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Symbolic Interactionism Theory

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Tanisha Mudrow

on 7 June 2014

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Transcript of Symbolic Interactionism Theory

Symbolic Interactionism Theory
Main Contributors continued...
George Herbert Mead
Main Contributors continued...
Charles Horton Cooley
First Overarching Theme
Third Overarching Theme
Second Overarching Theme
What is it?
Of all the theories in our textbook, "the symbolic interactionism theory has had the greatest impact on the study of families" ("Exploring Family Theories," by Smith & Hamon).

This theory relies on the symbolic meaning that people develop and rely upon in the process of social interaction.

People define situations based on their own personal experiences and sense of self. Thus, two people can be in the exact same situation and have different interpretations of what is going on.
How do you interpret these facial expressions?
Strengths of This Theory
Provides a great framework for organizing or influencing research.
Has the capacity to grow and change with the times (applicable across time).
Focuses on family interactions and the roles that individuals play in those social acts.
Social Interactionism reminds us that we are all social beings, playing roles and learning from one another.
Social Interactionism Video Clip
This video clip depicts elements of the social interactionism theory, particularly in the first two minutes of the scene. Hopefully each of you understands a little bit of the back story of Pride and Prejudice :)
Main Contributors continued...
William Isaac Thomas
Main Contributors
Pragmatic philosophers: William James, John Dewey, Charles Pierce, and Josiah Royce.

Critiques of This Theory
Lacks basic set of assumptions, concepts, and organized guidelines like other theories have.
Doesn't give enough attention to either the importance of emotions or the role of the unconscious.
Has too much emphasis on people's abilities to create their own realities and not enough attention to the fact that we live in a world we didn't create ourselves.
The role of power is neglected.
Lack of attention to the role of biology.
These philosophers contributed four important ideas that laid the foundation of this theory:
1. View the world as something that is always changing, rather than as a static structure whose history was predetermined.
2. Social structure isn't fixed in time, but is constantly developing.
3. Meaning comes not from objects themselves, but from our interactions WITH objects.
4. Research can be used to figure out how societies and people grow and change.
Primary contributions focused on the self; we learn about ourselves through interactions with others that are based on gestures.

Gestures can be any action that causes a response or reaction in another person.

Mead believed we develop a sense of self-consciousness when we can anticipate how other people will respond to our gestures. Because of this, it takes interactions with others to fully develop a sense of self.
Created the idea of the "looking-glass self," which means that people think about how they appear to others, make a judgment about what the other person thinks about them, and then incorporates those ideas into their own concept of self. For this process to take place, we must interact with others.
Thomas is well-known for coining the phrase, "Definition of the situation," which is a foundation for the symbolic interactionism theory. According to this idea, you can't understand human behavior without also understanding the subjective perspectives of the people involved in the interaction.
One final contributor...
Herbert Blumer
Blumer was the first to use the term "symbolic interactionism." He also developed the three primary premises of the symbolic interactionism theory.
People will react to something according to the meaning that the thing has for them.
For example, the McDonalds restaurant sign (or the "golden arches") might be a symbol of greasy, fattening food for one person, wheras for another, it means a place of comfort and happiness where one can go to relax while their children play in the play-place.
Once individuals develop a sense of self, this provides motivation for future behavior.
Humans are reflexive - we reflect on what we've experienced and use this as a guide for future behavior.
Individuals are influenced by society. People learn the rules and values of society through everyday interactions within their culture.
People are not only influenced by their own self-concepts and by family values, symbols, and beliefs, but also by cultural norms and values of the society they live in.
The Social Interactionism Theory is a beneficial theory to use in application with families. It provides a lens through which we can view social interactions between individuals within relationships and families, and can provide meaning as to why individuals act and react the way they do in certain situations.
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