SOC 3310 Study Guide - Final Guide: Symbolic Interactionism, Nancy Chodorow, Impression Management
SchoolUniversity of Guelph
Course CodeSOC 3310
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Symbolic Interactionism- Believes a common set of symbols and understanding is possessed by
people in a group. Focuses on a person‟s interactions with internal thoughts and feelings.
Weber-Defined sociology and emphasized verstehen (understanding/subjective meaning). He
believed action is social because of the subjective meaning attached to it by the person doing the
Georg Simmel-Believed human interaction was of interest on an individual level and focuses on
individual experiences and decisions. Believed in 2 key concepts: dyad (unstable because if one
person leaves the whole disappears) and triad (unstable because they can be a majority rules
where two impose their will on the other).
Thomas-Created “definition of the situation” in that people evaluate the situation and then can
act and can act differently to the same situation. Believed that if people define the situation as
real then they are real in there consequences.
Cooley-Developed the “looking glass self” which is that you understand yourself only through
what is reflected back at you by others.
Mead-Focused on issues of women‟s suffrage, labour, education etc. The self is an acting
organism, not a passive person that receives and responds to stimuli. It is a social process of
interaction. Things are converted to objects only through the act of the individual e.g. tomato.
The “I” is the instinctual response to others or stimuli, the “me” is the perspectives about
yourself that you have learned from others.
-Kuhn believes a paradigm is a universally accepted scientific achievement and that people will
disregard different findings that disprove the paradigm. Mead says that this disregard or
acknowledgement of new discoveries is largely dependent on self-interaction.
-Development of self, 3 stages: 1) Preplay at age 2 is meaningless because the child cannot take
on the role of the other. 2) Play is in later childhood where they begin to take on the role of the
other (“me”) through role play but cannot connect them. 3) Game stage is where several players
act together and each member must anticipate the attitudes, roles and actions of all other players
usually in team sports. Lever says that boys play more outdoors and learn of the generalized
other better preparing them for life whereas girls learn the particular other of being a wife etc.
-A gesture is a significant symbol as it provides a whole act and prompts others to respond to it
in the way the gesturer also defines the gesture.
Blumer-Coined the term symbolic interactionism in relation to social psychologists. He believed
infants have natural impulses but they are disorganized and a child grows and develops as adults
organize their unorganized impulses. Blumer followed Mead extensively.
-Stimulus interpretation response is that A does an action, B responds according to his
interpretation of the action and A respond according to the meaning attached to B‟s response.
-3 basic premises of symbolic interactionism: 1) Humans act towards things based on the
meaning that the thing has for them, 2)Meanings of things comes out of social interaction with
others, 3)the meaning of things are handled and modified through an interpretive process used by
persons in dealing with things they encounter.
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-Does not deny the idea of social institutions or social structure but believes they have little to no
effect on people. Does not deny structured action, however, this is not the only thing that
influences conduct as there are many situations where actions are unstructured or not defined.
-Symbolic Interactionism is an inductive theory where you observe and understand your
evidence before you make hypothesise and conclusions.
-Exploration provides the researcher with knowledge of social life that is unfamiliar to him and
to focus the researcher‟s investigation and the research problem in empirical evidence. This
happens through observation, journals, newspapers and focus groups of observant individuals in
your target population.
-Inspection is the process of analyzing the exploration.
Hochschild-Created “sociology of emotion” subfield of sociology. Emotional labour is the
management of feeling to create a publically observable facial and bodily display, is sold for a
wage and has exchange value. Has 3 characteristics; 1) must have face to face or voice to voice
interaction with the public, 2) worker is required to produce a certain emotional state in a person,
3) the employer can exercize a degree of control over the emotional activities of employees.
Believed in “emotive dissonance” where what we feel and what we publically show differ.
Nancy Chodorow- believed that boys rejected their relationship with their mother (first
emotional relationship) and thus did not develop feminine relational skills whereas the opposite
was true for girls.
Collins-Defines espistemology as the study of nature of grounds of knowledge with references to
its limits and validity. Afrocentric espistemology is 1) concrete experiences as a criteria for
meaning, 2) use of dialogue in assessing knowledge claims, 3) the ethic of caring and 4) the ethic
of personal accountability.
Goffman-Total institution is a place where a large number of people, cut off from the wider
society, together lead an enclosed, formally administered life. People in these institutions engage
in secondary adjustments which are habitual arrangements and actions that segregate the person
and makes them unique in an institution of similars. Individuals act in “resisting the pull” and
“residing in the cracks.”
-Dramaturgy is the idea of analyzing everyday life in theatrical ways. People engage in
impression management where individuals guide and control others perceptions of them. Front
stage is what most people see, generally function in a fixed way to show one impression and
includes furniture, age, gender, clothing and speech patterns etc. It includes anything that is
considered important for the performance. Back region is the part that no one sees where people
practice impression management and also the point where people can relax and rest. E.g. In a
Laundromat (front stage) people try to conceal that things that indicate their backstage (e.g.
padded bras and stained clothes etc). When front stage fails and backstage cannot quickly
enough correct the fail this can have disastrous results depending on the acceptable time to fix
-The house is a socializing depot for children. Boys and girls are training devices for each other.
Genderism is a sex linked individual behavioural practice.
-Basic units and structures of interaction process are: 1) persons, 2) contacts, 3)encounters,
4)platform performances (meetings and plays before an audience), 5)celebrative social occasions
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CP Blumer-Symbolic interactionism believes people act towards things based on the meaning
they have for them, meanings come from social interaction and that these meaning are handled
and changed in an interpretive process.
-Two views of meaning; the things itself is the meaning of itself or the person viewing the things
hold the meaning and applies it to the thing based on psychological response of the person.
Symbolic interaction see meaning as coming from interaction.
-Culture is norms, rules, actions etc based on what people do (action) and social structure based
on status, authority etc is based on how people act to each other.
-Symbolic interactionism recognizes social interaction takes place when one responds to the
action of another without interpreting it and symbolic interaction is where you interpret before
you react. Reflexes is non-symbolic interaction which we engage in often but if we seek to add
meaning that is symbolic.
-Gestures have specific meanings to the person who does them and to the person who receives it.
Gestures indicate to a person what to do, what the person plans to do and the nature of the action
they are both in.
-Objects can be classified in 3 ways; physical social and abstract (justice). Common objects
occur when lots of people give a thing the same meaning. A human being can be an object of his
CP Humphreys-We must understand technology as a function and reflection of society. The
telephone solved problems of time and space but forced people to create new rules of
engagement to change the social world to meet the new technology.
-Goffman offers models of normative behaviour in public spaces and Hopper suggests social
rules for telephone use which can both be applied to cellphones. Goffman describes how people
are split into “singles” and “withs” and that singles are considered strange to not be part of a
with. Singles use defensive mechanisms such as drinking coffee or reading a magazine as a way
to prove their usage of public space is legitimate.
-Crosstalk is when a with talks with someone else leaving the other With feeling awkward and
engage in similar defence mechanisms as singles do. When a cellphone rings and someone
answers it, the other person feels awkward.
-Civil inattention is Goffman‟s word for people who avoid socially inappropriate interactions in
public spaces. When people talk on cellphones others who do different behaviours may be trying
to give the person privacy. However, many people listen anyways. People were more likely to
obviously listen if the conversation was about them or if they knew both callers.
-Must balance the needs of the physical person present with the caller. Often talk to the caller but
use nonverbal cues to communicate with the physical person.
-3 way communication is when the physical person talks to the caller as well as the answerer.
-Typically the caller had the power because they know who they are calling and why. Voicemail
changes the power to the answerer. Called ID also gives the answerer more power. Because
cellphones are not at home but in the public space the public activity may be more important
than the ringing phone.
-People most often look at who is calling or screen calls but also have a perception that this is
rude and does not happen to them/should never happen.
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