SOCI1513 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Symbolic Interactionism, Social Actions, Behaviorism

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1 Aug 2016
Lecture 2
Symbolic interactionism is a theoretical approach to
understanding the relationship between humans and
The basic notion of symbolic interactionism is that human
action and interaction are understandable only through
the exchange of meaningful communication or symbols.
In this approach, humans are portrayed as acting, as
opposed to being acted upon.
Human beings act toward things on the basis of the
meanings that things have for them These meanings
arise out of social interaction Social action results from a
fitting together of individual lines of action.
This approach stands in contrast to the strict behaviorism
of psychological theories prevalent at the time it was first
According to symbolic interactionism, humans are distinct
from infrahumans because infrahumans simply respond
to their environment, whereas humans have the ability to
interrupt that process.
Infrahumans are unable to conceive of alternative
responses to gestures.
This understanding should not be taken to indicate that
humans never behave in a strict stimulus response
fashion, but rather that humans have the capability of
responding in a different way, and do so much of the
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