Social Psychology was largely interested in the social development of the individual and that its central task was to study how the individual develops socially as a result of participating in group life. Thus, the cornerstone of Symbolic Interaction (SI): a common set of symbols and understandings possessed by people in a group.
Key assumption: the key elements in peoples’ milieus are symbols and understandings that guide the individuals around them.
Primary focus is on the individual with a “self” and the primary concern is with internal thoughts and social behavior & small-scale interpersonal relationships. SI views actors as active constructors who:
– INTERPRET (what’s going on around me?)
– EVALUATE (make sense of it)
– DEFINE THE SITUATION (this could be a positive evaluation, or a negative evaluation)
– MAP OUT POSSIBLE ACTION(s) (what would happen if I did “X”?)
– MAP OUT POSSIBLE REACTION(s) (how is “X” likely to work out? Should I also consider “Y”?)
– ACT (give the plan a whirl)
This episode of the George Lopez show show an example of this concept. The beginning shower scene goes thru all six steps of Symbolic Interaction.
This view of human interaction is the opposite of the functionalists who view the actors as active rather than passive beings who are impinged upon by outside forces (role expectations). SI stresses the processes by which individual forms opinions and make decisions.
Maximilian Karl Emil “Max” Weber (21 April 1864 – 14 June 1920) (German)
– interpretive understanding
– subjective meaning
* individual interpretation
– importance of subjective meaning
– bridge macro & micro levels of analysis
W. I. THOMAS
William Isaac Thomas (13 August 1863 – 5 December 1947) (American)
* “Definition of the situation”:
– The THOMAS THEOREM = if social phenomena are defined as real, then they are real in their consequences.
Click on the video link below to view an example of a paradigm shift in the definition of the situation.
CHARLES H. COOLEY
Charles Horton Cooley (August 17, 1864 – May 8, 1929) (American)
* “Looking-Glass Self”
 imagine our appearance to others
 imagine judgement
 pride in that assessment, or mortification and change our “image”
GEORGE HERBERT MEAD
George Herbert Mead (February 27, 1863 – April 26, 1931) (American)
* The “Self” (social process)
– “I” = (unorganized responses: aka “what you really think”)
– “Me” = (socialized responses :implies “fronting”)
The following cartoons by the great Sergio Arogones cleverly illustrate the differences between these two concepts.
“I” = The image of motherhood.
“I” = The attractive and fit Wonderwoman & Batman.
“ME” = The chubby, unfit wanna-be superheroes.
“I” = The man laughing because of the person’s death.
“ME” = The contrite and sad mourner.
“I” = The British soldier sick of tourists taunting them.
“ME” = The British soldier keeping his composure.
“I” = The doorman slamming the door on the snooty woman.
“ME” = The polite and courteous doorman holding the door for the lady.
“I” = The talented and intimidating swordsman.
“ME” = The polite and entertaining swordsman.
“I” = The group kicking the “winner” out of the game.
“ME” = The polite group sitting calmly while they attempt to win back some money.
“I” = The man wanting to go view a porno movie.
“ME” =The upstanding family man hurrying his family away from a den of vice.
“I” = The man knowing what the future probably holds for him.
“ME” = The interested and polite man attending to his date.
“I” = The man who wants to share a shake with a more attractive woman.
“ME” = The polite and attentive man on a date sharing a shake with his girlfriend.
– internal conversations
(example of the devil and angel as “good” and “bad” )
– take the role of “the other”
* Development of “SELF”
– PREP STAGE:
– PLAY STAGE:
– GAME STAGE:
– GENERALIZED OTHER:
Symbolic Interaction Methods