Essay: Symbolic Interactionism

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  • Subject area(s): Psychology essays
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  • Published on: January 15, 2020
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  • Symbolic Interactionism
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Symbolic Interactionism focuses on how we interpret the world around us, it’s the root of all human engagement with each other. The basic factors of symbolic interactionism are meaning, language, thinking, and the self, which allows each and every individual to communicate with each other. Individuals react to situations according to the meaning that it has for them. We define situations based on our personal experiences and sense of self. Individuals are motivated to act based on the reasons such as things, people, events, and ideas. George Herbert Mead is the founder of symbolic interactionism in the early 20th century. Mead believed that the development of the individual is a social process as for the meaning of the person assigned to things.
Symbolic interaction is divided into four parts the first beginning with the term Meaning “humans act towards people or things on the basis of the meanings they assign to those people or things” (pg.55) every human interprets things differently though common factor that guides us. The second term is Language which is the key to interactionism, without language we are unable to communicate with one another. Language refers to the symbols used to communicate. Thinking is fundamental, thinking is an individual’s interpretation of symbols that have modified his/her or our own thought processes. Last but not least the self, which takes on the role of multiple people, this is how we get our own self-image which is known as the “looking glass self” we imagine how others see us and we act accordingly. Individuals react to situations according to the meaning that it has for them. We define situations based on out personal experiences and sense of self.
An example of symbolic interactionism I believe is an ethical way to force people to view their own “looking glass self” even if they don’t like the reality of it would be the Jane Elliot exercise. Jane Elliot, a third-grade teacher conducted an experiment in 1968 called the “Blue eyes-Brown eyes” experiment. Reasons for this exercise took place after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. This exercise labels participants as inferior or superior only based on the color of their eyes. Jane Elliot divided the children who were all white by their eye color. She then explained to the children that people with brown eyes are smarter and better than those with blue eyes. The aftermath of this exercise showed that the “superior” group began to act different towards the “inferior” group. They became more confident, condescending and arrogant while the “inferior” group began to slack on their work, their anger and intimidation increased. This exercised proved that being prejudice is a learned behavior. This exercise focuses on the concept of “the self” because it was an eye opener for young children and adults, it shows everyone how to think on their own, create their own set of standards and to accept people for people and not to discriminate each other based on the color of our eyes and skin. I believe that if we were all taught this lesson when were young It was able us as a society to be less judgmental and realize that not one person is different from the next, we are all created equal.

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