Theory Essay #2
Maddison S. Giles
Social Work 315: Human Behavior in the Social Environment
October 24th, 2014
Symbolic Interaction Theory, (SI) discovered by George Herbert Mead, centers on the relationship between symbols and interactions." The goal of SI is to describe how shared meaning is created. The theory explains that we all have our own sense of what is real and what is not and that we get these symbols of reality from our interactions with others. Ultimately the theory suggests that we modify these meanings in our mind and then act based on the symbols of reality that we have created. The opportunity for misunderstanding comes from the clashing of these meanings. George Herbert Mead begins his discussion of symbolic interactionism (talking with others) by defining three core principles that deal with meaning, language, and thought. The theory states that meaning is the construction of social reality. Humans act toward people or things on the basis of the meanings they assign to those people or things. The second principle of symbolic interactionism is language, which is the source of meaning. Meaning is negotiated through the use of language. For example, there is nothing small and furry about the word puppy. However, through symbolic interactionism we have learned to associate the word puppy with the real life animal. The last principle is thought, or taking the role of the other. When we interpret symbols we do this through our own thought processes. Interactionists refer to this as "an inner conversation." People naturally talk to themselves to sort out meanings of situations. They often put themselves in another person's shoes and act as they would act. Because of the symbolic interaction theory the labeling theory arose. The Labeling Theory is the view that labels people are given affect their own and others' perception of them, thus channeling their behavior either into deviance or into conformity....
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