Hello there! Today’s topic is all about Symbolic Interactionism. If you’re interested in who defined this term and how this theory unfolds then keep on reading. George Herbert Mead was an early social constructionist. Herbert Blumer was George Mead’s student at University and after Mead’s death in 1931, his students published his Mind, Self and Society teachings (how nice of them, right?). So after that, Mead probably left a great impact on his students that one of his very own students Blumer, decided to further develop his theory and coined it “Symbolic Interactionism”.
Don’t stop now…
Symbolic Interactionalism is the on-going use of language and gestures in anticipation of how the other person will react – which in essence is a conversation (but you already knew that). This theory examines society by the meanings that people give to objects, events and behaviours. Behavioural patterns of people are constructed through these meanings because it is said, that people behave according to what they believe, instead of their objective truth. So how do you think our meanings are formed? Well, our meanings are shaped through interactions with society and interpreted with symbols. This theory is linked to individuals creating a sense of self identity through our interactions with the society.
Within this theory there are core principles that we must look at.
1) Meaning (construction of social reality) – It suggests that people act and behave towards other people and things based upon the meanings that they have given to them. The principle of meaning is central to the theory of symbolic interactionism. Blumer says that the principle of meaning is central in human behavior.
Example: If you see Muslims at the beach dressed in their usual attire from head to toe you will have some assumptions about them and your behavior towards them will be based on these assumptions that you have made.
2) Language (the source of meaning) – Meaning arises out of the social interactions people have with each other. Meaning is not inherent in objects, it is negotiated through the use of language. As human beings we have the ability to name things, naming gives meanings to everything because everything has its own name. In other cultures, the same thing might have a different meaning, based on the cultural perspective. The knowledge about whatever you name is important, the name indicates some feature or any other kind of knowledge about things.
Example: My pet dog’s name is Alexander, which means defender of man. Of course, he’s my dog so I would want him to protect my family and I when he senses danger. So that’s why we gave him that speicific name, a name with purpose and a strong meaning.
3) Thinking – involves the process of taking the role of the other. The individual’s interpretation of symbols is modified by his or her own thought processes. Interactionists describe thinking as an inner conversation. Humans have the capacity to take on the role of the other.
4) The self – this is conceptualized as the reflecting in the looking glass. The self is thought of at 2 levels. The first self is the subjective self which is the eye – the spontaneous driving force that fosters all that is novel, unpredictable and unorganized in the self. The objective self is the me, the image of self seen when one takes the role of the other. The subjective self is the way you think about yourself in a way that people are perceiving you.
5) Society – the socializing effect of others expectations. The generalized other is defined as an organized set of information that the individual carries in their head about what the expectations and attitudes of the social group are. We refer to the generalized other when ever we try to figure out how to behave or how to evaluate our behaviour in a social situation.
I inserted this video here just for you and after watching, you can give me your thoughts
Ethical echo (Emannuel Levinas) reminder that we are responsible to take care of each other. The way we meet that obligation shapes our ‘I’. When we gaze into the face of the other, we are reminded of our care taking responsibility. The ways in which meanings are exchanged in a conversation.
Scholars map this theory in the Socio- Cultural tradition. They define it as an interpretive theory because it is labeled on the basis that it is the construction of reality.