George Herbert Mead’s “Symbolic Interactionism” Chris Walden
Introduction • George Herbert Mead was born in South Hadley, Massachusetts in February of 1863. • In 1894 , Mead moved from The University of Michigan to Chicago, Illinois, where he would later become the center of the sociological department at The University of Chicago.
Introduction Cont’d • After Mead’s death in 1931 his students at the University published his Mind, Self, and Society teachings. • Herbert Blumer, Mead’s pupil, further developed his theory and coined it “Symbolic Interactionism.”
Introduction Cont’d • This theory is the process of interaction in the formation of meanings for individuals. • In simple form, people act based on symbolic meanings they find within a given situation. • The goals of our interactions are to create a shared meaning.
Herbert Blumer came up with three basic principles for his theory. • Meaning, Language, and Thought. • These three principles lead to conclusions about the creation of a persons self and socialization into a larger community.
1st Principle • Meaning: “Making is a community project” • Meaning is something that has to be assigned and who assigns it? • The definition of this word states that it is a intention for a particular purpose or destination. • Blumer says that the principle of meaning is central in human behavior
Meaning Cont’d • Meaning is based on human interaction and how we act towards other people. • We as humans, base things upon the meanings that they have been given. • An example would be me saying, “Hey you look great, have you lost a lot of weight?” This statement could be taken a lot of different ways. Perhaps the person that I said this to takes it in the way of a compliment, (Which is what I was giving them) or a negative remark. The meaning that we assign to the statement is how we react to people and what they say.
Meaning Cont’d • This theory tells us that its how people interpret messages and statements. • Each one of us has a different meaning assigned to different things. • To us humans the word “grass” is something that can be defined as green, or something needed to be cut. To animals, the word “grass” could mean shelter or food. • Now in the case of symbols, meanings also depend on the number of consensual responses of those who use it. If someone uses a particular word such as hey, to those that use it a lot, it means hello. Now for those people that are ambiguous to it, it could mean a totally different thing to them.
2nd Principle • Language: “Symbolic naming for the human society” • Language gives humans a means by which to negotiate meaning through symbols. • Mead believed that when you named something, it is assigned a meaning. An example of this would be me naming my dog Lucifer. The meaning of this name would be the devil, because maybe the dog is extremely mean or bites people all of the time.
Language • In simple terms, this principle says that when we talk to each other, symbolic interaction means that humans identify meaning, or naming, and then they develop discourse, which is communication orally
3rd Principle • Thought: “Interpretation of symbols” • Thought is based on language. While in a conversation, your mind is imagining or thinking about the different points of view or meanings to what the other person is saying to you. • What this means is that once your hear someone say something, you automatically start thinking about what you are going to say next.
Language • Mead believes that “We naturally talk to ourselves in order to sort out the meaning of a difficult situation.” • Whatever you think of before acting to an action or responding to a phrase is your thought. We do this all the time without knowing or realizing it. It is your own personal meaning that you put on words.
Conclusion • George Herbert Mead was a professor whose teachings were transformed into a theory that is well known and taught throughout the world. • Symbolic Interactionism has only one variable in it. The individual has its own set of meanings for things and people. • A problem with this theory is that it does not state whether or not an individual wants to win and get their own way or not. Sometimes we think that people can also construct a sample and ask someone if they should have a certain meaning for this and a meaning for that.
This theory doesn’t tell you if you think this way because a person told you to or if you think a certain way because you feel that you need to. • George Herbert Mead died in 1931. Although he never got around to publishing his own teachings, he still is considered to be one of the top sociological theorists that have ever walked this earth.
Language and Thought Mark Krebs
Symbolic Interactionism • Language • Dealing with Meaning • Thought • Where interpretation is modified.
Things to Keep in Mind • Both Language and Thought arise out of people socializing with one another (Symbolic Interactionism). • Much of the time Language and Thought go hand in hand. • I like to teach with examples.
Love Unlike boom, smack, and thump- words usually have no logical connection to the objects they describe.
Language • Language is the source of meaning. • Everything in life has a different meaning. • All objects, people, and abstract ideas have been assigned certain names. • Meaning has never been inherent.
Spoken words, written words, and pictures are all apart of our language. • Each word or picture means different things to each individual. • Each person’s language is shaped by other people.
Thought • Humans come equipped with a mind wired for thought. • That mind allows everyone to interpret the symbols of our language.
“Minding” • Minding is the two-second delay where individuals rehearse the next move and anticipate how others will react. George Herbert Mead
Thought • According to Blumer: • We as humans have the ability to take the role of the other. • This allows us chances to find new meaning and different perspectives in life.
Taking the Role of the Other • This is seeing the world through another’s eyes. • Walking in someone else’s shoes • Grown up version of having imaginary friends and talking to yourself.
To conclude • Symbolic Interactionism and its premises are built upon communication between individuals. • Language and Thought are vital in the interpretation of symbols. • We have and always will be affected by Language and Thought.
The Looking-Glass Self and The Generalized Other Clara Hartlaub
The self is a basic concept in symbolic interactionism, which requires the understanding of meaning, language and thought. • It allows humans to reflect on themselves and argue with themselves helping to develop an accurate self image. • The looking-glass self and the generalized other are parts of a larger tool which helps individuals develop their self concepts. • These concepts help form who we are as individuals and lead to conclusions about the creation of a person’s self and socialization into a larger community.
Reflections in a Looking Glass • We develop who we are based on ideas that come from, “taking the role of the other”, imagining how we look to another person. • Interactionists call this mental image the “looking-glass self”. • The self is a combination of “I” and “me”. The “I” refers to what is unpredictable and unorganized about the self while the “me” is the image of the self seen through the looking glass or other peoples’ perceptions.
Real-Life Application of the Looking-Glass Self • Looking-glass self is the process of developing a self-image on the basis of the messages we get from others, as we understand them. • There are three components to the looking glass self: 1.Imagine how we appear to others; 2. Imagine what their judgment of that appearance must be; 3. Develop some self-feeling, such as pride or mortification, as a result of our imagining others' judgment.
Generalized Other • Over-arching looking-glass self that we put together from the reflection we see in everyone we know or the expectations of society that influence every conversation that takes place in peoples’ minds. • Shapes how we think and act within a community. • As the generalized other develops, children often have imaginary friends that grow into an internal conversational partner which helps children participate in their own socialization. The child then gradually takes on the roles of the community.
Real Life Application of the Generalized Other • Negative responses can consequently reduce a person to nothing. • “Cipher in the Snow” • Harry Potter • Through the “looking-glass self” and the “generalized other” a person is able to define their self image and develop who they are as an individual.
Applied Symbolic Interaction Sarah Buschmann
Symbolic Interactionism • The characteristics of this approach are human interaction, interpretation or definition rather than mere reaction, response based on meaning, use of symbols, and interpretation between stimulus and response • It is concerned with the interaction order of daily life and experiences, rather than the structure.
Six Applications of Symbolic Interactionism • There are six different applications within the theory of symbolic interactionism: • creating reality • meaning-ful research • generalized other • naming • symbol manipulation • the self-fulfilling prophecy
Creating Reality • Sociologist Erving Goffman argues that everyone is constantly negotiating with others to publicly define our identity and the nature of the situation in the creating reality application. • The impression of reality is a delicate and fragile thing that can be shattered.
Meaning-ful research • In meaning-ful research, Mead claims that research occurs through participant observation. • Mead believes that behavioral experimental and survey research are void of the meaning of the experience.
Generalized other • Generalized other is described as thecombined mental image of others in a community, their expectations, and possible responses to one’s self. • In symbolic interaction, there is a tragic potential of negative responses consequently reducing a person to perceiving themselves as nothing. • The generalized other is a combination of all of the looking glass selves that others give us. • The looking glass self is imaging how we look to others.
Naming • Naming is what we would call name-calling, such as retard, slut, liar, ugly, etc. • Name-calling can be devastating because it forces us to view ourselves through a warped mirror. • These grotesque images are not easily dispelled and can be very hurtful and damaging. This is shown in a clip from the T.V. show South Park. • http://youtube.com/watch?v=LGBYVnkSqis
Symbol manipulation • Symbol Manipulation is the process in which symbols incite people to unite into action.
Self-fulfilling prophecy • Each and everyone of us affects how others view themselves. • Predictions in the self-fulfilling prophecy may be false but made true by one’s actions. One’s prophecy is simply a possibility that is made into probability by one’s unconscious or conscious actions. • Our expectations evoke responses that confirm what we originally anticipated, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Social Penetration TheoryChapter 8 Bridget Carroll and Derek Oldham April 10th, 2007
The Social Penetration Theory • Explains relational closeness through the process of honest self-disclosure and social exchange. • Griffin, E. (2007). A first look at communication theory (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Close Relationships and Intimacy • Three categories of personal bonds: • Friendships • Romantic Relationships • Family Intimacy can provide enjoyment, trust, sharing of confidences, respect, mutual assistance, and spontaneity.
Depth of Penetration • Four observations: • Peripheral items are exchanged more frequently and sooner than private info • Self-disclosure is reciprocal where there is an equal exchange of openness • Penetration is rapid at the start, but slows down as inner layers are reached • Depenetration occurs by a gradual process of layer-by-layer withdrawal
Social Exchange and Comparison Level • The closeness of a relationship is dependent upon the cost-benefit analysis of social exchange, where people weigh the risks and rewards of self-disclosure. • The Comparison Level evaluates social outcomes through two standards • Relative satisfaction (how happy or sad it makes you feel) • By judging outcomes based on past experiences and their sequence.
Part II: Application • You already know: • The Social Penetration theory is an approach to how and why relationships form. • Each person has inner values and emotions that must be revealed through a process of self-disclosure. • This process of revelation is fundamental in forming friendships, romantic relationships, and family bonds.
How do relationships form? • Bonds form through revealing each person’s inner self (self-disclosure). • A basic understanding of the personality structure: an onion, • And how this model works.
Why do relationships form? • Intimate bonds can: provide enjoyment, trust, sharing of fears and dreams • One decides that the benefits must outweigh the costs (you can get something out of it). • The formation of bonds is a human characteristic that we naturally experience throughout our lives. You just want a coffee date! Or a buddy to fish with you.