Concept of Symbolic Interactionism

it is micro level theoretical perspective. It provides the theoretical perspective that helps scholars examine the relationship of individuals within their society.

It is centered on the notion that communication through language and symbols- is how people make sense of their social worlds. It studies how people, in everyday interaction, construct reality.

Max Weber’s claim that people’s beliefs and values shape society is the basis of the social –interaction approach.

George Herbert Mead ( 1863- 1931) is considered one of the founders of symbolic interactionism.

Key Assumptions

  • Emphasized on the importance of understanding of the social world from the individual points of view.
  • Focused on social behavior on everyday life situation.
  • Assumption of society as the product of the everyday interactions of individual.
  • Focuses on how people view, describe and explain shared meanings underlying everyday social life.
  • Emphasized on cognitive aspect.
  • Based on micro level theoretical orientation.
  • It developed around the middle of the twentieth century.

Interactionism of George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer

George Herbert Mead (1863-1931)

Hewas an American philosopher and sociologist. He explored how our personalities develop as a result of social experiences.

The two most important roots of mead’s work and of symbolic interactionism in general, are the philosophy of pragmatism and social behaviorism.

Three ideas are critical to symbolic interactionism:

  • The focus on the interaction between the actor and the world.
  • A view of both the actor and the world as dynamic processes and not static structure
  • The 'Me' and the 'I':

Mead distinguishes between the 'me' and 'I'. The 'me' is the social self and the 'I' is the response to me. The 'I' is the response of the organism to the attitudes of the others; the 'me' is the organized set of attitudes of others which one assumes. Mead defines the 'me' as a conventional habitual individual and the 'I' as the novel reply of the individual to the generalized other.

There is a dialectical relationship between society and the individual and this dialectic is enacted on the intra-psychic level in terms of the polarity of the 'me' and the 'I'.

Herbert Blumer (1900- 1987)

He was an American sociologist whose main scholarly interests were symbolic interactionism and methods of social research.

His main work- “ Symbolic Interactionism: perspective and method (1986)”

He argued that the creation of social reality is a continuous process. Blumer coined the term “ symbolic interactionism” and identified its three basic premises:

  1. Humans act toward things on the basis of the meaning they ascribe to those things.
  2. The social interaction that one has with others and the society.
  3. An interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounter.


Research done from this perspective is often scrutinized because of the difficulty of remaining objective. Others criticize the extremely narrow focus on symbolic interaction.