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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Research Paper on Symbolic Interactionism Theory

Research Paper on Symbolic Interactionism Theory

One of the three major theoretical perspectives used in sociology is the Symbolic Interactionism. The concept of the theory was first used by Max Weber and George Mead. They both gave importance to the subjective meaning of social processes and human behavior. While Weber and Mead are the first to develop the theory, it was Herbert Blumer who coined the term “symbolic interactionism”. Symbolic Interactionism as a theory allows us to observe the world and see it in a different light by using the symbols around us. It is an interpretive theory that tends to understand things by focusing on the micro level of the society. 

Symbols are very important in Symbolic Interactionism Theory. In the theory, the use of symbols helps us assign meanings to things, events and people and later on help us give interpretations with those symbols. The use of the theory means seeing things and understanding what they mean and later on determine their effects. The theory proposes that we live in a symbolic world and we as individuals have different meanings for symbols. For us to be able to understand human behavior, we have to be able to know the meaning of a certain behavior for a person. It also suggests that it is through interactions with others that we are able to learn about ourselves through others.  With these interactions, we developed personal feelings towards others and see how other people react to our behaviors. Lastly, based on the theory, individuals have a mind that is able to acquire process and reflect information. It is a perspective that sees individuals as active agents in making meaning and using their interpretations in creating social order. In general, symbolic interactionism as a theory helps us understand that symbols and interactions in social processes affect the individual and vice versa.

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Symbolic Interactionism may be very helpful in understanding the meanings we put in people, events and things but as a theory, it also received several criticisms. First, critics of the theory said that it works very well in a micro level like understanding individual behaviors but can’t be much of a use in macrolevel like in understanding group behavior. Another criticism is that it does not permit a prediction how human will behave because it will be hard to define how a certain individual perceive a symbol. In terms of using it in research, it is criticized as unsystematic and generalist.
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