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Origin of symbolic interactionism
OTHER WORDS FROM symbolic interactionismsymbolic interactionist, noun
Words nearby symbolic interactionism
What is symbolic interactionism?
Symbolic interactionism is an approach used to analyze human interactions by focusing on the meanings that individuals assign to things in the world around them, including words and objects.
Symbolic interactionism is used within the field of sociology (the study of human society) to explain social behavior in terms of how people interact based on their interpretation of symbols. In this context, symbols can be anything that can be given a meaning, including language, gestures, objects, images, and events, among many other things.
Symbolic interactionism is sometimes defined as a theory, but many sociologists argue that it is instead a method or an approach used to analyze individual interactions. It is sometimes criticized for being incomplete or too narrowly focused on small interactions.
Why is symbolic interactionism important in sociology?
Have you ever felt a certain way about a person because of the way they pronounce a certain word? What about because of the kind of car they drive? Or how they shake hands? According to symbolic interactionism, we give meaning to all of these things, and these meanings affect how we see other people and how we interact with them.
Symbolic interactionism was developed in the 1900s by sociologists like George Herbert Mead, Charles Cooley, and Herbert Blumer, who is credited with coining the term. These sociologists all had different things to say about the concepts presented in symbolic interactionism, but none of them said that things have universal meanings that will be interpreted the same way by all people. In fact, it’s quite the opposite—symbolic interactionism is based on the idea that people develop their own meanings for things and that even these meanings are subject to change. Even something as basic as a color can have wildly different meanings depending on one’s culture. For example, in the United States, the color red is often associated with danger or the need for caution, like in a stop sign or stoplight. In China, though, the color red is considered good luck and often used during times of celebration, like weddings.
Symbols and their meanings play a big role in the formation of our identities. As we age, we associate more and more meanings to the things in our life. It could be something as simple as associating a glass of ice water with the sensation of refreshment. And even something this simple could change. If our teeth start to hurt when we drink cold beverages, that glass of ice water might not represent refreshment anymore, but potential pain. Imagine, then, how the meanings we give to things can affect how we interact with other people. That’s the aim of symbolic interactionism—to analyze those interactions in relation to the meaning given to the symbols involved. For example, we might judge someone based on a gesture, such as a handshake. Or we might treat people differently based on what kind of clothes they’re wearing. For example, we often treat people in uniform with additional respect. Objects can have meaning, too. Expensive luxury items like cars or watches are often seen as status symbols, and they can affect how we interact with the people who have them (or how we think of ourselves, if we can afford them).
Of course, within the context of symbolic interactionism, symbols can be much more abstract than cars, clothes, or handshakes. And that means that their influence on interactions between people can be hard to evaluate. This is one of the reasons that symbolic interactionism is sometimes criticized. The impact of symbols and their meanings can be difficult to measure scientifically. Symbolic interactionism is also sometimes criticized due to its focus on individuals over larger-scale factors that can shape society and the meanings of certain symbols, such as education and media. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not a useful approach to try to interpret and understand the many ways that people interact with each other and how that affects society as a whole.
Did you know ... ?
In the context of symbolic interactionism, it’s hard to think of something that’s not considered a symbol. Even seemingly neutral objects in nature can be given meanings based on our experience with them.
What are real-life examples if symbolic interactionism?
Symbolic interactionism can be used to interpret something as simple as how someone thinks of a tree—and how that might change if they come into contact with someone else’s associations with trees.
Symbolic Interactionsim: Cindy uses ily to communicate meaning between her friends but when speaking to a loved one she uses i love you. The context changes the interpretations.#COM200
— erikahoang (@erikahoang4) April 18, 2019
I have such a good paper about how film has warped the way we see our reality and specifically how we treat women. Like it slaps. But I have to explicitly mention symbolic interactionism even tho itS OBVIOUSLY SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM
— Charlie Vérité (@charliezaard) December 16, 2018
What other words are related to symbolic interactionism?
True or False?
In symbolic interactionism, symbols are only things like letters, numbers, and other graphical characters.
How to use symbolic interactionism in a sentence
Bridging the divide between the police and those who distrust them will take more than protests and symbolic gestures.
Your death is symbolic of the harsh reality facing so many of us.Dear Leelah, We Will Fight On For You: A Letter to a Dead Trans Teen|Parker Molloy|January 1, 2015|DAILY BEAST
Along the way, he accidentally embeds a nail in his foot, which is not symbolic at all.The Walking Dead’s ‘Crossed’: The Stage Is Now Set for a Bloody, Deadly Midseason Finale|Melissa Leon|November 24, 2014|DAILY BEAST
But the amendment was non-binding -- and thus largely symbolic.
She lost that claim long ago, but her symbolic importance has only grown.128 Years Old and Still a Looker: Happy Birthday to Lady Liberty|Elizabeth Mitchell|October 28, 2014|DAILY BEAST
In like manner the mouth, from being a bare symbolic indication, gradually takes on form and likeness.
This element of symbolic indication will be found to run through the whole of childish drawing.
The celebrant sprinkled the victim with wine and salted cake, and made a symbolic gesture with the knife.The Religion of Ancient Rome|Cyril Bailey
Because of its recumbent position, symbolic of General Lee resting on a battlefield cot, this statue is considered most unique.Hallowed Heritage: The Life of Virginia|Dorothy M. Torpey
If she was no longer a symbolic and sympathetic figure—like that young mother among her children—she had her own claims.Marriage la mode|Mrs. Humphry Ward