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Final

SOC 107 Study Guide - Final Guide: George Herbert Mead, Pragmatism, Behaviorism


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC 107
Professor
Melanie Knight
Study Guide
Final

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SOC 107
Exam Review
Professor Toews
2 medium essays → 3-4 paragraphs in each essay
2 or 3 questions and answer in 1 essay
Symbolic Interactionism
Definition: the school of thought in sociology that explains social behaviour in terms of how
people interact with each other via symbols (languages, gestures). This idea was developed
by George Herbert Mead.
Basic Ideas:
We humans respond to the meaning of things that happen to us, not to the things
themselves directly
Human reality is symbolic
Actors are fundamentally oriented to interpreting the attitude of the other
Actors must work together to define the situation in which things have meaning
MEAD’s three dimensions of thought:
Pragmatism:
Body of ideas that have had successful practical application
“What we can know is useful to us”
An idea is true if it has a practical benefit in my life
Meant to challenge classical rationalism through
The nature of reality
The nature of the human knower
The relationship between facts, truth and knowledge
The role of science
Example:
Imagine you applied for a job, but instead of offering you the job you wanted, they offered
you a lower position.
As an idealist, you would reject the offer, with the rationale that you would
eventually find the job you wanted
As a pragmatist, you would accept the job with the rationale that it's better than
nothing and you might get promoted or transferred to the job you actually wanted.
Naturalism

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Naturalists study only what they can observe
Certain qualities become more common in a population (ex. Traits that aid survival)
Key quality among humans is the ability to think → thinking is a social process →
growth and change in society
There are only natural forces operating in the universe
Example: race
Heredity. Your biological makeup influenced your actions. In this way, men and
women would behave differently in the same situation, for example. Race was
somewhat simplified and perhaps stereotyped and almost certainly by today’s
standards, racist. For example, in naturalist literature Africans were seen as more
“passionate” and impulsive people.
Behaviourism
Study of social life
Shaped by stimulus and response
Mead is a social behaviorist (gestures and social objects) with rich meanings are the
stimuli, not a psychological behaviorist (in which stimuli are bare physical objects)
Example
If a high school student is late to school more than three times in a marking period,
he or she will earn a detention and have to stay after school. School officials hope
that the possibility of having to serve time in detention will encourage students to
come to school on time
Consequences of meaning and symbols in social interaction
Consequences of symbol use…
We as humans always seek to take the attitude of the other:
Try to figure out intentions or meaning behind statement
Stop and listen to understand another human being
What separates the gestures of humans from those of other animals is that
humans ‘take the attitude of the other’
Eg having a conversation; going on a date; going for a job interview
Seeing things anew ‘through the eyes’ of another
A human mind (our power of thinking) is our ability to have an internal conversation
that is modelled on our outward conversations
Our inner thoughts echo the demands and concerns that come from the
outward situations and things that happen to us
Over time, with practice and experience, using symbols results in us ‘constructing’
and depending upon a sense of our unique self as distinct from others
Social order involves adjusting our individual behavior to get along with others, eg.
playing games
We see others in terms of the social roles they are playing

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Consequences of naming our actions → social objects
Naming assigns meaning
For example in relationships
Makes it easier to rationalize, and negotiate
Easy to identify, giving significance
We decide to name a segment of our actions:
In advance
In the moment
Afterwards
Social objects of interpretation by ourselves and others
We do not have complete freedom to interpret, name and define social
objects the way we would prefer
Our actions looks different to other people (older people, children etc)
Actors and their actions become social objects for their actors. This affects their, and
our, self-definitions
Symbolic interactionist-- “definition of the situation”
Our definitions of particular situations are open to interpretation and
reinterpretations
The process of definition involves power struggles
Example:
Bad relationship with sister. She loses her job and comes to you for emotional
support, you both grow closer to one another and expresses her appreciation for your
help. The loss of her job becomes an opportunity to connect with other aspects of
who your sister is as a person.
A symbolic interactionist would look at this series of events and note how your
experiences and interactions with your sister for your understanding of reality.
Before she loses her job, you have one version of reality in your mind.
Symbolically you see your sister as having an unfair advantage in the world
and hold this idea in your mind
When the dynamic shifts and you play a role of supporting her in a time of
need, the meaning of your sisters life fluctuates, changes and develops
All of this is based on the social interaction you have, language and symbolic
meanings given to these events and thoughts
Mead and Cooley’s model of the development of the self
Cooley and Mead were inspired by the traditions and questions associated with the “i”
which became rich and layered with many perspectives.
George Herbert Mead: key is development
of the Self
Charles Cooley: key is presentation of self
Looking Glass self
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