Symbolic Interactionism

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Symbolic Interactionism

Symbolic interactionism is the way we learn to interpret and give meaning to the world through our interactions with others (LaRossa & Reitzes, 1993). Herbert Blumer was credited with the term “symbolic interactionism” in 1937. Blumer was a follower of George H. Mead, and was influenced by John Dewey. Dewey insisted that human beings are best understood in relation to their environment (The Society for More Creative Speech, 1996). With this as his approach, Herbert Blumer defined symbolic interactionism as a study of human group life and conduct. Blumer identified three core principles of symbolic interactionism. These principles are meaning, language, and thought. Blumer further introduces six “root images” that show how symbolic interaction views human society and conduct (Blumer 1969). Together these core principles and root images lead to the conclusions about the creation of a person’s self and socialization into a larger community.

The first core principle is meaning, the construction of social reality. It states that people act towards others and objects based upon the meanings that they have given to those people or things. Whatever the object is, people name it and create a universal meaning for it. It all depends on where you are at that time (Fontana, 1994). If you were in France, their word for yes is “oui.” They have different meanings for words than we do, and that is why they understand.

The second core principle is language, the source of meaning. Meaning arises from social interaction using symbols. Symbolic naming is the basis for human society; therefore the human language is symbolic. Symbols do not have meaning in themselves; humans attach meaning to them (Duncan, 1968). For example, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom to many people; but others may find meaning in the fact that the statue is a woman. People invest meaning into objects, people and social situations. Symbols...
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