Communication Theories

Symbolic Interaction Theory

By Sabrina Janvier & Madhvi Kotowaroo

Table of contents
 History  Themes and Assumptions  Key concepts  Integration and Critique

Founder: George Herbert Mead(1863-1931)

←Follower :

Herbert Blumer (1900-1987)

• Author of Mind, Self, and Society(1934) • Put forward 3 concepts (necessary and interdependent) 1. 2. 3. Mind The self with others Interpret and mediate the society in which we live

Mead talks about :  Significant Symbols (shared within society)  Significant others (influential people within your life)

 Generalised other (your concept of how others perceive you)  Role taking (modeling behavior after the behavior of others)

As Holstein and Gubrium (2000):
“Symbolic interactionism orients to the principle that individuals respond to the meanings they construct as they interact with one another. Individuals are active agents in the social world, influenced, to be sure, by culture and social organisation, but also instrumental”

• Create our self concept through interaction and communication with others • we act towards things and people according to the meaning we apply to them(meaning) • we negotiate meaning through symbols, such as naming(language) • this modifies our interpretation of symbols(thought)

• Shared meaning important to understand others • Self development is based on interactions with others • Human mind(obtaining & processing data) reflects on self development

Key Concepts
1. Self - we learn from interactions with others - ignore negative comments or reactions and accept positive ones to build a positive self

-“Looking glass self”- Cooley (1964)

2. Society - Socialisation, where symbols and applying meaning are learnt - Socialisation is part of culture - Socialisation to learn roles in society

3. Role - learned through interaction with others - is part of our culture - is a result of the expectation others have of us

 Family therapy sessions  In Family life education  At Work Place

• Not helpful to explain behaviors of group or an entire family system • Prediction of human behavior is difficult • Symbol-specific theory cannot be used crossculturally • Too broad to test

Fundamentals of Communication(UNISA)-pg 57 ; An introduction to Communication(Sheila Steinberg) pg 60 ; olic-Interaction-Theory-Theories-of-FamilyRelations ; Perspectives on Communication Theory Part 1 –pg 55-57

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