Symbolic Interactionism

William Thomas.
How community organisation breaks down family trades and values are lost leading to deviant behaviour. Rebuilding of new community values and structures.
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Charles Cooley.
Looking glass self- A person's self grows out of societies interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others.
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Geoge Herbert Mead.
Interested in the self and the importance of language in expressing the self. The existance of social groups is essential for formation of the self. How we question ourselves and our own behaviour and how this influences how we act.
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Focuses on everyday social interaction at micro level. We do not respond to people directly, but on the basis of the meanings we interpret. Able to interpret the behaviour of others because we have learned common symbols/ interpretations.
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Key Features.
Three core principes: meaning, language and thought- leads to the creation of a persons self and socialization into a larger community (Griffin 1997).
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The Symbolic Interactionist Perspective.
Respond to people according to how we have learned to interpret them. Orderly social interaction is possible only when we learn appropriate (socially negotiated and approved) interpretations.
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What are symbols?
Derived from the Greek 'symballein' meaning 'to connect'. Symbols reflect an ideology, a social and moral system. Symbols reflect our experiences of a socail life which involves the use of shared/ public symbols.
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Why use symbols?
Conveys meaning. Indicates a shared understanding. A form or cultural short hand. Can be used to indicate belonging. Can be used to indicate exclusion. Symbols may fall in and out of use.
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Rule Governed Behaviour.
Everyday behaviour is governed by social rules that show a shared social order. Garfinkel's 'breaching' experiments. When order is breached, attempts are made to try and make sense of this. People make meaning from chaos due to a need for patterns.
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Unspoken rules.
Much of everyday life is governed by unspoken rules/norms of social interaction. We learn to show civil inattention to strangers in public. Learn these norms during socialization and they form a backdrop to everyday social interaction.
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Informal rituals are informal customary practices and procedures that are part of everyday life interaction. These reveal taken for granted meanings. Part of the unspoken rules of everyday life.
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Culture, Communication and Gestures.
Unlike basic facial expressions, gestures are not universal. They are culturally relative and vary across different cultures.
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Macro structures inform Micro interactions.
There are many everyday informal rituals that symbolically affirm patriarchy. Social interaction at the everyday (micro) level is related to the macro structure of society.
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Dramaturgy ('The presentation of Self in everyday life'-1959).- Erving Goffman.
Life as a performance. Stage metaphor: anayses everyday social life as though the participants were actors on stage. Impression management:The self we present to others differs across situations-various 'front stages'-to create favourable impression.
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Front Stage vs Back Stage.
Front Stage- How we act when we know we are being watched, reflects norms and expectations of behaviour e.g. at work. Back Stage- How we act when we are not being wtached and held up to norms/expectations e.g. at home.
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Dramaturgy cont.
We present the 'right' self according to the norms of specific social situations. Assumes that humans are approval seekers, appearance matters. The ultimate display of social morality is protecting the image of others.We show tact and use discretion.
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Card 2


Charles Cooley.


Looking glass self- A person's self grows out of societies interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others.

Card 3


Geoge Herbert Mead.


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Card 5


Key Features.


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