What Is Symbolic Interactionism Sociology Essay

The increased interest to the challenge of communication in sociology of the 20 hundred years actualized, specifically, need for understanding each other at differing positions, defining own views to the opposite. Steadily in the sociology was developed an integrationists branch, that studied the integrity of the real human "I" and his personal self-determination in microsocial environment.

The term "symbolic" means that there surely is an focus on the sense which individuals put in their actions when they enter into interactions with each other, and in this theory the population is considered from the standpoint of habit of individuals mixed up in interaction. Quite simply, society can only be described by taking into consideration the principles of real human habit, because only here are available a significant mark that defines the act of behavior. Determining of a important symbol occurs in the human awareness, which is filled up with so this means and knowledge from the outside world.

General Principles

Symbolic interactionism targets the examination of the symbolic areas of social interactions. The basic concept of interactionism is an specific perceives (estimates) react relative to attitudes of other people, that is, a person is for himself the main one, whom he reveals to others in the social world. Symbolic interactionists are united by not a demanding theory, but a typical vision of interpersonal process, defined as a process of development and changing communal values, a constant explanation and redefinition of situations, the connections of their individuals. Along the way of the redefinition is changing the target (from the view tips of interacting individuals)of the medium of cultural activities, because the earth, regarding to interactionists, has a totally social source. Different communities develop different worlds, which change along the way of changing the beliefs throughout social connection.

Symbolic interactionism is dependant on three basic premises

- First that individuals react to the environment based on those worth - symbols, that they have in the surroundings.

- Second, these principles (means of connection of happenings and heroes) will be the product of the social everyday interpersonal relationships - connections.

- And lastly, the socio-cultural values are at the mercy of change consequently of individual perception within such interactions. (Western world, 2010)

That is why "I" and "others" form a unified overall, like population, which is the sum of the behaviors of its constituent users, but which imposes cultural restrictions on specific action. Although theoretically you'll be able to split "I" from the society, interactionism comes from the actual fact that the first understanding is connected with an similarly deep knowledge of the next - in conditions of these interdependent romantic relationship.

Representatives of symbolic interactionism emphasizes that folks are social creatures. However, unlike ants, bees, termites and other insects leading a open public life, people almost do not have the innate types of behaviors, that hook up them with each other. If we have essentially no inherent mother nature of the mechanisms of social behavior, how can society be? Associates of symbolic interactionism find the solution in the power of folks to connect through symbols. (Western, 2010)

In the idea of symbolic interactionism a sign is any element of the medium, which is another aspect in this environment. The indicators are of two types: firstly, it is natural signs or symptoms (such as discoloration of leaves), which signify another thing (like the introduction of fall); second are manufactured signs, elements that were created (like a flag) to stand for another thing in the public world, for example, patriotism and obligation. These artificial signs are just effective if people acknowledge their meaning, in order that they are "interactive": several people must consent to continue to react to this register relatively frequent manner.

It is also essential to distinguish alerts from symbols: signals are artificial marks, providing a predictable effect (such as traffic impulses); and icons are artificial grades which have no certain reactions (a flag). Thus, the signals are used for regulatory policy of normative action in the contemporary society, and symbols are used to assist in communicative habit.

Historical development of the Theory

As a broad theory, symbolic interactionism made an appearance in the 20-s of XX hundred years, in the Chicago university, its creator was an American sociologist George Mead.

George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) can be an American sociologist and communal psychologist, who's considered a true founder of symbolic interactionism. Mead was known in his life time as a gifted lecturer, and author of numerous articles, publication and republication of his lectures and articles, as well as the fundamental work "Brain, Self and World" (1934) brought him international popularity. He is rolling out a theory that clarifies the fact of the individual's notion of other individuals, and developed the concept of "generalized other" that is to some extent complementary to the idea of "specular I".

In accordance with the idea of "I", Mead assumed that the introduction of human self as a holistic mental phenomena, in essence, is nothing at all else but public process inside the average person, in which he first pointed by "I - mindful" and "I-like-object". Further, Mead recommended that through the assimilation of culture (as a intricate set of people that show common values for all members of society, ) the individual can predict the tendencies of someone else and exactly how this other person is predicting own patterns.

According to Mead, "I"-as-object is something that people can call their own. In this area, James identifies four components and arranges them to be able of importance: the spiritual self, material do it yourself, social home and physical self.

Another North american philosopher and psychologist, who first started out to develop a responsive self-concept was William Wayne (1842-1910). Adam has made the first and very profound concept of personal "I", considered in the framework of self-knowledge, and he conjectured that the dual mother nature of the integral "I", with many of his statements concerning the descriptive, and emotional analysis of categorical "I", expected the later improvements of the idea of "I"-notion. (Meltzer 1975)

As for other concepts of symbolic interactionism, we can name an American sociologist and interpersonal psychologist Herbert Blumer, who was simply a agent of the Chicago institution of interactionism, discussing the second era of symbolic interactionism, founded by J. Mead. He further developed the original platform of symbolic interactionism. Bloomer was the first who thinking about the problem of mass world. Relating to Blumer Symbolic interactionism rests on three basic premises

- People are more likely to act according to the prices that they put on objects and occasions, rather than simply react to exterior stimuli, such as sociable forces. Symbolic interactionism suggests determinism of beliefs.

- Beliefs are not simply fixed and formulated beforehand, but more often are created and change in interactive situations.

- Values will be the result of interpretations that took place in interactive contexts. (Nelson 1998)

Significant attention in his works Blumer paid to collective behavior of individuals. Basis of collective action are common values, expectations, that happen to be separated by several individuals. However, it often can be viewed a spontaneous collective behavior, like overflowing enthusiasm, anxiety, etc. This behavior occurs in violation of established values, habitual kinds of existence. Blumer distinguishes those forms of spontaneous behavior (such as Pounding, Collective excitation, Communal Infection), which under certain conditions can lead to new forms of group and institutional action

- Acting crowd (a spontaneously shaped group, without common ideals and expectations, there is no recognized management)

- Expressive group (emotional categories - carnivals, ritual boogie)

- Mass audience (spontaneous collective grouping of folks who are excited with some event)

- Public (spontaneous collective group, but in public individuals interact with each other, demonstrate the logical, critical action). (Nelson 1998)

Although Mead has first designed his ideas in 1930, symbolic interactionism has become an important area of the research equations of mass communication only in 1970, 1980. Since Meade made emphasis on interpersonal interaction rather than interested in press, it isn't unexpected that theorists of mass communication somewhat slow became aware the relevance of his ideas in their research.

Symbolic interactionism as the course is not standard, as it is possible to identify at least two academic institutions. The foremost is the so-called "Chicago College" led by one of the visible researchers Cove J. , Mead H. , Bloomer. This college is constantly on the socio-psychological custom of Mead in the most orthodox way. It really is opposed to the another "Iowa institution" of symbolic interaction-mechanism, headed by M. Kuhn - professor at the University or college of Iowa. This institution is trying to modify several individual Mead's ideas in the soul of neo-positivism. The primary difference between these universities are in methodological issues, primarily in the definition of principles and connections to various ways of socio-psycho-logical investigation.

Among other associates of the theory we can name Becker and Strauss - participants of the Chicago University of symbolic interactionism, who were interested in the procedural aspects of connections. Kuhn and Partlend are reps of Iowa schools, and were more enthusiastic about "steady" symbolic constructions. To this technology also belongs K. Burke and Goffman, who explained social life as the realization of the metaphor of crisis by inspecting the connections in such conditions as "professional", "face mask", "field", "script" and so on. In addition, Burke used the term "theater", almost virtually, while Hoffman was using "theater" and "drama" as metaspheres of population while protecting its heart, but developing its conceptual lines.

The modern theory of symbolic interactionism, as a primary expression of concepts of J. Mead, has pretty much the same advantages, shortcomings and contradictions of the J. Mead theory. On the one hand, it's important to point interactionists effort to isolate "the precise human" traits in human habit, the take on the average person as a interpersonal phenomenon, to find a socio-psychological mechanisms of individuality formation in connection with others in modern culture, to stress dynamic creative personal traits of the average person.

However, the subjective idealist position of interactionists lead to the actual fact that all the social relationships they see only in interpersonal communication, even though the analysis of communication they ignore the articles and the substantive work of individuals, not seeing that "the procedure of creation of the personality includes not only the exchange of views, but more importantly, the exchange of activities. " (Reynolds 1993)

theory importance and Application

The good thing about this approach is the fact that it presents "people" in the field of sociological research. It directs attention to the activities of people in their daily lives and perceives that people are not robots, mechanically undertaking certain requirements of social rules and institutional norms, but leading the public life of beings with the ability to feel and think. Within the interaction they operate with icons and prices which permit them to judge and interpret situations of public life, assess advantages and disadvantages of certain activities and then choose one of them. Thus, representatives of symbolic interactionism suggest the image of man as a person, actively developing his behavior, alternatively than passively reacting to external environment and structural constraints.

However, the methodology of symbolic interactionism has its weaknesses. In everyday activities people don't have complete liberty in creating and changing their activities. Although representatives of symbolic interactionism recognize that many individuals actions are led by the proven systems of symbols and meanings, including culture and interpersonal system. Critics argue that the idea of social discussion predicated on the symbols makes an unnecessary focus on short-term situations and exaggerates focus on transient, episodic and brief". (Reynolds 1993)

Thus, the theory is applied to describe and evaluate human tendencies, as through the process of socialization people can more or less consciously interpret stimuli and expected responses.


From the point of view of interactionists, human society is composed of people with personal "I", who themselves form norms and ideals. Specific action is a building, not just a commission payment, as it is transported by the individual using the estimation and interpretation of the situation in the social environment. Personal "I am" can provide as a person's focus on for his actions. Formation of worth is shown as a couple of actions where the individual sees the object, offers it value, and chooses to act upon this matter. Interpretation of the actions of another is a description of the worthiness of certain actions of others. Through the point of view of interactionists, an subject is not just exterior stimulus, but something that distinguishes man from the outside world, giving him certain value.

This theory explains how individuals connect to the environment and exactly how behave along the way of socialization.

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