SOC 233 October 17, 2011
Focus on interpretation; social meaning.
The way meaning is socially constructed on a small scale (e.g., greeting, face-to-face
Categorization of the Social World
3 Premises of Categorization:
1. Categorize Similar Experiences
Based on unconscious and conscious experiences.
2. Order and Regularity
eg) How we define a mother has regularity; often perceived as a nurturing,
compassionate person who cares for children.
3. Meaning to Categories
Identifications, social meanings and social characteristics based upon the category or
eg) When we meet somebody for the first time, we open up categorizations; ways in
which we can identify people.
Used to alter the way we interact based upon categories.
Mead, Blumer and Goffman.
Focus on the way in which individuals (i.e., social actors) consciously act, rather than simply
react to social stimulation.
The way in which different social actors interpret the behaviour of others.
Focus on meaning people give to behaviour, and how people interpret the meaning of
Humans are social, creative and have the ability for reflection; capacity for thought.
Thought is shaped by social interaction.
People learn symbols through interaction.
Meanings and symbols allow for human action (e.g., traffic lights).
People interpret a situation and modify their actions or interaction.
People can create own meanings.
Group and societies are made up of patterns of action and interaction. Mead’s: Symbolic Meanings
1. Gestures and Significant Symbols
People respond in meaningful ways to different stimuli.
Gesture indicates meaning of the act; will be interpreted by another person and will
influence the way they respond.
eg) An individual pulls out a pack of cigarettes at a table. If you smoke, you might share
a cigarette together. If you do not smoke, you might get up and move away to avoid the
2. Significant Symbol
Have the same meaning for all concerned.
We share the understanding for what it means.
Assumes interpretation of the symbol.
People don’t just react – they interpret each other’s actions on the basis of symbols.
eg) Thumb’s up sign – In our society, the thumb’s up sign means “okay,” but we don’t
automatically react to it the same way because we interpret it differently.
eg) If someone yells “FIRE!,” we all understand the language, but react differently. Some
might get up and run, some might question whether there is a fire, and some might ask
where the fire is located.
Mead’s: The Self
We are acting organisms; not a passive receptacle.
Process of self-interaction.
Action organized through interpretation of events.
People, through self-interaction can form and guide their own behaviour.
Note – People form and guide behaviour through their interactions with others.
eg) Tomato – What does a tomato mean? Is it sitting on your salad, or am I throwing it in your
A tomato is being used in two different contexts.
A tomato is just a thing, but how we use it defines the action.
Mead’s: I & Me
I: Source of identity, originality, creativity and spontaneity.
Characteristic of animals.
Me: Perspectives of oneself that the individual has learned from other (internalized).
Conditioned, controlled, conforms to norm.
Guides the behaviour of the socialized person.
Who, what and where influence the “ME” part of ourself. eg) Burning your hand – The “I” will react spontaneously by removing your hand quickly from
the hot spot. The “ME” part is determined by where you are and who you are with.
Q – How does gender influence the “ME” when burning your hand?
A man may respond in a more masculine way; swear, act tough, etc.
A woman may respond in a more feminine way; cry, wince, etc.
Note – The “ME” will often think “what will they think of ME?”
Mead’s: Self-Interaction – ROLE TAKING
Role Taking: Ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; assume the role of another.
Internal conversations one has with on