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Symbolic interaction theory explains individuals in a society and their interactions with others. Through that, it can give meaning to order and change. This theory comes from philosopher, psychologist, and sociologist George Hebert Mead in the early 20th century. He saw that the development of a person was a social process, as were the meanings of individuals assigned to things. Based on interactions with others, events, and objects people are subjected to change. People attach meaning to things to decide how to act.
Which had me thinking, from the gestures we use to the language we speak does it affect how other may see us. Humans act toward things on the basis in which they give meaning to those things. We perceive this meaning from having social interactions with others. Everyone makes their own decisions and these meanings are dependent on, an explicative process of the people who interact with one another. The focus here is on meaning which is defined in terms of action and its consequences. The meaning of a thing resides in the action that it produces. For example the word “water” is a home for fish and a drink for humans.
There are three main principles to symbol interactionism, which are meaning, language, and thinking (Mead, 2015). Meaning deals with humans that act toward people or things in the way that they attach meaning to those people or things. For example, imagine you and your friend are looking for a spot to study on the quad of your college campus, you find a nice shaded area under a tree but your friend doesn’t want to sit there because of the beehive above. You may not have a problem with sitting under the tree because bees do not scare you, but your friend does because it scares her. Hence, the two have different meanings of what sitting under the tree imposes.
Language deals with social interactions between others. Meaning is negotiated between two people who speak a common language or common symbols. Language and gestures are used in anticipation that others will respond, along with verbal and non-verbal responses. Thinking deals with the way we interpret symbols for ourselves, through our own process. For instance, lets just say that you’re about to try your first meatball and you don’t believe it will be pleasant on the tongue. After you’ve tasted and eaten the meatball, you changed your mind and you think that meatballs do taste good. The meaning we give something is not permanent because it can change due to simple everyday life decisions.
The theory is trying to predict our meaning, language, and thinking within the concept of ourselves. The self is a function of language, we’re not born with a sense of self, it comes when we interact with others. If we don’t interact with others, then there can’t be sense of self. (Mead, 2015). The looking glass self is our mental image that results from taking on the role of others. Our self-image is reflected upon the expectations of others, whether encouraging or discouraging. The way we describe ourselves is by using the term ‘I’, and this is the way we shelter our intimate selves from other people. The way we describe ourselves through the view of others is by using the word ‘me’, which is when we take the role of someone else through our own self-image. This can also be referred to as a “role of the other” which is imaging how we look to another person.
As humans, we interact through symbols daily. This how we communicate with one another, it is through symbols that meaning is associated with interpretation and action. Sometimes people tend to disagree with the way we view things. A person can experience inconsistency when they become psychologically uncomfortable and this can lead them to avoid certain situations and information that can likely increase their physiological discomfort. Humans strive for internal consistency.
The first journal article I read dealt with the sensitivity to feedback and the development of self, (Edwards, 1990). Symbolic interactionist have theorized that a person’s sense of self comes from communication, because of the feedback received from others. People who tend to be more sensitive to feedback will develop different self-concepts than individuals who are less sensitive to feedback will develop different self-concepts than individuals who are less sensitive to feedback. Two investigations were conducted and revealed that high sensitives are more self-schematic than low sensitives. Suggestions concerning the role of sensitivity to feedback and self-schemas for interpersonal communication were discussed.
Study one first compared males and females, on all three levels of sensitivity to feedback. Different levels of sensitivity to feedback were revealed, high sensitives and medium sensitives were significantly more self-schematic than low sensitives. In the second analysis study one deleted the medium sensitives variance and compared high and low sensitives on self-schematicism. People who are more sensitive to feedback have a conception of self that is more fully developed than do persons who have low sensitivity to feedback.
In study two analysis it showed that high sensitives are more self-schematic. (Edwards. 1990). They require less additional feedback into their definition of self. Students were tested on this issue by examining their self-perceptions in a performance base course in public speaking. 96 students were enrolled in public speaking course taught by four different instructors at a large university. Out of the subjects in the sample, 42% were male and 58% were female, the average age was 20 years old. Students were asked to complete the sensitivity to feedback scale and self-rating scale during class. The self-rating scale included 2 items that asked the respondents to rate the extent to which they perceived themselves in public speaking.
Professors provided the experimenter grades that students had received for three speeches they performed in class. These grades represented the self-relevant feedback students had received about their public speaking ability. For each group of students, the average instructor grades and students self-perception scores were correlated. Correlations were computed for each instructor separately and then averaged across instructors by weighting got group size.
Symbolic interactionists theorize that a sense of self comes in communication as a result of feedback from others. Each person that we interact with calls for a unique self. A person who has multiple partners that they communicate with have more self experience. The results of this study showed that individuals are not born with a sense of self and that determines how information is processed. Sensitivity to feedback appears at earlier stages and this mediates the development of the self. Research also suggest that sensitivity to feedback mediates the ways in which people process self-relevant feedback.
In the second journal article it discussed the acquisition of the self in an offline environment. Thoughts, feelings and actions are three main concepts that our self embodies. Humans receive their experiences through the perspective of others. A situation was mentioned that a 4th grader spent most of his time participating in community service work, because he enjoyed helping the community. One day he heard his friends making fun of him for doing this. That hurt his feelings and so he reacted in return with a snarky remark. He imagined himself through the view of his peers, he built his own role as a reaction to the image his friends had about him. The frustration he felt relates to the situated identity, he wants to differentiate himself from his friends, making clear that he is a unique being.
Humans share common feelings and goals, creating a social reality. The 4th grader let himself emotions control him, before confronting any of his friends. One of his friends came to him later after school and asked him why was he so frustrated. After the 4th grader talked to his friend, he realized that his prejudices blinded him in understanding the entirety of the situation. Afterwards he figured his friends mentioned community service work, because they were thinking of doing the same. If the 4th grader understood the situation from the very beginning his frustration wouldn’t have occurred.
The third journal article I read studied an approach through the understanding of self-concept, significant others, and the social influence process (McDermott, 1980). In this experiment, an analysis was constructed on the extension of symbolic interactionist that people develop their communication by maintaining and changing their life self-concepts with others. The author decided to view communication networks along two dimensions, social networks and contacts within the social networks. The network of interpersonal influence is assumed to be quite stable, but their impact is viewed as attitude-specific.

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