Symbolic Interaction in Sociology

In this segment I discuss the third major theoretical perspective in the field of sociology, symbolic interaction. Symbolic interaction, stems from the psychological perspective of “pragmatism” which focuses on the notion that human cognition and perception is a tool for problem solving and human action rather than a mirror of objective reality.

Symbolic interaction focuses on how human use symbols (things that represent something else including language, gestures, signs, characters, tokens and icons) to interact with each other in ways that create and maintain our social environments.

The three basic principles of symbolic interaction are

  1. The action of human beings are, for the most part, determined by the meanings they hold of the world around them.
  2. The meanings that human beings have about the world is ground in what they learn from others through social interactions.
  3. Humans engage in an inner dialogue about the meanings they have learned about the world when they navigate it and, when necessary, will adjust or modify their meanings to fit the pragmatic realities they encounter.

As a result of humans living in shared cultures, with similar symbolic material (language, gestures, signs, characters, tokens and icons) and similar systems of meanings – large and complex social relations (society) are possible.

Learn more about symbolic interaction in the video below.

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