4 Symbolic Interactionism

4 Symbolic Interactionism - Contemporary Sociological...

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Contemporary Sociological Theory The Historical Roots of Symbolic Interactionism Symbolic interactionism, especially the work of George Herbert Mead (1863- 1931) , traces its roots to two intellectual traditions: pragmatism and psychological behaviorism. Mead adopted from the pragmatists three important themes: (1) a focus on the interaction between actors and the social world, (2) a view of both actors and the social world as dynamic processes, and (3) the centrality of actors' ability to interpret the social world. In sum, both pragmatism and symbolic interactionism view thinking as a process. Mead recognized the importance of overt, observable behavior, but expanded the understanding of mental capacities of most psychological behaviorists by stressing the importance of covert behavior. Unlike the radical behaviorists, Mead believed that there were significant differences between human beings and animals, particularly the human capacity to use language and dynamically created social reality. The Ideas of Mead Mead's most widely read work, Mind, Self and Society , gives priority to society over the mind and highlights the idea that the social leads to the development of mental states. To Mead, the mind is a process, not a thing, and is found in social phenomena rather than within individuals. The act is the fundamental union in Mead's theory, and it is represented by four stages: impulse, perception, manipulation, and consummation. The basic mechanism of the social act, according to Mead, is the gesture. Mead pays particular attention to one kind of gesture, significant symbols, which make it possible for humans to think, to communicate, and to be stimulators of their own actions. The self occupies a central place in Mead's theory. Mead defines the self as the
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This note was uploaded on 05/20/2010 for the course SOCIOLOGY Contempora taught by Professor N/a during the Spring '10 term at Open Uni..

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4 Symbolic Interactionism - Contemporary Sociological...

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