What are some good examples of symbolic interactionism

Symbolic interactionism: giving meaning to communication

Last update: August 24, 2020

Symbolic interactionism is a theory that developed in sociology and has expanded to other areas such as anthropology and social psychology. This theory is dedicated to the interactions between people and their meaning. An attempt is made to understand the processes by which individual people become members of a society. In other words, social activities and the formation of a group-related identity are explored.

Symbolic interactionism is based on interpretations. People interpret the same reality in different ways, but their interpretations are similar among people in the same environment.

Cultural differences, for example, encourage different interpretations of symbols. They often cause problems when people travel to another culture. For example, if someone extends their palm to another person, we would understand that they are telling us to stop or stand still. However, a Greek would view this as an insult and a Lebanese would try to neutralize the evil eye.

The beginnings of symbolic interactionism

Symbolic interactionism is directed against absolute truths. In particular, it is argued that there is no single truth, but rather different subjective truths for each situation. In other words, the "truth" differs from community to community. To understand these different truths, symbolic interactionism studies the relationships between people and symbols. The ultimate goal is to understand the individual identity and social organization of a society.

A classic example of symbolic interactionism can be found in tea.We can consume this drink accompanied by various rituals, each of which is symbolic in its own way. For example, tea is not the same for a European as it is for a Japanese. The European can possibly drink tea for stimulation and will simply prepare it without the form of preparation being particularly important to him. The Japanese, on the other hand, undertake a preparation ritual and prefer to drink their tea in company. Tea means something completely different to these two people, and both ideas about drinking tea are "true".

In summary, symbolic interactionism shows that we define ourselves taking into account the different meanings that shape us as individuals in context. And dBecause we are social beings, the importance of the individual depends to a large extent on our interactions with other people.

The two hypotheses of symbolic interactionism

There are two major hypotheses in symbolic interactionism. The first assumes that actions always have meaning. On the other hand, the second considers social life itself to be an act.

First hypothesis

According to this hypothesis, relationships with other people are inherent in identities. These relationships always have meaning and are symbolic in nature. Therefore, the identity of the relationship and those involved is formed depending on the situations and places in which the relationship is established and maintained. The importance people attach to these interactions defines their personal or individual identity.

This hypothesis also suggests that actions are more than just habits or automatic behavior. All actions can be interpreted. Language is the image of the attitudes, intentions, positions and goals of the respective speaker. That means, that language is a form of interaction and that we create reality with it.

For proponents of this hypothesis, the individual is a picture painted by language. In other words, the individual arises from interactions with others. However, what has been created is not the person, but that person's “self” or their identity.

Second hypothesis

For proponents of this hypothesis, personal identity also results from the roles that people assume. When we interact with other people, we usually take on social roles. These are behavior patterns that are defined by society. For example, the role of a father, a teacher or a policewoman. One way to understand roles is by watching reality TV shows. Participants take on similar roles in each show. For example, there is always an enemy, a loner who can't stop crying, two people who end up in a relationship, etc.

This way of looking at things also explains why people are actors. The individual acts and plays his role, which is determined by the given social role. We do what others ask us to do, depending on our role. But we don't just play a role when we interact with other people. Similarly, we also play in places and times when others cannot see us. This means that we link this role to our identity and internalize it.

Symbolic interactionism in social psychology

The connection between social interactionism and psychology is particularly evident in the context of social psychology. According to the doctrine of this branch, people form social identities with certain rules and values. And in times when social identities are becoming more important, it becomes more likely that people will act according to these values ​​and rules.

Although social psychology goes beyond roles and accepts, for example, that social norms determine behavior, it was itself founded on the theory of symbolic interactionism. We cannot deny that people develop their individual and social identity when they interact with other people.

Being open to people from different cultures helps us to understand each other better.In addition, it will redefine our personal identity and expand our understanding of the world.

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