Symbolic Interactionism

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Psychology, Social Psychology
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Haley Hutton Nick Larsen Soc 401


• Term "Symbolic Interactionism" coined by Herbert Blumer

o Wanted to clarify how social psych. was

largely interested in the social development of the individual o Central task is to study how individuals develop socially as a result of participating in group life o Focuses on issue of "self" and small group interactions

Intellectual Influences

• Charles Darwin's Evolution o Led Symbolic Interactionists to believe

behavior is not accidental, but formed by interaction with others in social environments

• Scottish Moralists

o Believed "mind" and "self" were social

products of individuals actions with others

Intellectual Influences cont.

• German Idealism o Humans construct their own realities  All consciousness is conscious of something, therefore the subject and object are inevitably related

• Pragmatism

o One "true reality" does not exist o Reality is actively created by human beings

o The meaning placed depends on the purpose

of the act, context in which it's performed, and the reaction of others to the act

Intellectual Influences cont.

• Behaviorism o Need to find as simple an approach to the

study of the experience of individuals from the point of view of their conduct

What is Symbolic Interactionism?

• Based on the idea that social reality is • •

constructed in each human interaction through the use of symbols - words, gestures, and communicating through language Studying social interaction is key to understanding human behavior Ability of actors to modify their behaviors to meet the needs of the present and immediate environment

Erving Goffman (1922-1982)

• Canadian-born sociologist and writer o The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life


• Heavily Influenced by Durkheim, Freud, Mead, Simmel

Erving Goffman cont.

• Presentation of Self o Focus on the individual as active and

reflective o Individual determines how the self should be presented in social situations o Society is viewed as a stage, and humans are actors performing for audiences

Erving Goffman cont.

• Stigma o Mark of disgrace or dishonor o Person lacks social acceptance and their

self identity is negatively affected by the label 

Example: Arabs & Muslims after 9/11

Herbert Blumer (1900-1987) Symbolic Interactionist and Social Researcher

• •

Played pro football while getting his doctorate! Huge proponent of Mead, and believed the creation of reality is a continuous process "Humans act toward things on the basics of meanings"

Herbert Blumer Methodology

• Naturalistic Approach • Need for exploratory studies...

Study of conduct and group life, as these occur naturally in the everyday existence of people.

o A great deal of human group life is hidden from immediate notice o Social scientists generally do not have first hand, intimate familiarity with the group life they propose to study o Focuses on the importance of in-depth knowledge of the group using interviews and observations, and steering away from vagueness when defining concepts

Arlie Russell Hochschild

• American sociologist o Bachelors, Masters and PH.D from Berkley  The Unexpected Community - 1973  The Managed Heart - 1983  The Time Bind: When work becomes home and home becomes work - 1997

• Founder of the sociology of emotions • Emotions are a biologically given sense

o Means by which we know about our relation

to the world o Critical for survival of humans in group life

Arlie Russell Hochschild cont

• Emotion Work o Trying to change, in degree or quality, an

emotion or feeling

• Emotion Culture o o o

Consists of a series of ideas about how and what people are supposed to experience in given situations Individuals are often put in situations where emotion work needs to be performed Culture is filled with ideologies about the behaviors, attitudes and feelings that members should share

Criticism of Symbolic Interactionism

• Overly committed the study of everyday life and social formation of the self, while ignoring social structure

• Overlooked class relations and

constraints in favor of a more optimistic view of an open society

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