What are the six major functions of social groups and what are their definitions?


The functions identified by sociologists are manifest functions, latent functions, manifest dysfunctions, and latent dysfunctions.

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latent functions Dichotomies

Manifest and latent functions are social scientific concepts first clarified for sociology by Robert K. Merton. Merton appeared interested in sharpening the conceptual tools to be employed in a functional analysis.

Manifest functions and dysfunctions are conscious and deliberate, the latent ones the unconscious and unintended. While functions are intended (manifest) or unintended (latent), and have a positive effect on society, dysfunctions are unintended or unrecognized (latent) and have a negative effect on society.

Structural functionalism

Structural functionalism, or simply functionalism, is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. This approach looks at society through a macro-level orientation, which is a broad focus on the social structures that shape society as a whole, and believes that society has evolved like organisms. This approach looks at both social structure and social functions. Functionalism addresses society as a whole in terms of the function of its constituent elements; namely norms, customs, traditions, and institutions. A common analogy, popularized by Herbert Spencer, presents these parts of society as "organs" that work toward the proper functioning of the "body" as a whole. In the most basic terms, it simply emphasizes "the effort to impute, as rigorously as possible, to each feature, custom, or practice, its effect on the functioning of a supposedly stable, cohesive system". For Talcott Parsons, "structural-functionalism" came to describe a particular stage in the methodological development of social science, rather than a specific school of thought. The structural functionalism approach is a macrosociological analysis, with a broad focus on social structures that shape society as a whole.


Social Theory and Social Structure (STSS) was a landmark publication in sociology by Robert K. Merton. It has been translated into close to 20 languages and is one of the most frequently cited texts in social sciences. It was first published in 1949, although revised editions of 1957 and 1968 are often cited. In 1998 the International Sociological Association listed this work as the third most important sociological book of the 20th century.

The book introduced many important concepts in sociology, like: manifest and latent functions and dysfunctions, obliteration by incorporation, reference groups, self-fulfilling prophecy, middle-range theory and others.


Latent inhibition is a technical term used in classical conditioning to refer to the observation that a familiar stimulus takes longer to acquire meaning (as a signal or conditioned stimulus) than a new stimulus. The term "latent inhibition" dates back to Lubow and Moore (1959). The LI effect is "latent" in that it is not exhibited in the stimulus pre-exposure phase, but rather in the subsequent test phase. "Inhibition", here, simply connotes that the effect is expressed in terms of relatively poor learning. The LI effect is extremely robust, appearing in all mammalian species that have been tested and across many different learning paradigms, thereby suggesting some adaptive advantages, such as protecting the organism from associating irrelevant stimuli with other, more important, events.

The LI effect has received a number of theoretical interpretations. One class of theory holds that inconsequential stimulus pre-exposure results in reduced associability for that stimulus. The loss of associability has been attributed to a variety of mechanisms that reduce attention, which then must be reacquired in order for learning to proceed normally. Alternatively, it has been proposed that LI is a result of retrieval failure rather than acquisition failure. Such a position advocates that, following stimulus pre-exposure, the acquisition of the new association to the old stimulus proceeds normally. However, in the test stage, two associations (the stimulus-no consequence association from the pre-exposure stage and the stimulus-consequence stimulus association of the acquisition stage) are retrieved and compete for expression. The group not pre-exposed to the stimulus performs better than the pre-exposed group because for the first group there is only the second association to be retrieved.

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