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Symbolic Interactionism

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by

Zehra Tajouri

on 29 September 2014

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Transcript of Symbolic Interactionism

What is Symbolic Interactionism?
A theory that focuses on symbols as basis of individual identity and social life. It suggests that individuals can only acquire identity by interacting with others and learning the "language" of our social group.


Symbolic Interactionism is based on the concepts, teachings and ideas of
George Herbert Mead.

Mead died before he could publish his teachings but some of his students came together after his passing and compiled a book titled,
"Mind, Self and Society"
(1934)
based on his lectures.
George Herbert Mead (1863 - 1931)
Society
Identity
Mind, Self and Society
Mind
Mind:
Self
Mind is the ability to use symbols that have common social meaning.
This ability allows individuals to share ideas and to communicate about ideas rather than simply behaving toward one another as animals do.

Mead thought that social life and communication between people are only possible when we understand common language.
(Note: common language is not verbal, even hand gestures are considered language)
Humans are not born with mind.
We acquire it in the process of interacting with others.
Eg: Babies don't know that shaking your head means no and nodding your head means yes, but as they grow and interact with others,
they start to
realize its
meaning.
Mead's views of self also give us insight on the phenomenon of
"self fulfilling prophecy"
in which individuals live up to the labels
others
impose on them. How
others
see us may be so powerful that it dictates how we see ourselves and how we live our lives.

The concept of "
looking glass self,
" clarifies Mead's view on self.
We learn to see ourselves mirrored in
other's
eyes. Our perceptions of how
others
see us are lenses through which we perceive ourselves.
Society:
Where all of these interactions are taking place
I & ME
Mead was fascinated by the fact that humans have a distinct ability to both
act
and
observe
themselves in the process of acting.
{
ME is the
observing
half. It is the analytical, evaluative, and the "aware of social rules" side of us that is socially conscious and reflects on I's impulses.
I is the
acting
half. It is the creative, impulsive, sometimes immoral side of us that doesn't care about social rules and restrictions.
Mead saw
I
and the
Me
as complementary, not opposing parts of the self.
Who are these
others
?
PARTICULAR OTHERS
Particular others individuals who are significant to us.

We learn what things mean to them, and how they make sense of various experiences, situations and people.

Once we
import
their perspective, we are able to see the world through their eyes. This process can also be called
role taking.
GENERALIZED OTHERS
The generalized other is the viewpoint of a social group, community, or society as a whole.

It includes rules, roles and attitudes that are shared by members of the society or community in which an individual lives.
That being said, symbols have to have a common social meaning. In Bulgaria, shaking your head actually means yes, and nodding
means no.
The I & ME of
"
30 Rock
"
Tracy is the "I"
Kenneth as the "ME"
Tracy tells Mr. Hornberger to go after his impulses. Tracy does not care about social rules and restrictions.
Kenneth reminds Mr. Hornberger of the social rules and conventions of Tracy's impulses and why he shouldn't do it.
SUMMARY
Symbols are the foundation of meaning.
Meanings are formed in the process of interacting symbolically with others in a society.
Individual's meanings aren't strictly personal but always carry social overtones.
The meanings individuals give experiences, feelings, themselves, etc - reflect the internalized perspectives of particular others and generalized other.
Meanings and symbols change depending on the society the individual is raised in.
}
}
}
Mind
Self:

Humans are not born with self.
It is developed through interaction with others.
Self is the ability to reflect on ourselves from the perspective of others.
Before we develop a concept of ourselves, we first experience how others act towards us (what they label us, define us, etc). That's our initial meaning for ourselves and our understanding of who we are.
For example: If a child is always told "you're gifted" as they're growing up - they will grow up thinking they are actually gifted, because this is how people perceive them and those labels will eventually shape their self concepts and behaviors.
Self
Society
Criticism
THE THEORY NEGLECTS SELF ESTEEM.
Mead is inconsistent in his description of key concepts such as self, mind and generalized other.
Mead's ideas are highly abstract and don't provide much insight on the specific processes by which individuals construct meanings and sculpt communication behaviors.
Mead virtually ignores self esteem, which many communication scholars consider a centrally important concept. The theory describes how we come to see ourselves but has little to say about how various experiences and others labels for us enhance or diminish self esteem.
THE THEORY HAS CONCEPTUAL INCONSISTENCIES
THE THEORY IS TOO VAGUE AND BROAD
Because of this, many fans of Symbolic Interactionism say that it is a complementary theory, as it lays the foundation for countless other,
more specific
communication
theories.
Question Time!
Using Mead's logic: why would Kenneth use "you're married" as a reason for Hornberger not to sleep with that woman?
Use the terms we've gone over to give your answer.
GUESS THESE SYMBOLS?
If you were an avid meat eater?
If you were raised in Nepal?
If you worked for PETA?
If you were a 15 year old belieber?
If you were a music snob?
If you were a record/music executive?
If you are an American/Canadian?
If you were from the UK?
"She's quite pretty."
If you work for NASA?
If you watch a lot of Disney movies?
Someone who has doomsday phobia?
By Josephine Chukwueneka
& Zehra Buzreba
Full transcript