READING CLASS 5:
KEY POINTS OF SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM
THE INFLUENCE OF AMERICAN PRAGMATISM:
1. What is real depends on our interpretation.
2. What is knowledge is determined by what we end up remembering and forgetting. Usefulness is a factor in retention.
3. Social objects are noticed in terms of their usefulness.
4. The study of action tells much about the actor.
GEORGE HERBERT MEAD ON SYMBOLS AND SOCIETY
THE IMPORTANCE OF SYMBOLIC MEANINGS AND COMMUNICATIONS
SYMBOLS MAKE HUMAN COMMUNICATION POSSIBLE
SYMBOLS MAKE LIFE COHERENT BY ALLOWING US TO HAVE SHARED MEANINGS
By consequence, symbols make people interdependent by providing them with a common
socially-defined reality.OBJECTS TAKE ON SYMBOLIC MEANINGS UNDERSTOOD BY SOCIAL ACTORS, THEREBY PERMITTING INTERACTION.
Life consists of objects: physical objects, animals, people, our own selves, emotions, ideas.
Symbols: Flags, black scarf for funeral, fireworks for celebrations, police officers in uniforms, medical doctors in white coats, stop signs, danger signs, a wave of the hand.
What makes an object meaningful is the symbolic meaning we assign to it.
A symbol is a social object that has successfully been used for communication.
Symbols consist of WORDS, ACTS, and OBJECTSIn order to exist, a society needs:
. A SHARED CULTURE
. CUMULATIVE KNOWLEDGE
HUMAN SOCIETY DEPENDS ON:
1. Naming, Memorizing, Categorizing.
3. Deliberation and Problem Solving
4. Transcendence of Time and Space
5. Transcendence of ones own person
6. Imagination of abstract reality: conceptualization
WHAT IS SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM?
1. To understand human beings we have to understand how they interact.
2. Human being use symbols. They are important and have meaning.
3. We have a self. We act on the world as well as on our self.
4. We engage in mind action---out thoughts become actions.
5. We take on the role of others as part of our interactions.
6. Culture is determined through human interaction over a long period of time. This includes shorter periods of sudden change.
FIVE CENTRAL IDEAS OF SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM:
1. The role of social interaction
2. The role of thinking
3. The role of the definition
4. The role of the present
5. The role of the active human: THE SELFTHE HUMAN MIND
The emergent human concept of interaction suggests that we are able to act back on the
environment. We are not passive.
We define our environment and decide what to do with one another according to necessity as well as preference.
MIND and SELF are linked and allow us to negotiate reality through symbol manipulation.
All mental processes are ACTIVITIES. This active conception of mind implies that thinking is an act of doing just as is behavior.
MIND is the sum of the actions that the actor takes towards herself or another. MIND consists of all the symbols learned by the actor, put in context of an Internal Conversation.
So then what is the SELF?
The SELF is the social and physical object that the actor talks to during an internal conversation or during the experiencing of a sensation or emotion. It is not the mind-action
The definition of a situation according to its degree of usefulness is an action of the mind.
While the brain negotiates the living organisms capacity to survive mind allows the survival to have symbolic meaning and conceptual sense.
Is self-interaction as well as other-interaction.
MIND ACTION allows:
1- forethought and the control of overt action.
2- the creation of meaning
3- the creation of negotiations with other actors
4- the rehearsal of many possible actions and the selection of some over others
5- the ability to restrain oneself mentally, physically and emotionally from utterances and acts not judged beneficial to self and community. Very importantly, MIND ACTION allows for problem-solving. Humankind has survived only due to the use of the mind.
MIND ACTION is most intense when there is a problem needing solving. Periods of rapid social change and risk produce considerable intellectual activity. (I.e. French and American
Revolutions and the literature emerging from same). Remember the film CASTAWAY? Intense mind-action occurs as the man marooned on an island tries to survive and give meaning to his isolated life. The coconut becomes a reflection of his self as well as 'the other.' The conversation is intense and meaningful. So is the locket of his beloved to whom he addresses tender words.
When we receive criticism or rejection, we are forced into intense mind action to explain to ourselves the meaning of the event. The pain makes us come up with explanations and sometimes these become lies told to the self to preserve it from feeling the hurt. Prior experience will determine what meanings we create to explain disappointments as well as successes.
Whether our problem-solving is realistic or fantasy-based, it involves a conversation with self through the use of mental activity.
So MENTAL ACTIVITY Is a CONVERSATION with SELF.
THE SELF arises out of such conversations.
Mind and Self are not synonymous. Mind acts on the Self through symbolic conversation. The SELF remains a product of the mind while also acting as a WITNESS.
I (SELF) and ME (the personal conversation) are therefore intimately related.
The ongoing conversation means that we live in a space that goes beyond stimulus-response. And here is where SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONIST differ from Behaviorism.
WHAT ARE THE POLITICAL-SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF SUCH
A CONCEPTION OF SELF? What does it tell us about the sociology of change?
TAKING THE ROLE OF THE OTHER
Communication would not be possible without us being able to understand the other as a social object.
ROLE TAKING is imagining the world from the PERSPECTIVE of the other(s).
Put yourself in the others shoes .get in their skin get in their mind .
We need to understand each others points of view as well as the points of view of the society in which we live.
The OTHER, therefore, is a specific as well as generalized other. It is our mother, father, uncle, friend, teacher, government, church, school, TV station.
The emergence of self is, therefore, wholly dependent on the taking on of the PERSPECTIVES of others.
4 Stages to Socialization:
1- Preparatory- we imitate others in order to experience the other. In experiencing the other we experience our self as a social object.
2- The play stage- we take on the role of significant others through play. We take the roles of others one a time .the self has yet to put it all together.
3- The game stage- we take on through the rules of games the collective rules of the environment. We are now better able to understand the multiplicity of meanings that go into successful social action.
4- The reference group stage- we are not divided between many social worlds. Our self is the multiple self. We take on the role of different reference groups according to the situation.
It is therefore from the perspectives of others that we learn to relate to our SELF.SYMBOLS + MIND + ROLE TAKING = SELF
ALL ACTION TOWARDS THE SELF IS SYMBOLIC ACTION.
So, the reverse is true also. The taking on of roles allows the self to create symbolic meanings = MIND ACTIVITY.
ROLE TAKING is dependent on SELF, SYMBOLS AND MIND. These concepts are interconnected. Thus, why we call this an interactive theory of Self and Society. This ability to 'put it all together' increases with experience.
NINE WAYS THAT ROLE-TAKING IS CENTRAL TO
1- Important for the emergence of SELF.
2- Important for action towards the self in all situations.
3- Important for learning our perspectives on things.
4- Important for working through social situations and dilemmas.
5- Important for controlling the interaction through manipulation, restraint and compensatory expressions.
6- Important and necessary for love to happen. (Boy do we need more of this taking on of the roles and feelings of other in relationships!).
7- Important for human cooperation.
8- Important for coding symbolic communication.
9- Allows us to see the present from variety of perspectives and to
speculate on future action and consequences.
Human action is a never-ending process.
It is best described as a STREAM OF ACTION.
Every act leads to another act.
We can understand social process by observing action, not as an isolated event, but as an interactive stream shared by all actors.
Standing between interaction with self and interaction with others is personal decision and interpretation.
Mutual action affects individual decision ..and individual decision affects mutual understanding.
ACTIONS, GOALS AND SOCIAL OBJECTS
Individual acts are social objects on which we focus yet they belong to the total stream of action.
Actions unfold around goals and schemes.
4 STAGES OF THE ACT:
4) Consummation (or completion)
An act begins when the organism is in a state of disequilibrium.
An act begins when a problem needs solving or a goal needs
to be attained.
QUESTION TO CONSIDER: how does emotion act as an impulse?
Stimuli create definitions of situations which then lead to action.
Standing between the stimuli and the act is the symbolic use of the mind and the defining of the situation.
Following a definition, we evaluate the environment and choose the objects towards which to direct our actions.
CONSUMMATION or COMPLETION.
The end of the act .the achievement of the goal.
So humans actively perceive, manipulate and act on their Environments.
How they do this depends on their power, status and their prior habituations.
Acts can emerge from well-defined situations or ill-conceived situations.
They can be adaptive or non-adaptive, constructive or non-constructive.
THE CAUSE OF HUMAN ACTION:
Free choice: desire translated into action.
Personality: a habitual way of re-acting.
Social environment: action determined by social forces.SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM
Action not caused by past, personality or social forces but by actors decisions and responses to the decisions of others as part of a common stream of thought and action.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT PARTS OF DEFINING A SITUATION?
Taking on of role.
Defining the self in the situation and where one is in relation to the situation
Giving self an identity in the situation.
Imagining the effects of ones action on the other and on the future.
Using knowledge from the past and memories from the past.
THE ROLE OF THE PAST IN HUMAN ACTION:
Past is massive. The present is a split second. Despite the past, the present takes on great importance because it requires a rapid definition of the situation and a choice of response.
THE ROLE OF THE FUTURE:
It is imagination that brings the future into the present. We can never be sure .
ACTION AND MOTIVES:
We are goal directed. MOTIVES AND GOALS ARE DIFFERENT
A motive is a desire. A goal is the imagined destination of our desire .the consummation.
MOTIVES ARE THE STATED REASONS FOR AN ACT. THEY ARE SOMETIMES OVERSIMPLIFIED EXPLANATIONS.
ACTIONS AND EMOTIONS:
Expression and repression are acts based on definitions of situations. We MANAGE our emotions.