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SOC 107 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: George Herbert Mead, Harold Garfinkel, Herbert Blumer

Course Code
SOC 107
Melanie Knight
Study Guide

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Chapter 1: Cultural Expectations and Everyday Interactions
As Canadians, we are born into an exceedingly complex culture
Culture: knowledge, attitudes, values, beliefs, customs, and morals shared by a members
of society
Our cultural becomes so familiar to us at an early age that we tend to take it for granted
Everyday life appears to be a reality that rarely requires explanation
We generally know which behaviours are proper and which would be improper in a given
There are a number of cultural expectations
These expectations are defined (or expressed) as social conventions or norms, which
make up for the acceptable behaviours
There are many conventions that we all share a consensus about: space, time,
posture/gesture, actions, and behaviour
Social Convention and Social Order
Spatial Conventions
The study of spatial conventions or norms reading space between people in everyday
behaviours has been labeled proxemics
Personal Space: waiting in line at bus terminal, public transportation, students in
Appropriate Distances in everyday interactions
Normal conversational distance is about 2 feet
4 common distances used in interpersonal communication were distinguished by Edward
intimate distance, personal distance, social distance, public distance
Intimate Distance: 0-18 inches
Personal Distance: 1.5 - 4 feet
Social Distance: 4-12 feet
Public Distance: 12 feet +
we also abide by certain norms based on the spaces we inhabit….
Time Conventions
Temporal (time related) conventions and perceptions are linked to a society’s level of
urbanization and industrialization
An orientation to time, rather than to task or social activities, becomes the crucial
characteristic of industrial capitalist societies
Time conventions, capitalism and class oppression

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Karl Marx:
Marx was disturbed by the fact that so much wealth was being created in England during
the Industrial Revolution, yet little of that wealth was being distributed to individuals
upon whose back this wealth was created
Conflict/Class Oppression in industrial capitalism is focused around time
Simmel- onset of 20th century, life in new metropolis required extensive use of clocks and
Time, power and status in social interactions
Facial, Posture and Gesture Conventions:
Kinesics: the sociological study of body movement and gesture, is concerned with the
shared cultural meanings attached to non-verbal behaviours
Our internal emotional states are sometimes reflected in our outward appearance
Non-verbal communication can be instrumental in avoiding communication
Goffman (1963) calls them “involvement shields” are also used to avoid any kinds of
contact with others
The Interpretation of Everyday Life
The examples are only a small fraction of rules that constitute a critical part of any
Beyond knowledge of background rules, successful interaction requires: engaging in a
process of interpretation through which a situation is assessed and meanings are assigned
to a person’s own behaviours and those of others
Interpretation in the Acting Situation
Behaviour is always produced via interpretations in the acting situation
They may be in a state of continual transformation
According to Herbert Blumer: There are innumerable points at which participants are redefining
each others acts
The Dynamic Interplay of Expectations and Interpretations
There is a dynamic interplay between society’s expectations for individuals and their own
responses in situations

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The most appropriate conception of daily life, therefore, requires that we understand
human behaviour as an ongoing interchange or a dialectic, between freedom and
Sociology of Everyday Life
Processes governing everyday life have largely been ignored
Many sociologists consider them only the starting point for their own more macro
sociological investigation of large – scale processes and social structures
Harold Garfinkel (1967): importance of micro sociological investigation of individual’s
daily interactions
Harold Garfinkel:
Ethnomethodology as a technique for looking beneath the “taken for granted”
“Doing something that turns the would upside down the unspoken reality is revealed”
Enthomethodologists look to find, collect, specify, and make observable the production
of society’s most ordinary organizational things in the world
Symbolic Interactionism:
Symbolic interactionism has been most concerned with the meanings that people give to
actions, events and spaces and with understanding how these meanings are constructed
and negotiated
Herbert Blumer 1900-1987
3 central premises of SI
Human beings act towards things or situation on the basis of the meaning that the things
or situations (symbols) have for them
These meanings are derived from or arise out of the social interactions
These meanings are handled or modified through the interpretative process
The Origin of Symbolic Interactionism:
SI grew out of the American philosophical tradition of pragmatism in the late 19th century
Pragmatism is an approach discussed in the writings of (developed by): Pierce, James,
and Dewey
Pragmatism was meant to challenge classical rationalism
Pragmatists differed from rationalists in its assumptions about
1. The nature of reality
2. The nature of the human knower
3. The relationship between facts, truths, and knowledge
4. The role of science
George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)
Thought and behaviour emerge through the processes of interaction and communication
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