each task currently requires students to identify one idea, you might want them to do more…). A word of warning here. Because the Presentation uses the Morph function that’s not available in earlier versions of PowerPoint you need to make sure you’ve got a reasonably up-to-date version available (such as PowerPoint 365) if you want to poke around changing stuff.

Choose PowerPoint Show for a standalone version that doesn’t require PowerPoint (but might mean you have to negotiate your browser’s over-efficient anti-virus protection).

Podcasts with Pictures: Learning Academy

Another in the “Podcasts with Pictures” series designed to bring to your attention video materials you or your students might find useful. In this instance we have a series of “video lessons” created by The Learning Academy.

Each of the 14 lessons lasts between 10 and 15 minutes and consists of someone talking about a topic while you look at a slide that, by-and-large, contains the information being talked about. Although this is supplemented by a few pictures and direct screen annotations these don’t necessarily add much to the lesson – although to be fair this does vary from lesson to lesson. In some the annotations just mirror what’s presented on-screen while in others they do introduce new information.

learning academy screen

One problem with this approach is that it wastes a lot of time while the viewer watches the narrator annotate the screen while telling us what they’re writing. Why not just prepare the slide beforehand with this information?

That quibble aside – and there are others: the pictures that appear on-screen don’t seem to have much connection to what’s being discussed, small white text on a black background is very tiring to watch – the lessons cover three broad areas:

  • “Introduction to Sociology” gives you a brief overview of the subject.
  • Perspectives introduces 5 approaches (Functionalism, Marxism, Interactionism, Feminism, The New Right)
  • Education covers a slightly-odd amalgam of perspectives, school organisation, labelling, subcultures and identity. These categories are, however slightly-misleading in terms of content because, for whatever reason, more-conventional categories (such as differential educational achievement) seem to be covered. Why they’ve done things this way I can only guess. It may be because they’re trying to cover different Specifications, but I could be wrong.

The content itself is generally sound and there’s a welcome, if slightly obsessive and overdone, focus on intersectionality – although I chanced upon some curious and jarring errors in the films I watched (I didn’t sit through all of them so maybe I was just unlucky).

The Functionalism film, for example, had a section on “Talcott Parson” who apparently viewed society “in a similar way to the functionings of a human body” which is, apparently, an “organic analogy”. While the latter is a common mistake (it’s an “organismic analogy” because it’s based on the idea of bodily organs) this view of society was actually proposed by Herbert Spencer in the 19th century. Parsons (note the “s”) didn’t see society in this simplistic way – it’s just a device we use to help students get a basic grip on the underlying ideas contained in general Functionalist thought.

There was also the rather curious assertion that “Interactionism rejects the concept of socialisation since individuals have free-will to make their own choices” – a statement that illustrates one of the main potential problems with these lessons: they’re not really long enough to cover the stuff they’re aiming to discuss. Things get said that sometimes require further elucidation, otherwise they just sit on the screen looking (and sounding) a bit daft.

There were quite a few other mistakes I picked-up on (the suggestion that the “nuclear family” was a relatively modern (1950’s) invention because “nuclear” was a modern word (it’s not…) kind-of misses the point quite spectacularly) so you need to be a bit careful when using these materials.

Another thing that might be a problem is that the lessons only cover education, a brief Introduction to Sociology and some stuff on Perspectives. Whether there were supposed to be more lessons in the series isn’t clear – there are a couple of mentions of topics like Crime and Deviance – but since all the lessons were made in 2022 I think we should probably infer form this there will be no more.

As you can probably tell, I’m a bit ambivalent about these materials. On the one hand, the format makes them a bit dull at times and they aren’t really long enough to cover topics in any sort of depth. On the other, if you’re looking for some relatively short revision films – particularly for Education – these might help (but if you’re a student it might be useful to ask your teacher to give them the once-over to identify any misconceptions…).

Origins of Sociology: PowerPoint

This new PowerPoint Presentation introduces students to some (okay, 9) of Sociology’s founders, from the Big Three of Marx, Durkheim and Weber to lesser-known, but equally important in their own way, names such as Harriet Martineau and William Du Bois.

And while Sociology Specifications in the UK no-longer feature discrete sections on the Founders of Sociology this doesn’t mean a quick and relatively simple introduction to sociology’s origins isn’t both useful and academically important.

Many of the writers featured in the Presentation are not merely historically significant. Their ideas and work still, in many cases, inform contemporary sociology. They are, in this respect, writers that students will come across time and again throughout their course of study – either as contributors to our understanding of social processes in their own right or, in some cases, founders of, or major contributors to, the various sociological perspectives that seem to form such a large part of the various curricula.

In terms of the Presentation itself, it’s designed to be used in a kiosk style: students view the Presentation individually rather than as a classroom group. And because it’s not the usual kind of

“here’s a load of bullet points that I’m going to show you and then slowly read aloud to you” PowerPoint, the Presentation might take a little getting used to.

Having said that, I’ve included simple Instructions (using a nifty little menu system, of which I’m not a little proud) and once students start to play around with the Presentation they should pick it up fairly quickly.

There are two versions of the Presentation you can download:

1. Origins of Sociology PowerPoint Show is a standalone (.ppsx) version that doesn’t need a copy of PowerPoint to run. It also means that if you have an earlier version of PowerPoint on your system the file will still play. The only downside to using this version is that when you try to download it from this site some browsers will warn you the file is “unsafe”. What they mean is that it could conceivably contain a virus. This warning is given because what you’re downloading is a runtime program – a program that will run automatically once you click it (a bit like an app or an exe file). Since PowerPoint Presentations can contain macro files than can be used to change files in ways that might well be construed as “unwanted” this type of warning is both fair and useful.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have an up-to-date version of PowerPoint (2021 onward) and you load the alternative version I’ve provided into it (see below) then it will very likely not work because earlier versions don’t support the morph and zoom functions used in this Presentation.

If in doubt, therefore, download this version and run it through a virus check (or disable macros in your version of PowerPoint). Since it doesn’t contain macros there is nothing untoward about the file and it’s perfectly safe to run.

2. Origins of Sociology PowerPoint is a version (.pptx) that will load into PowerPoint if you have it on your system. This must be 2021 onward (this includes Microsoft 365) otherwise some of the functioning will get messed-up and the Presentation won’t work as intended (presupposing you can even load this file into earlier versions of PowerPoint).

Situational Action Theory

Click to download copy of SAT
Situational Action Theory

Most a-level teachers and students will probably be most familiar with Per-Olof Wikstrom’s work on the Peterborough Adolescent Development Study (PADS), a longitudinal study of youth crime in a “provincial English town”. One that sits mid-way between the teeming Birmingham metropolis and Norwich. Which, with the best will in the world, can neither be described as “teeming” nor metropolitan. Trust me. I’ve been there.

What you may be less familiar with is situational action theory (SAT), the theory that, among other things, underpins the study.

In basic terms, SAT represents an attempt to understand crime and criminality by integrating two levels of analysis:

  • The individual: this refers to the various processes, such as family socialisation and formative experiences that shape individual moralities – the way in which they see and think about the social world.
  • The situational: this refers to the specific social situations through which the individual moves at various points in their life. It represents, as it were, the contexts against which individual moralities are played-out.

Both an awareness of the significance of these two levels and, perhaps more importantly, how they are integrated is, for Wikstrom, the key to understanding youth crime (an idea we explore in more detail in subsequent posts: Situational Action Theory: Crime and Social Disadvantage and Crime and Social Disadvantage: The Evidence).

This short introduction to Situational Action Theory covers the basic ideas involved and includes examples you can use to sensitise your students to how the theory works.

The subsequent posts noted above can be used to show how the theory has been applied to both understand youth crime and the limitations of various New Right crime theories (such as Routine Activities).

Crime and Social Disadvantage: The Evidence

One of the more-interesting things about the use of Situational Action Theory (SAT) to explore the relationship between crime and social disadvantage is that it developed alongside Wikstrom’s Peterborough Adolescent and Young Adult Development Study (PADS+). This longitudinal study of young people’s behaviour in the early part of the 21st century has proven to be both a valuable resource in its own right and, more-importantly perhaps, a rich source of empirical evidence with which to test many of the hypotheses Wikstrom developed out of his application of SAT to an understanding of how and why youth crime occurs.

Peterborough courts

In this final part of what no-one is calling the SAT Trilogy we can examine some of this evidence (the previous parts – Situational Action Theory [coming soon] and Situational Action Theory: Crime and Social Disadvantage – will also be available if you’d like to read them).

As Wikstrom and Trieber (2016) argue, the objective here is “to advance knowledge about the relationship between social disadvantage and crime involvement through the application of situational action theory (SAT) and the analysis of data from a random sample of U.K. adolescents from the longitudinal Peterborough Adolescent and Young Adult Development Study (PADS+).”. To this end we can have a look at a broad overview of what, according to Wikstrom, PADS+ data tells us about both criminal involvement and its relationship to social disadvantage.

Wikstrom’s longitudinal study followed a randomly selected sample of 716 young people, aged 12 – 16, living in and around the English city of Peterborough over a period of 13 years (roughly 2002 – 2015). One of the unique features of the study was that, in line with Wikstrom’s focus on the idea of situational action, it was interested in studying the participants as both individual actors (their sense of moral purpose in particular) and the social environments (situational settings) in which they lived and moved.

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Situational Action Theory: Crime and Social Disadvantage

While the relationship between social disadvantage and crime  has long been known, an important question that’s often ignored is why only a relatively small proportion of the socially disadvantaged seem to engage in persistent criminal offending?

Wikstrom’s Situational Action Theory provides an interesting, thought-provoking, possible answer…

The Crime Paradox

Most A-level crime and deviance students will quickly come to understand the relationship between social disadvantage – what Wikström and Treiber (2016) term “the comparative lack of social and economic resources”- and various forms of persistent, mainly low-level, criminality, overwhelmingly committed by young, lower class, males. Crimes that involve relatively small levels of economic reward (arson, vandalism, theft, shoplifting, robbery, car crime and burglary) or which involve routine low-level violence (assault). In basic terms, social disadvantage is generally seen as a cause of crime.

Professor Per-Olof Wikstrom

The problem with this characterisation, however, is that it’s both true – statistically, most persistent offenders do come from a socially-disadvantaged background (at least as far as the kinds of crimes we’ve just listed are concerned) and not true: social disadvantage doesn’t, in and of itself, cause crime because only a relatively small proportion of those classified as socially disadvantaged become persistent offenders. The majority do not. Which is not something we would expect if the relationship was a causal one.

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