清单功能是指社会政策，过程或行动的预期功能，这些政策，过程或行动是有意识和有意识地设计为有益于其对社会的影响。同时，潜在的功能是一种无意识的意图，但是，它对社会有益。与明显和潜在功能相反的是功能障碍，这是一种在自然界中有害的意外结果。作为他对社会的功能主义观点的一部分，默顿仔细研究了社会行为及其影响，发现明显的功能可以非常明确地定义为有意识和有意识行为的有益效果。清单功能源于各种社会行为，但最常被讨论为社会机构的工作成果，如家庭，宗教，教育和媒体，以及社会政策，法律，规则和规范的产物。美国社会学家罗伯特·梅顿（Robert K. Merton）在其1949年出版的“社会理论与社会结构”一书中阐述了他的显性功能理论（以及潜在的功能和功能障碍）。文本被国际社会学协会评为20世纪第三大最重要的社会学书籍，其中还包含默顿的其他理论，这些理论使他在该学科中成名，包括参考群体的概念和自我实现的预言。举例来说，就是社会教育机构。该机构的有意识和有意识的意图是培养有教育的年轻人，他们了解自己的世界和历史，并具备成为社会生产成员的知识和实践技能。同样，媒体制度的有意识和有意识的意图是告知公众重要的新闻和事件，以便他们能够在民主中发挥积极作用。虽然明显的功能是有意识地和刻意地用于产生有益的结果，但潜在的功能既不是有意识的也不是故意的，而且还产生益处。实际上，它们是意想不到的积极后果。继续上面给出的例子，社会学家认识到社会制度除了显示功能之外还产生潜在的功能。教育机构的潜在功能包括在同一所学校就读的学生之间建立友谊;通过学校舞蹈，体育赛事和才艺表演提供娱乐和社交机会;并且当他们否则会挨饿时，为贫困学生提供午餐（以及早餐，在某些情况下）。本清单中的前两项表现了培养和加强社会关系，群体认同和归属感的潜在功能，这是健康和功能社会的重要方面。第三个是履行社会资源再分配的潜在功能，以帮助减轻许多人所经历的贫困。关于潜在功能的事情是它们经常被忽视或未被认可，即除非它们产生负面结果。默顿将有害的潜在功能归类为功能障碍，因为它们会导致社会内部的混乱和冲突。然而，他也认识到功能障碍本质上是显而易见的。这些事件发生在负面后果实际上事先已知，并且包括例如街头节日或抗议等大型事件对交通和日常生活的破坏。这是前者，潜在的功能障碍，主要与社会学家有关。事实上，人们可以说社会学研究的很大一部分只关注那些 – 有意义的社会问题是由法律，政策，规则和规范无意间创造的，这些问题旨在做其他事情。纽约市备受争议的Stop-and-Frisk政策是一个典型的政策，旨在做好事但实际上有害。该政策允许警察以任何方式停止，质疑和搜查任何他们认为可疑的人。在2001年9月纽约市发生恐怖袭击之后，警察开始越来越多地开展这项工作，从2002年到2011年，纽约警察局将这种做法增加了7倍。
Manifest function refers to the intended function of social policies, processes, or actions that are consciously and deliberately designed to be beneficial in its effect on society. Meanwhile, a latent function is one that is not consciously intended, but that, nonetheless, has a beneficial effect on society. Contrasting with both manifest and latent functions are dysfunctions, which are a type of unintended outcome that is harmful in nature. As part of his functionalist perspective on society, Merton took a close look at social actions and their effects and found that manifest functions could be defined very specifically as the beneficial effects of conscious and deliberate actions. Manifest functions stem from all manner of social actions but are most commonly discussed as the outcomes of the work of social institutions like the family, religion, education, and the media, and as the product of social policies, laws, rules, and norms. American sociologist Robert K. Merton laid out his theory of manifest function (and latent function and dysfunction too) in his 1949 book Social Theory and Social Structure. The text—ranked the third most important sociological book of the 20th century by the International Sociological Association—also contains other theories by Merton that made him famous within the discipline, including the concepts of reference groups and self-fulfilling prophecy. Take, for example, the social institution of education. The conscious and deliberate intention of the institution is to produce educated young people who understand their world and its history, and who have the knowledge and practical skills to be productive members of society. Similarly, the conscious and deliberate intention of the institution of media is to inform the public of important news and events so that they can play an active role in democracy. While manifest functions are consciously and deliberately intended to produce beneficial outcomes, latent functions are neither conscious nor deliberate, but also produce benefits. They are, in effect, unintended positive consequences. Continuing with the examples given above, sociologists recognize that social institutions produce latent functions in addition to manifest functions. Latent functions of the institution of education include the formation of friendships among students who matriculate at the same school; the provision of entertainment and socializing opportunities via school dances, sporting events, and talent shows; and feeding poor students lunch (and breakfast, in some cases) when they would otherwise go hungry. The first two in this list perform the latent function of fostering and reinforcing social ties, group identity, and a sense of belonging, which are very important aspects of a healthy and functional society. The third performs the latent function of redistributing resources in society to help alleviate the poverty experienced by many. The thing about latent functions is that they often go unnoticed or uncredited, that is unless they produce negative outcomes. Merton classified harmful latent functions as dysfunctions because they cause disorder and conflict within society. However, he also recognized that dysfunctions can be manifest in nature. These occur when the negative consequences are in fact known in advance, and include, for example, the disruption of traffic and daily life by a large event like a street festival or a protest. It’s the former though, latent dysfunctions, that primarily concern sociologists. In fact, one could say that a significant portion of sociological research is focused on just that —how harmful social problems are unintentionally created by laws, policies, rules, and norms that are intended to do something else. New York City’s controversial Stop-and-Frisk policy is a classic example of a policy that is designed to do good but actually does harm. This policy allows police officers to stop, question, and search any person who they deem to be suspicious in any way. Following the terrorist attack on New York City in September 2001, police began to do the practice more and more, such that from 2002 to 2011 NYPD increased the practice by seven-fold.