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Encyclopedia > Symbolic interactionism

Portal · History Sociology (from Latin: socius, companion; and the suffix -ology, the study of, from Greek λόγος, lógos, knowledge [1]) is the systematic and scientific study of society, including patterns of social relationships, social action, and culture[2]. Areas studied in sociology can range from the analysis of brief contacts between anonymous... Sociology is a relatively new academic discipline among other social sciences including economics, political science, anthropology, and psychology. ...

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Sociological practice Sociology is the study of society and human social interaction. ... Public sociology is an approach to the discipline which seeks to transcend the academy and engage wider audiences. ... Social research refers to research conducted by social scientists (primarily within sociology and social psychology), but also within other disciplines such as social policy, human geography, political science, social anthropology and education. ... Social theory refers to the use of abstract and often complex theoretical frameworks to explain and analyze social patterns and large-scale social structures. ... Sociological theory can refer to: contemporary sociological theory social theory sociological paradigms (also known as perespectives or frameworks) See also list of theories in sociology. ... Sociological practice is intervention using sociological knowledge whether it is in a clinical or applied setting. ...

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science · stratification · work Sociology has many subfields. ... Comparative Sociology Comparative sociology generally refers to sociological analysis that involves comparison of social processes between nation-states, or across different types of society (for example capitalist and socialist). ... Criminology is the scientific study of crime as an individual and social phenomenon. ... Map of countries by population Population growth showing projections for later this century Demography is the statistical study of human populations. ... Social movements are broader political associations focussed on specific issues. ... Social Psychology is a subfield of sociology which looks at the social behavior of humans in terms of associations and relationships that they have. ... Sociolinguistics is the study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context on the way language is used. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... The sociology of deviance is the sociological study of deviant behavior, the recognized violation of cultural norms, and the creation and enforcement of those norms. ... Economic sociology may be defined as the sociological analysis of economic phenomena. ... Sociology of gender is a prominent subfield of sociology. ... The sociology of knowledge is the study of the relationship between human thought and the social context within which it arises, and of the effects prevailing ideas have on societies. ... Sociology of law refers to both a sub-discipline of sociology and an approach within the field of legal studies. ... Political sociology is the study of power and the intersection of personality, social structure and politics. ... Sociology of science is the subfield of sociology that deals with the practice of science. ... social stratification is the division of people of a particular society on the basis if occupation, income, power, prestige, authority, status, dignity, education, class, castle, gender, race and ethnicity In sociology, social stratification is the hierarchical arrangement of social classes, castes and strata within a society. ... Industrial Sociology (also known as sociology of industrial relations or sociology of work) is the study of the interaction of people within industry it includes the study of boss-subordinate, inter-departmental, and management / trade-union relationships´. Moreover, on a macrosociological scale, it is the study of the impact of...

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Symbolic interactionism is a major sociological perspective that is influential in many areas of the discipline. It is particularly important in microsociology and sociological social psychology. // Foundations The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism Max Weber Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, 1904 Online version Description: In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber puts forward a thesis that Puritan ethic and ideas had influenced the development of capitalism. ... This is a list of terms in sociology. ... Sociology (from Latin: socius, companion; and the suffix -ology, the study of, from Greek λόγος, lógos, knowledge [1]) is the systematic and scientific study of society, including patterns of social relationships, social action, and culture[2]. Areas studied in sociology can range from the analysis of brief contacts between anonymous... Microsociology is one of the main branches of sociology (contrast with macrosociology) which concerns itself with the nature of human interaction on a small scale. ... The scope of social psychological research. ...

Symbolic interactionism is derived from American pragmatism and particularly from the work of George Herbert Mead, who argued that people's selves are social products, but that these selves are also purposive and creative. Pragmatism is a philosophic school that originated in the late nineteenth century with Charles Sanders Peirce, who first stated the pragmatic maxim. ... George Herbert Mead (February 27, 1863 – April 26, 1931) was an American philosopher, sociologist and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatists. ...

Herbert Blumer, a student and interpreter of Mead, coined the term "symbolic interactionism" and put forward an influential summary of the perspective: people act toward things based on the meaning those things have for them; and these meanings are derived from social interaction and modified through interpretation. Herbert Blumer (born March 7, 1900 in St. ...

Sociologists working in this tradition have researched a wide range of topics using a variety of research methods. However, the majority of interactionist research uses qualitative research methods, like participant observation, to study aspects of (1) social interaction and/or (2) individuals' selves. Qualitative research is one of the two major approaches to research methodology in social sciences. ... Participant observation is a major research strategy which aims to gain a close and intimate familiarity with a given group of individuals (such as a religious, occupational, or deviant group) and their practices through an intensive involvement with people in their natural environment. ... Social interaction is a dynamic, changing sequence of social actions between individuals (or groups) who modify their actions and reactions due to the actions by their interaction partner(s). ...

Sociological areas that have been particularly influenced by symbolic interactionism include the sociology of emotion, deviance/criminology, collective behavior/social movements, and the sociology of sex. Interactionist concepts that have gained widespread usage include definition of the situation, emotion work, impression management, looking glass self, and total institution. Deviant redirects here. ... Criminology is the scientific study of crime as an individual and social phenomenon. ... The term collective behavior was first used by Robert E. Park, and employed definitively by Herbert Blumer, to refer to social processes and events which do not reflect existing social structure (laws, conventions, and institutions), but which emerge in a spontaneous way. ... American Civil Rights Movement is one of the most famous social movements of the 20th century. ... The definition of the situation is a fundamental concept in symbolic interactionism. ... Emotion work is a concept with two different meanings. ... In sociology and social psychology, impression management is the process through which people try to control the impressions other people form of them. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Total institution as defined by Erving Goffman, is an institution where all the aspects of life of individuals under the institution is controlled and regulated by the authorities of the organization. ...

Erving Goffman, although he claimed not to have been a symbolic interactionist, is recognized as one of the major contributors to the perspective. Erving Goffman Erving Goffman (June 11, 1922 – November 19, 1982), was a sociologist and writer. ...


Basic premises and approach

Herbert Blumer(1969), who coined the term "symbolic interactionism," set out three basic premises of the perspective:

  1. "Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to those things"
  2. "The meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with others and the society."
  3. "These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretive process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounters."

Blumer, following Mead, claimed that people interact with each other by "interpret[ing] or 'defin[ing]' each other's actions instead of merely reacting to each other's actions. Their 'response' is not made directly to the actions of one another but instead is based on the meaning which they attach to such actions. Thus, human interaction is mediated by the use of symbols, by interpretation, or by ascertaining the meaning of one another's actions" (Blumer 1962). Blumer contrasted this process, which he called "symbolic interaction," with behaviorist explanations of human behavior, which don't allow for interpretation between stimulus and response. Behaviorism (also called learning perspective) is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things which organisms do — including acting, thinking and feeling—can and should be regarded as behaviors. ...

Symbolic interactionism is a social constructionist approach to understanding social life that focuses on how reality is constructed by active and creative actors through their interactions with others. For the learning theory, see Social Constructivism (Learning Theory). ...

Symbolic interactionist researchers investigate how people create meaning during social interaction, how they present and construct the self (or "identity"), and how they define situations of co-presence with others. One of the perspective's central ideas is that people act as they do because of how they define situations.

Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction

The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) is the scholarly association for symbolic interactionists. SSSI holds a conference in conjunction with the meeting of the American Sociological Association in August and sponsors the Couch-Stone Symposium each spring. It also sponsors the journal Symbolic Interaction. The American Sociological Association (ASA), founded in 1905, is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the discipline and profession of sociology by serving sociologists in their work and promoting their contributions. ...


Although symbolic interactionist concepts have gained widespread use among sociologists, the perspective has been criticized, particularly during the 1970s when quantitative approaches to sociology were dominant.

In addition to methodological criticisms, critics of the symbolic interactionism have charged that it is unable to deal with social structure (a fundamental sociological concern) and macrosociological issues. A number of symbolic interactionists have addressed these topics but their work has not gained as much recognition or influence as the work of those focusing on the interactional level.


  • Blumer, Herbert (1962). "Society as Symbolic Interaction", in Arnold M. Rose: Human Behavior and Social Process: An Interactionist Approach. Houghton-Mifflin.  Reprinted in Blumer (1969).
  • Blumer, Herbert (1969). Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
  • Plummer, Kenneth. (1975). Sexual stigma: An interactionist account. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Liamputtong, Pranee & Ezzy, Douglas. (2005). Qualitative Research Methods. New York: Oxford University Press.

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