Haley Hutton
Nick Larsen
Soc 401
Background
• Term "Symbolic Interactionism" coined by
Herbert Blumer
o Wanted to clarify how social psych. was
largely interested in the social development
of the individual
o Central task is to study how individuals
develop socially as a result of participating
in group life
o Focuses on issue of "self" and small group
interactions
Intellectual Influences
• Charles Darwin's Evolution
o Led Symbolic Interactionists to believe
behavior is not accidental, but formed by
interaction with others in social
environments
• Scottish Moralists
o Believed "mind" and "self" were social
products of individuals actions with others
Intellectual Influences cont.
• German Idealism
o Humans construct their own realities
 All consciousness is conscious of something,
therefore the subject and object are inevitably
related
• Pragmatism
o One "true reality" does not exist
o Reality is actively created by human beings
o The meaning placed depends on the purpose
of the act, context in which it's performed,
and the reaction of others to the act
Intellectual Influences cont.
• Behaviorism
o Need to find as simple an approach to the
study of the experience of individuals from
the point of view of their conduct
What is Symbolic
Interactionism?
• Based on the idea that social reality is
•
•
constructed in each human interaction
through the use of symbols - words,
gestures, and communicating through
language
Studying social interaction is key to
understanding human behavior
Ability of actors to modify their
behaviors to meet the needs of the
present and immediate environment
Erving Goffman
(1922-1982)
• Canadian-born sociologist and writer
o The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
(1959)
• Heavily Influenced by Durkheim, Freud,
Mead, Simmel
Erving Goffman cont.
• Presentation of Self
o Focus on the individual as active and
reflective
o Individual determines how the self should
be presented in social situations
o Society is viewed as a stage, and humans
are actors performing for audiences
Erving Goffman cont.
• Stigma
o Mark of disgrace or dishonor
o Person lacks social acceptance and their
self identity is negatively affected by the
label

Example: Arabs & Muslims after 9/11
Herbert Blumer (1900-1987)
Symbolic Interactionist and Social Researcher
•
•
•
Played pro football while getting his doctorate!
Huge proponent of Mead, and
believed the creation of reality
is a continuous process
"Humans act toward things on
the basics of meanings"
Herbert Blumer Methodology
• Naturalistic Approach • Need for exploratory studies...
Study of conduct and group life,
as these occur naturally in the everyday existence of people.
o A great deal of human group life is hidden from
immediate notice
o Social scientists generally do not have first hand,
intimate familiarity with the group life they
propose to study
o Focuses on the importance of in-depth knowledge
of the group using interviews and observations, and
steering away from vagueness when defining
concepts
Arlie Russell Hochschild
• American sociologist
o Bachelors, Masters and PH.D from Berkley
 The Unexpected Community - 1973
 The Managed Heart - 1983
 The Time Bind: When work becomes home and
home becomes work - 1997
• Founder of the sociology of emotions
• Emotions are a biologically given sense
o Means by which we know about our relation
to the world
o Critical for survival of humans in group life
Arlie Russell Hochschild cont
• Emotion Work
o Trying to change, in degree or quality, an
emotion or feeling
• Emotion Culture
o
o
o
Consists of a series of ideas about how and what people
are supposed to experience in given situations
Individuals are often put in situations where emotion
work needs to be performed
Culture is filled with ideologies about the behaviors,
attitudes and feelings that members should share
Criticism of Symbolic
Interactionism
• Overly committed the study of everyday
life and social formation of the self,
while ignoring social structure
• Overlooked class relations and
constraints in favor of a more optimistic
view of an open society