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Symbolic Interactionism. Sheldon Stryker. Introduction. Symbolic Interactionism are both a general framework for the analysis of society and a social psychological theory addressed to problems of socialization Theory vs. Frames of Reference: - “ Theory ”

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Symbolic Interactionism

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  • Symbolic Interactionism are both a general framework for the analysis of society and a social psychological theory addressed to problems of socialization
  • Theory vs. Frames of Reference:

- “Theory”

(1) Is a set of logically related hypotheses specifying expected relationships among variables

(2) Is based on concepts describing selected aspects of the world and assumptions about the way it works, and open to falsification through evidence drawn from the world

(3) Incorporates the concepts provided by a frame of reference

- “Frame of reference

(1) For sociologist, symbolic interactionism is a frame of reference or a perspective

(2) It must give short shrift to some potentially significant determinants of social behavior by the very act of directing attention to its special concerns

the scottish moral philosophers
The Scottish Moral Philosophers
  • Empiricism

-philosophy is the science of the connecting principles of nature

-empiricism and induction can lead to useful knowledge

  • Communication

-Sympathy is the source of human action

-For Adam Smith, sympathy is a universal human trait, largely unlearned, which allows us to put ourselves in another’s place and to see the world through other person’s eyes

-It is through communicating with others that we first learn about ourselves

william james 1842 1910
William James(1842-1910)
  • Habit

-the basis of habit is memory

-instincts are both modifiable and transitive

  • The Self

-is “the sum total of all that an individual can call his”

-four types of self—the material self; the spiritual self; the social self; pure ego

-the social self

-is the recognition given one by others; derivative of relationships with others

-emphasizes on the self’s multifaceted character multifaceted self as the product of heterogeneously organized society

-one’s self-worth/self-esteem is a function of the ratio of success to presentation

two basis of self-esteem: objective basis=the recognition one gets from others; subjective basis=one’s own aspirations

james mark baldwin 1861 1934
James Mark Baldwin(1861-1934)
  • Personality Development

(1) Projective Stage—being aware of others, drawing differences between them and objects

(2) Subjective Stage—emergence of self-consciousness through imitating the behavior of others and learning that there are feeling states associated with such behavior

(3) Ejective Stage—associates feeling states with its conceptions of persons and becomes aware that other persons have feeling states just as it does

john dewey 1859 1952
John Dewey(1859 - 1952)
  • Habit

-personality organization is a primarily function of habit

-social organization is a primarily function of custom

-habits reflect a prior social order and they are the basis of thought and


  • Pragmatism

-human is unique because of their capacity of thinking

-mind is the process of thinking; thinking arises in the process of human’s adjusting to their environment

-mind is instrumental and it is the process of defining objects in one’s world

  • “The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology” (1896)

-a stimulus is defined in the context of action rather than prior to and a cause of that action

charles horton cooley 1864 1929
Charles Horton Cooley(1864-1929)
  • Social Self

(the reflected/looking glass self)

-The self is a social product; it is defined and developed in social action

-Three components:

(1) Imagination of our appearance to other person

(2) Imagination of other person’s judgment to our


(3) Self-feeling from these imaginations

w i thomas 1863 1947
W. I. Thomas(1863-1947)
  • Basic Position

-any human behavior needs to cope with the subjective and objective facts of experience

-adjustment processes are responses to objective circumstances in which individuals and groups are embedded

  • Definitions of the situation

-subjective components of experience

-"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”

  • Methodology

-personal documents (case studies, diaries, letters…) studies

-they provide the participant's definition of the situation that purely observation and statistical studies failed to do

george hebert mead 1863 1931
George Hebert Mead(1863-1931)
  • Three traditions

(1) Pragmatism—individuals create their own world

(2) Behaviorism—reinforcement

(3) Darwinism—human beings have conscious thoughts

  • Evolutionary Principles

-the best way to study human behavior is from the viewpoint that society is an ongoing process

  • Social acts

-Conversation of gestures

-Significant symbols

george hebert mead
George Hebert Mead
  • The Self

-it is a product of social interaction

-it is a social structure and it arises in social experience

-it exists in the activity of viewing oneself reflexively

-“role-taking”: taking the standpoint of others

- “I” and “Me”

-“I”—the responses of the person to the organized attitudes of others; contains the creativity and spontaneity parts of the self

-“Me”—anticipating others’ responses on the basis of common participation in a communication process

-three stages in developing the self: play stage, game stage, generalized others

george simmel 1858 1918
George Simmel(1858-1918)
  • Approach to Sociological Theory

(1) Society

-“the name for a number of individuals, connected by interaction”

-a structure of positions (vocations)

(2) Forms of social life

-social process, social types, developmental patterns

(3) Sociation

-the interaction of minds, the conscious association of person

-sociation requires individual to be “generalized”: the individual must be more than or less than an individual personality to be a part of society

ralph linton 1893 1953
Ralph Linton(1893-1953)
  • Anthropological Methodology

(1) society=“any group of people who have lived and worked together long enough to get themselves organized and to think of themselves as a social unity with well-defined limits”

(2) ideal patterns=remembered and rationalized experiences of adapting to the environment in which the society exists

these guide the training of the members of society

(3) status=the polar positions in the ideal patterns; it is a collection of rights and duties

the social person
The Social Person
  • Role

-Status & Position

-Role Theory: “status” and “position” refer to the parts of organized social groups

-S.I.: “position” refers to any socially recognized category of actors

-“Role”=expectations which are attached to positions

-Actors categorize themselves and respond to themselves by naming, classifying, and defining who and what they are to engage in such reflexive behavior is to have a self.

the social person14
The Social Person
  • Self

-the self is a product of social interaction

-is phenomenological

-is based on reflexive activity

-has physical or biological location

-Mead: “One’s self is the way one describes to himself his

relationship to other in a social process.”

-Stryker’s concept of self:


-identity salience—refers to one possible, theoretically important way in which the self can be organized

-Salience hierarchy—the higher the identity in the hierarchy, the more likely that the identity will be invoked in a given or in many situations

-commitment—commitments are premised on identities

the social person15
The Social Person
  • Role-Taking

-the process of anticipating the responses of others with whom one is involved in social interaction

-actors use the result of their role-taking to sustain, modify, and redirect their own behavior

-is one way persons learn how others locate them and of others’ expectations for their behavior

  • Socialization

-the process by which the newcomer becomes incorporate into organized patterns of interaction

-once a self has been formed through this interactive process it serves to modify subsequent experience

social structure
Social Structure
  • System

-Anything that can be analyzed into a set of parts so that one part is in some way dependent on each of the remaining parts.

-The self can be conceptualized as a set of discrete identities organized into a hierarchy of salience is to say that the self is a system composed of interrelated parts.

-Social Interaction

-Interactions can be short (two persons say hello to another) or long (the relationships between doctor and patient, parent and child)

-Longer interactions develop expectations with respect to the properties that are be observed in the interactions

social structure17
Social Structure
  • System


-Networks of interaction with a high degree of closure

-It is structured by both cooperative and conflictful interactions

-Groups are systems of interpersonal relationships which tend to be normatively defined, or to contain normative elements

-Groups are structures of differentiated relationships; they are structures of positions and roles

-Groups is formed of people sharing some structural characteristic (age, class, ethnicity…etc.)


-One of the social mechanisms to isolate groups from one another or to guarantee that contact will happen

social structure18
Social Structure
  • Role Conflict

-It happens when there are incompatible expectations that attach to some position in a social relationship

-It may be intrarole or interrlole

-Resolution of role conflict: withdrawal from the relationship that are the source of conflict; scheduling and allocation of different relationships and activities to different time slots

social structure19
Social Structure
  • Role Constrain

-It is caused by the problem of maintaining continuity

-It can be defined as a felt difficulty in filling role obligations

-Mechanism to reduce role strain: elimination of some role relationships; establish interactional role bargains that minimize costs