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  1. 1. Symbolic Interactionism An Introduction
  2. 2. Symbolic Interactionism A theory of human behaviour not social structure S.I. is critical of positivist/structural theories which see human behaviour as ‘determined’ by structure Human behaviour is the result of consciousness – it is meaningful. An interpretivist view
  3. 3. The Structural View Functionalist and Society Marxist analysis operates at this level Individuals
  4. 4. The Symbolic InteractionistView Society Symbolic Interactionist analysis operates at this level Group s Individuals
  5. 5. Symbolic Interactionsim –George Herbert Mead George Herbert Mead (1863 – 1931) Regarded as the founder of Symbolic Interactionism
  6. 6. Mead draws a distinction between animal and human behaviour Animal Behaviour Human BehaviourUnconscious Result ofresponse to meaningfulstimuli interpretation
  7. 7. Mead continued… Examines meaning in context of small-scale interaction within small social groups. Meaning is basis of small group interaction, which shapes society. Meaning is important because “when men define situations as real, they become real in their consequences” (W.I. Thomas) Successful interaction takes place when group members share meaning of nature of situation. Shared meaning is achieved through interpretation of symbols This demands an awareness of point of view of others, which is dependent on development of the ‘self.’
  8. 8. The Self The SelfThe ‘I’ – How we The ‘me’ – Howsee ourselves others see us Socialisation Play Stage Game Stage The Self
  9. 9. Blumer Blumer was a student of Mead He developed Mead’s ideas
  10. 10. Blumer continued… Criticises the positivist stress on establishing correlations and laws of human behaviour in that they do not capture meaning and essence of human behaviour. Advocates qualitative methods so that the sociologist is “feeling ones way inside the experience of the actor”. Criticises structural theories. Structure and roles influence human behaviour but do not determine it.
  11. 11. The Looking Glass Self We use the way other people interpret our behaviour as evidence of who and what we are Charles Cooley referred to this idea as the “looking-glass self” We use the behaviour of others towards us as a kind of mirror in which is reflected an image of the person we are
  12. 12. The Looking Glass Self We are not simply “prisoners” of other people’s behaviour We have to interpret what the behaviour of other people towards us tells us about ourselves We frequently interpret the behaviour of others in ways that confirm the image we have of our selves.
  13. 13. The Looking Glass Self Some people are more significant to us than others and their views carry more weight with us. These people are called significant others We try to manipulate the impression that other people have of us Impression management
  14. 14. The Presentation of Self inEveryday Life Erving Goffman - the social world is represented as a play in which the various members of society adopt certain roles and speak certain lines Dramaturgical Analogy Our social encounters have scenery that defines the situation for the actors and props used to enhance our performance
  15. 15. Stigma Goffman argues that some experience stigmatised or spoiled identities Mentally ill, disabled, criminal, addicted etc. None of these behaviours themselves cause stigmatised identities Stigma occurs as a result of how others view these behaviours
  16. 16. Labelling Theory “Social groups create deviance by making rules, whose infraction constitutes deviance, and by applying those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders.”
  17. 17. Labelling Theory The reaction of society marginalises individuals This process that alters their self- perception and identity This process creates deviance
  18. 18. Labelling TheoryLabelling Master Internalisation Deviant Career Status of the labelSomeone in The individualauthority The labelled Individuals becomes morelabels an person is come to see different orindividual as treated themselves as deviantdifferent or differently different anddeviant by others associate with they others who are interact with seen as different and deviant
  19. 19. Test1. What is the focus of symbolic interactionism? What is it trying to explain?2. Make a list of the key concepts associated with S.I. and include the sociologists associated with the concepts
  20. 20. Evaluation It led to the development of important concepts such as: labelling, deviant career, subculture and self fulfilling prophecy. These have been employed to great effect in study of education, deviance and health. It examines interaction ‘in a vacuum’, makes no reference to the social, economic, political or historical context of interaction. Marxists in particular criticise its lack of consideration of the nature and distribution of power. It exaggerates extent to which interpretation of meaning is conscious. We do not ‘start from scratch’ each time we interact, most of our behaviour is based on habit, we perform it unconsciously. It reflects the individualistic culture of USA where it was developed. European culture has more of an appreciation of the role of structure. It established the need to go beyond statistical correlations and take into account the view of the actor. It underestimates structural constraints. Structure has an effect even when people are unaware of its existence; e.g. class affects you even if you see yourself as classless.