Latent functions are those functions that are the unintended or unrecognized consequences of any social model. They exist, but they are not very obvious. On the other hand, the conscious or intentional function of social policies or actions created for the benefit of society is called explicit function. Generally speaking, institutions should perform prescribed functions.
For example, hospitals should provide people with better medical services or treat patients suffering from various diseases or accidents.
Similarly, an example of a Latent function might be that in a hospital, when a doctor treats a patient with an incurable disease, he saves the patient in a certain way, thereby discovering a new way to treat this specific disease.
This difference between latent function and manifest function is why sociologists tend to study reasons beyond individuals, institutions, etc. They usually offer to buy their shares. They tend to look for the social consequences that lead to various social practices.
In the case of manifest function, the actor knows the consequences of his behavior. While in the potential function, the actor does not know the consequences of his behavior. For example, if a rule is made, the checklist function will be the expected function that satisfies the rule. In contrast, the unexpected function is the latent function. For example, if rules are made to maintain peace but harm the public, then this harm is a potential function. Overt functions are beneficial, while latent functions can harm and benefit society. Therefore, the underlying function often becomes a dysfunction.
However, this is not always the case. Dysfunction is a potential function that damages society and causes social chaos and conflict. Latent functions are often overlooked unless they are dysfunctions or functions that produce negative results. Dominant functions are sometimes not unnaturally dysfunctional. In many cases, it is well known that policies or actions may have some negative consequences.
But the most worrying thing is the potential dysfunction because they are unknown and unpredictable, often cause greater damage to society, and often irreparable. Talcott Parsons is more interested in understanding the dominant function of social behavior, and according to Merton, the latent function enhances the understanding of society.
Examples of Latent and Manifest Functions:
|Institution||Manifest Function||Latent Function|
|Police||Prevent crime and also enforce the law||Create a sense of security in the public|
|Media||Inform the public about the important events and news.||Provide entertainment|
|Universities||Provide higher education; develop skills that are necessary for employment.||Expose students to society, and also help students to build a network of friends.|
|Healthcare||Save the lives||Increase the population|
Latent functions can sometimes support certain functions. For example, a school not only provides education but also meets the health care needs of poor children studying there. Sometimes they destroy obvious functions. For example, the main task of the bureaucracy is to supplement the work of the government and help it operate effectively.