Anne EisenbergProfessor of Sociology
Anne Eisenberg has been a faculty member of Geneseo since 1999.
Ph.D., University of Iowa
M.A., Memphis State University
Research Program Statement
My research program builds on my expertise in social psychology, medicine/health care and theory, and explores key issues in each area using diverse research methods that allow me to actively involve students in a variety of projects. My curriculum vita presents the outcome of already completed projects including presentations at the Midwest Sociological Society and the annual American Sociological Association meetings as well as related publications.
Below I discuss the theme framing my research interests as well as my current projects.
The underlying theme in my research examines issues related to interactions within, and between, groups and the impact of these interactions on group identity, power, and more recently, health status. My work always starts with theory development concerning social phenomenon related to the theme – such as group legitimacy, identity management, and most recently, demedicalization. I, then, use a mixed methods approach to exploring and testing the accuracy of the theory as I discuss below.
My dissertation research presented a new theory of group legitimacy arguing that a combination of intra- and inter-group ties affected group legitimacy. I found support for the theory in comparing the social network ties of parapsychologists (minority/fringe group) with those of cognitive psychologists, using a combination of sociometric survey analysis, content analysis of related documents and qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews. This resulted in several conference presentations. I then extended this theory to explore how minority issues, such as those associated with the GLBT community, are transformed into majority issues. To explore this I conducted a content analysis of PFLAG’s archival documents held at Cornell University as well as conducted in-depth interviews with the founding members of PFLAG. his research resulted in conference presentations and a book chapter. It is worth noting that undergraduate students worked with me on both of these projects by assisting in data collection.
My current research is focused on two distinct, yet related, areas. The first project centers on a new theory of identity and predicting social action. An initial framing of this theory was published in 2013 with a former student where we examined how identity is managed. The theory argues that individuals actively manage an identity matrix that contains self, group, and collective identity points. Social psychology has a clear understanding of individual identity and group identity. However, my theory argues that it is our group and collective identities that shape social action and social change. I have finalized the theory with a colleague (Dr. Seth Abrutyn) and we are in the process of revising the paper for submission to Social Psychology Quarterly. I am, also, in the process of working with Dr. Restivo (a colleague at SUNY-Geneseo) on conducting an empirical test of the theory using secondary data — a new avenue of research for me.
The second area of research examines the relationship between social interactions and health status, particularly mental health status. All disciplinary approaches to studying mental health, ranging from sociological to biological to medical, focus on identifying particular symptoms and exploring ways to ameliorate those symptoms so as to return the patient to “normal” mental health. I am finishing an empirical case study concerning the idea of demedicalization by focusing on the Asperger’s community. Using a combination of blogs and published materials, I analyze how people diagnosed (formally or informally) are reframing their mental health status in terms of “normal”, thus seeking to demedicalize the condition. This originated as a presentation paper at the Eastern Sociological Society meetings and feedback from the discussion resulted in the paper I anticipate submitting for review by December 2017.
Both the identity work and the demedicalization work have interesting social policy implications — an aspect of public sociology. In the matrix theory of identity, I have argued that it is actually social processes (rather than psychological processes) that determine whether someone engaged in collective behavior such as terrorist actions. This allows us to more accurately identify specific types of people who might be radicalized as well as to more adequately stop that process. In fact, in 2015 Minneapolis implemented a new, federally-funded program to address the radicalization of their large Somali-American population. Rather than placing individuals suspected of becoming radicalized in prison, they have developed a network of social and community-based programs to integrate them into their American community.
The idea of demedicalization argues that the majority of mental illnesses that are diagnosed among Americans has less to do with a real, physiological problem resulting in symptoms implying impairment and more to do with a narrowly defined and accepted range of social behaviors. Given that Americans are far more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness and subsequently medicated to address that illness, demedicalization suggests that broadening what is considered socially acceptable behavior will significantly impact a wide range of social, economic, and health policies.
- Fringe groups
- Legitimacy and power
- Gender, Science, and Technology
SOCL 241: S/The Individual & Society
Major social psychological approaches to understanding the relationship between individuals and their social contexts are reviewed. Basic social psychological processes such as language, socialization, the self, and face-to-face interaction are discussed. Offered every fall
SOCL 265: Classical Sociological Theory
Students will become familiar with the basic theoretical position and concepts of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber. Students will develop critical reasoning skills so that they can distinguish between the conflict orientation, functionalist orientation, and the interpretive orientation to social reality. Prerequisites: SOCL 100 or permission of instructor.
SOCL 365: Contemporary Sociological Thry
The course introduces students to the main traditions in sociological theory that developed in the 20th century. Students will evaluate functionalist theory, conflict theories, and microsociological theories. Prerequisites: SOCL 265 or permission of instructor.