Social Interaction Theories

Social Interaction Theories
 We are what we do
 Belief controls actions.
 We create a social and
cultural worlds consistent
with our belief systems.
 We understand our social
world through shared
 History perpetuates and
adapts belief
 Interaction reinforces our
reactions through sanctions
and strengthens our beliefs
about what we should do
Interactionists see
society as a series of
small interactions in
which the individuals
involved have
considerable freedom
in the way they respond
to the situation in front
of them.
It would be a mistake to
think that individuals
are entirely free to act
in any way they see fit,
generally they have to
meet the expectations
of others, this tends to
restrict change.
Defining the situation
W. I. Thomas’ famous quote
says that if we “define
situations as real they are
real in their consequences”.
What he means is that if
society agrees that
something… for example
witchcraft… is real; then
there are real consequences
for real people.
Individuals who define their
own situations can risk selffulfilling prophecies but the
effects are likely limited to
their personal milieu.
The situation is usually
predefined but not predetermined
When we are socialized (learn the norms of our
society and obtain the knowledge of our
culture) we are given a range of behaviors
deemed appropriate to situations we
encounter and are likely to encounter. Our
experiences reinforce and expand or contract
our expectations for interactions with others
and with the material world.
Because we usually stay within the bounds of
our socialization our actions usually are
predictable to ourselves and others and have
meaning to those we interact with. At any
time we can deviate from the expected path,
so our actions are not predetermined.
However if we move away from what is
usually expected we risk being misunderstood.
Life is lived in settings.
We manipulate our material
culture to our advantage as
much as possible in order to
create environments that
are reflective of who we are
and what is important to us.
The surroundings we
control, send signals to
others. The meaning of
these signals is inherited
from the culture in which we
When we can’t create
the setting for ourselves
we use existing settings
to our advantage.
For example: which of
these settings would
you choose for a
meeting with a person
who you were attracted
The setting is part of
our presentation of self
but it can be harder to
control then many
other aspects, such as
clothes and cars and
even our choice of
friends and hobbies.
We present ourselves
as if on a stage,
manipulating symbols
and signs so that others
may understand us.
William Shakespeare - All the world's a stage (from
As You Like It 2/7)
All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely
players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one
man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.
At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And
shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to
school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful
ballad Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of
strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour,
sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice, In fair
round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and
beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and
slipper'd pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on
side, His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his
shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward
childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of
all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second
childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans
taste, sans everything. source