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Positivism Antipositivism Functionalism Conflict theories Middle-range Mathemati cal Critical theory Socialization Structure and agency Research methods Quantitative Qualitative Historical Computational Ethnographic Network-analytic Topics Subfields Change Cities Class Crime Culture Development Deviance Demography Education Econ omy Environment Family Gender Health Industry Internet Knowledge Law Literature Medicine Mobility Movements Networks Organizations Politics Race & ethnicity Rel igion Rural Science Soc. psychology Stratification Technology Browse Portal People Journals Project v t e Symbolic interactionism is a sociological perspective that is influential in man y areas of the discipline. It is particularly important in microsociology and so cial psychology. Symbolic interactionism is derived from American pragmatism and particularly fro m the work of George Herbert Mead, who argued that people's selves are social pr oducts, but that these selves are also purposive and creative. Herbert Blumer, a student and interpreter of Mead, coined the term "symbolic int eractionism" and put forward an influential summary of the perspective: people a ct toward things based on the meaning those things have for them; and these mean ings are derived from social interaction and modified through interpretation. Sociologists working in this tradition have researched a wide range of topics us ing a variety of research methods. However, the majority of interactionist resea rch uses qualitative research methods, like participant observation, to study as pects of (1) social interaction and/or (2) individuals' selves. Contents [hide] 1 History 2 Basic premises and approach 2.1 Mind, Self and Society 2.1.1 The "I" and the "me" 3 Research and methods 4 Five central ideas behind symbolic interactionism 5 Central interactionist themes 6 New media 7 Criticisms 7.1 Framework and theories 7.2 Social structure 8 Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction 9 See also 10 References 11 Sources 12 Further reading 13 External links History[edit] Symbolic interactionism originated with two key theorists, George Herbert Mead a nd Charles Horton Cooley. George Herbert Mead was a proponent of this theory and believed that the true test of any theory was that "It was useful in solving co mplex social problems" (Griffin 59). Mead s influence on symbolic interactionism w

People thus do not respond to this reality directly. coined the term and put forward an influential summary of the perspective: people act toward things based on the meaning those things have for them. he is best known by sociologists as the teacher who trained a generati on of the best minds in their field. Horton. a student and interpreter of Mead.). to view the world in a new way or make novel discoveries. Finally. but rather to the social understanding of reality. (Herman-Kinney Reynolds 67)." "These meanings are handled in. Everyone has a unique reality which may be transformed into a social reali ty.[4] Basic premises and approach[edit] The term "symbolic interactionism" has come into use as a label for a relatively distinctive approach to the study of human life and human conduct (Blumer. 1939 ). the uniqu e reality reflects a person's ability to do something unique. Blumer was a social constructionist. telephone sales. being that they are both created through social interaction. developed interactio n with others.[2] Two other theorists who have influenced Symbolic inte raction theory are Yrj? Engestr?m and David Middleton. or arises out of. moving it to a higher level of theoretical complexity. Znaniecki. 1975)." "The meaning of such things is derived from.and was influence d by Dewey as such this theory is very phenomenologically said to be so powerful that other sociologists regard him as the one true foun der of symbolic interactionism tradition. Both individuals and society cannot be separated far from each other for two rea sons. Mead was undoubtedly the individual w ho transformed the inner structure of the theory. Scientists. reality is seen as social. Social reality reflects a person's socialized (or socially derived) conc eption of the world (gender roles. etc. Redfield. Cooley. one cannot be understood in terms without the other. according t o The Handbook of Symbolic Interactionism. his student s pulled together class notes and conversations with their mentor and published Mind." . Strangely. James. Although Mead taught in a philosophy de partment. and mainte nance of advance manufacturing systems. scientific laboratory. 'It is a common misconception that John Dewey was the leader of this sociological theory. economic structure. and these meanings are derived from social interaction and modifi ed through interpretation. a social reality. the social intera ction that one has with others and the society. and a unique reality. repair. Behavior is not defined by forces from the environment or inner forces such as drives. and that social definitions do develop in part or relation to something real. (Griffin 59). or instincts. Physical reality includes material necessities and natural facts. Most symbolic interactionists believe a physical reality does ind eed exist by an individual's social definitions. and modified through. Humans ther efore exist in three realities: a physical objective reality. he never set forth his wide-rang ing ideas in a book of systematic treatise. Bald win. control. and fiction wr iters are good examples of people who make their unique realities apparent to ot hers. Park. Self and Society in his name.. socially understood meaning of both the internal and exte rnal incentives that are currently presented (Meltzer et al. He believed tha t the "Most human and humanizing activity that people engage in is talking to ea ch other" (Griffin 60).[1] Herbert Blumer. health care.[5] Herbert Blumer (1969) set out three basic premises of the perspective: "Humans act toward things on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to those thi ngs. courts of law. but r ather by a reflective.[3] Other scholars credited for their con tribution to the theory are Thomas. however. With Symbolic interactionism. and two. philosophers. After his death in 1931. One. Engestr?m and Middleton e xplained the usefulness of symbolic interactionism in the communication field in a "variety of work setting including. an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounters. and Wirth. computer soft ware design.

The emphasis on symbols. The third premise is that th ese meanings are handled in. respectively. like participant observation. negotiated meaning. and social constru ction of society brought on attention to the roles people play.[7] Mind. Blumer. Because of the uncertainty of roles in social contexts. Symbolic interact ionists describe thinking as an inner conversation. In this sense. In Blumer's third premise the idea of minding comes into play. we must be able to interact symbolicall y. according to Mead is where all of these interactions are taking place. however. Finally. Blumer contrasted this process with behaviorist explanations o f human behavior. Mead called th is inner dialogue minding. Mead introduces a distinction between the " I" and the "me". in a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. Self and Society" is the book published by Mead's students based on his l ectures and teaching. Essentially. or arises out of. individuals beh ave towards objects and others based on the personal meanings that the individua ls has already given these items. The mind refers to an individual's ability to use symbols to create meanings for the world around him. Their 'response' is not made directly to the actions of one another but instead is based on the meaning which they attach to such action s. The use of symbols is a popular procedure for interpretation and intell igent expression. (Blumer 1969). claimed people interact with each oth er by interpreting or defining each other's actions instead of merely reacting t o each other's actions. we are proactive participants in our environment. the active and socialized aspects of the person. Minding is the delay in one's thought process that ha ppens when one thinks about what they will do next. The second premise explains the meaning of suc h things is derived from. We have the ability to name things and designate objects or actions to a certain idea or phe nomenon. the majority of interactionist resea rch uses qualitative research methods. But first . The title of the book serves as the key concepts of symbol ic interaction theory. Role-taking is a part of our l ives at an early age. following Mead. by interpretation. act ors often take on a script that they follow. We naturally talk t o ourselves in order to sort out the meaning of a difficult situation. Role-taking is a key mechanism that permits people to see another person's perspective to unders tand what an action might mean to another person. Playing house and pretending to be someone else are exampl es of this phenomena. society. an interpretative process[6] used by the person in dealing with the things he encounters. The "I" and the "me"[edit] While establishing the idea of self. There is an improvisational quality of roles. Self refers to an individual's ability to reflect on the way that he/she is perceived by others. (Griffin 62). Research and methods[edit] Sociologists working in this tradition have researched a wide range of topics us ing a variety of research methods. Thus. actions and concepts. An example of thes e concepts is the pygmalion effect whereby a person (I) behaves to match the sen se of self (me) they derive from others. However. Self and Society[edit] "Mind. Before we can think. Meaning is either taken for granted and pushed aside as unimportant[cl arification needed] or it is regarded as a mere neutral link[clarification neede d] between the factors responsible for human behavior and this behavior as the p roduct of such factors.The first premise includes everything that a human being may note in their world . or by ascertaining the meaning of one another's actions (Blum er 1962). to study as . the burden of role-making is on the person in the situation . and modified through. (Griffin 62). The "me" is a similar concept to Cooley's looking-glass self. Individuals use language and thoug ht to accomplish this goal. human interaction is mediated by the use of symbols and signification. Language is the source of meaning[dubious discuss][citation needed] and is negotiated through the use of it. the social interaction that one has with other humans. which does not allow for interpretation between. we need language. including physical objects.

Be cause of this close contact.[8] They ar gue that close contact and immersion in the everyday activities of the participa nts is necessary for understanding the meaning of actions. Humans do not sense their environment directly. they seek to be objective in how they conduct the research. an d it depends on our interaction right now. An In tegration: "The human being must be understood as a social person. interactionists typically are more interested in the ways in which meaning is fluid and ambiguous. In most cases. collective beh avior/social movements. Social interaction is central to what we do. Definition does not simply randomly happen. and the sociology of sex. An environment may actually exist. they make use of their values in choosing what to study. Instead of focusing on the individual and his or her personality. interactions cannot remain completely liberated of value commitments. We are. or on how the society or social situa tion causes human behavior. but unlike those elements of semiology which are abo ut the structures of language. Therefore. but it is our definition of it that is important. defining situations a nd the process that actors construct the situation through their interaction. emotion work. Human action is not only interaction among individuals but also interaction within the individual. humans define the situa tion they are in. it r esults from ongoing social interaction and thinking. instead. society too is created through social interac tion. and total institution. an offshoot of symbolic interactionism. Becker 's Art Worlds (1982) and Arlie Hochschild's The Managed Heart (1983)." called br eaching experiments. If we want to understand cause.pects of 1) social interaction. It is the constant searc h for social interaction that leads us to do what we do. Interactionist concepts that h ave gained widespread usage include definition of the situation. . It is not our ideas or attitudes or values that are as important as the constant acti ve ongoing process of thinking. Interaction is the basic unit of study. Cha ron. we are not simply products of soc iety.[8] Ethnomethodology. Harold Garfinkel de monstrated this by having his students perform "experiments in trust. Individual s are created through interaction. Sociological subfields that have been particularly influenced by symbolic intera ctionism include the sociology of emotions. i mpression management. instead. focus on social interaction. looking glass self. always conversing with ourselv es as we interact with others. thinking animals. to our very core. If we want to understand cause. where they would interrupt ordinary conversations because t hey refused to take for granted that they knew what the other person was saying. We are not simply conditioned. the symbolic-interaction approach is a micro-level orientation focusi ng in close up human interaction in specific situations. and/or 2) individuals' selves. as in Howard S. The human being must be understood as a thinking being. we are not simply beings who are influenced by those around us. F urther and more recent ethnomethodologist research has performed detailed analys es of basic conversations to reveal the methods of how turn-taking and alternati ve conversational maneuvers are managed. Participant obser vation allows researchers to access symbols and meanings.[7] Five central ideas behind symbolic interactionism[edit] There are five central ideas to symbolic interactionism according to Joel M. questions how people's interactions can create the illusion of a shared social order despite not under standing each other fully and having differing perspectives. Semiology is co nnected to this discipline. author of Symbolic Interactionism An Introduction. What we do depends on interaction with others earlier in our lifetimes. however. An Interpretation. focus on human th inking. deviance/criminology. symbolic interactionism focuses on the activities th at take place between actors. They would demand explanations and then explanations of the explanations (Garfi nkel 1967) to gain understanding of each other's definitions and perspectives.

It is not society s encounters with us in our past. imprisoned. Snow uses these four principl es as the thematic bases for identifying and discussing contributions to the stu dy of social movements. instead. whether they are self-concepts. images and sound. and mome nts in social life in which agentic action is especially palpable. Wo rds such as conditioning. and other environmental features that take on particular meanings . Emergence Emergence focuses on attention on the processual and nonhabituated side of socia l life. becoming nearly only objects of orientation. identities. events. Human beings are described as active beings in relation to their environment. Human agency Human agency emphasizes the active. intera ctive determination. but also a ssociated meaning and feelings. on the basis of the meaning s they have for them. (Herman-Kinney Reynolds 812-824 ).[10] As studies of online communit y proliferate.[13][14 ] community as social reality.[1] New media[edit] New Media is a term used to define all that is related to the internet and the i nterplay between technology. Human behavior is partly continge nt on what the object of orientation symbolizes or means.[18] These studies show that online community is an . Interactive determination Interactive determination specifies that understanding of focal objects of analy sis. responding.[17] ease a nd anonymity in interactions. and that these meanings are managed and transformed through an int erpretive process that people use to make sense of and handle the objects that c onstitute their social worlds. and pr esent definition. and emergence. present thinking. Studies encompassed discursive communities. symbolization. and formed are not used to describe the human being in symbolic interaction."[9] Central interactionist themes[edit] To Herbert Blumer s conceptual perspective. neither individual. roles. O ur past enters into our actions primarily because we think about it and apply it to the definition of the present situation. including each other. Snow. but actively involved in what they do. distinguished professor of Sociology at the University of California.The cause of human action is the result of what is occurring in our present situ ation. Cause unfolds in the present social interaction. that causes action nor is it our own past experience that does. definition of the situation that takes place in the present. or others exist only in relation to each other and therefore can be fully understood only in terms of their interaction.[11][12] identity. he put them in three core principles: that people act toward things. Basically this means. focusing not only on organization and texture of social life. willful. goal seeking character of human act ors. It is. that these meanings are derived through social interaction with others. social inter action. David A. society. In contrast to other social-scientific perspectives humans are not thought of as being passive in rel ation to their surroundings. practices. arti facts. controlled.[16] the public sphere. self. the concept of online community has become a more accepted social construct. thinking. sugg ests four broader and even more basic orienting principles: human agency. people. Symbolization Symbolization highlights the processes through which events and conditions. The emphasis on agency focuses attention on those actions.[15] networking. Keeping in mind of Blumer s earlier work. or even socia l movements. The principal of emergence tells us not only to possibility of new forms of social life and system meaning but also to transform ations in existing forms of social organization.

It has been demonstrated that people's ideas about community are formed. whether online or offline.S. although a fairly substantial minority. The theoretical framework. Much of the criticism arose during the 1970s in the U. as with any theo retical framework. It is argu ed that the theory is not one theory. and the critiques apply the criteria for a "good" theory to something that does not claim to be a theory. many scholars find it difficult to use. specific theories.[2 0] Criticisms[edit] Symbolic interactionists are often criticized for being overly impressionistic i n their research methods and somewhat unsystematic in their theories. This perspective reveals that online communication may very well tak e on different meanings for different people depending on information. how they function. These objections. the framework for many different theories.[22] Thus. Robinson sugg ests individuals form new identities on the internet. However. relationships. Given this reality. power. As a result. hypotheses. and conceptualiza tions must be (and have successfully been) derived from the general framework th at symbolic interactionism provides before interactionist theories can be assess ed on the basis of the criteria a good theory (e. however. Robinson discusses how symb olic interaction theory explains the way individuals create a sense of self thro ugh their interactions with others. Symbolic Interaction in the Digital Age. have relegated the interactionist camp to a minority position among sociologists. As a framework rather than a theory. She argues these cyber ide ntities are not necessarily the way the individual would be perceived offline. for a clear distinction between the two as it pertains to symb olic interactionism).[21] Framework and theories[edit] Some critiques of symbolic interactionism are based on the assumption that it is a theory. some theorist h ave a problem with symbolic interaction theory. She uses symbolic interaction theory to examine the for mation of the cyber I and a digital generalized other. she believes advances in technology have changed this. circumsta nce. or interactionist-inspired conceptualizations can be assessed on the ba sis of effective conceptualizations. when quantitative appro aches to sociology were dominant. and other systems that make up communities of practic e. through interactions both in online forums as well as those in face to face in teractions. from those in teractions. scholars are continually challenged to research and understand how online communities ar e comprised.g. political and economic character. Interactionism being a framework rather than a theory makes it impossible to test interactionism in the manner that a specific theoret ical claim about the relationship between specific variables in a given context allows. structural. Perhaps the best known of these is by Alvin Go uldner. People enact community the way it is conceived and the meaning of community e volves as they come up with new ways to utilize it. In the article.important social construct in terms of its cultural. Unlike the symbolic interactionist framework. containing falsifiable hypo theses). is vague when it comes to analyzing empirical data or predict ing outcomes in social life.[19] Symbolic interaction theory was discussed in The Cyberself: The Self-ing Project goes online. Symb olic interactionism is a theoretical framework rather than a theory (see Stryker and Vryan. the many theories derived . and how they are connected to offline social lif e. people act in their communities according to the meanin gs they derive about their environment. Additionally. The article investigates the manner in which individuals for m their online identity.. 2003. combined with the fairly narrow focus of interactionist research on small-group interactions a nd other social psychological issues. due to the theory's lack of testability. Some critics find the symbolic interactioni st framework too broad and general when they are seeking specific theories. in part .

Stryker emphasizes that the sociology world at large is the most viable and vibrant intellectual framework because of the concept of the wider community people live in is made possible because of c ommunication. a great number of very useful conceptuali zations have been developed and applied in a very wide range of social contexts. which may ultimately influence the perspective. and cultures and subcultures. When the reality of a situation is defined. A number of symbolic interactionist s have addressed these topics. actions and gestures as well. which fuels symbolic interactionism.[23] Symbolic interactionism r evitalizes society by illuminating our thoughts. This relates to the overall social structure because they both have simil ar points of convergence and synergism. By aligni ng social reality.[29] According to this theory. which leads to a reference group. There are m any aspects and factors that go into this theory. The intera ction occurs once the meaning of something has become identified. Another important factor in meaningful situations is the environment in which the social interaction occurs.from symbolic interactionism.[7] Social const ructionist Herbert Blumer illuminates several key features about Social Interact ionism. The envir onment influences interaction. An approval of the action occurs once the situation is defined. especially in the form of symbolic interactionism is connected wi th language. including the works of key scholars in sociology and psy chology using different methods and theories applying a structural version of in teractionism that are represented in a 2003 collection edited by Burke et al. such as role theory and the versions of Identity T heory developed by Stryker." Negotiated Order Theory" also applies a structural approach. the best known being Sheldon Stryker's structural symbolic interactionism[23][27] and the formulations of interactionism heavily influenced by this approach (sometimes referred to as the "Indiana School" of sy mbolic interactionism).[23][24] and Burke and colleagues.[23] It also implies that from a realistic point of view. the interp retations that are being made will not make much difference. and then concludes to a definition of the situation. There are many ways that Social Interactionism is connected with critical perspe ctive. Communication. This concept o f meaning is what starts to construct the framework of social reality. Blumer defines this source of meaning as a connection that arises out of the social interaction that people have with each other. especially among Blumerian processual interactionists. language is the source of all meaning. Language initiates all forms of communication. these concepts of synergistic and diverging properties are what shape the viewpoints of humans as social beings. According to social theorist Patricia Bu rbank. types of behaviors. action. This includes methodological c riticisms.[25][26] clearly de fine concepts and the relationships between them in a given context. Sheldon Stryker. the situation becomes a meaningful reality. According to Burbank. Kuhn's (Kuhn and McPartland. These two concepts are different in a se nse because of their views of human freedom and their level of focus. B . and critical sociological issues. Th is concept suggests that symbolic interactionism is a construction of people s soc ial reality. An interpretation is then made upon that action. and definition. which connects with perspective. This illu strates the proper steps to define a situation. Further. verbal and non-verba l. Most people interpret things based on assignment and purpose. actions are based on the effects of situations that occur during the process of Social Interaction. 1954) formulat ion which is often referred to in sociological literature as the "Iowa School. a social constructionist has had an incredible amount of influe nce on the field of Social Interactionism.[28 ] Another well-known structural variation of symbolic interactionism that applie s quantitative methods is Manford H. Social structure[edit] Symbolic interactionism is often related and connected with social structure. types of populations. Blumer suggests that language is the meaning of interaction. thus allowi ng for the opportunity to develop and test hypotheses.

and is what causes society to exist.[3] The organization also releases a newsletter.[30] At the annual conference. This fuels criticisms of the symbolic interactionist framework for failing to accoun t for social structure. Much of the symbolic interactionist framework's bas ic tenets can be found in a very wide range of sociological and psychological wo rk. and interactionism has been used more explicitly and more frequently in psycholo gy and anthropology as well. Additionally. who are interested in the study of Symbolic Interaction. the Social Interactionism Theory is the purpose of all human interaction. The society also sponsors a quarterly journal. making the influence of sy mbolic interactionism difficult to recognize given this general acceptance of it s assumptions as "common knowledge. and cannot be falsifiable or tested empi rically. as is the Blumerian tradition of interactionism." Many scholars do not know they are applying interactionist ideas in their own theoretical assumptions and formulations. the Society for the Study of S ymbolic Interaction sponsors yearly awards in different categories of symbolic i nteraction. without being explicitly cited as interactionist. "SSSI Notes. some of the awards are open to student members of the society.y being made up of our thoughts self-belief. Symbolic Interaction. as well as criticisms that interactionist theories canno t be assessed via quantitative methods. there are certain bonds of communicat ion that need to be established to create the interaction The published literatu re indicates that structural and processual variations of interactionism are bot h alive and well in sociology."[31] See also[edit] Portal icon Sociology portal Social interaction Social action Labeling theory Edward T. The soci ety provides travel scholarships for student members interested in attending the annual conference.[22] Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction[edit] The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) is an international pro fessional organization for scholars. Framework is important for the symbolic interaction theory because for in order for the social structure to form. This conference typically occurs in August and sponsors the Society for the Stu dy of Symbolic Interaction holds the Couch-Stone Symposium each spring. SSSI holds a conference in conjunction with the meeting of the Ame rican Sociological Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Hall Extension transference Sandbox play therapy Generalized other Coordinated Management of Meaning Constructivism (learning theory) .