In order to understand the behaviors in society, then, one must understand the functions those behaviors represent. Through symbolically representing their roles within society, the other members understand what they can expect. …
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1). One of the basic ideas that support the theory of symbolic interactionism is that human beings are defined by meanings that they apply to their experience within the world. Herman (2003) writes that “Meanings, then, are conceived as social products arising through the defining acts of individuals as they engage in social interactions – social products that may, in turn, exert influences upon them” (p. 1). Through symbols that have meaning, human beings are able to navigate the world as it relates to culture and environment, a sense of order created out of commonly understood symbols and the meanings for those symbols. Gaining control over meanings is essential in being successful within the social environment. An example of this sense of control can be seen through the application of the theories of symbolic interaction to the anti-social behaviors of crime. In a community in which social cohesion has been established, those who live in those areas will feel safer through the symbols of safety that they can observe and understand. This can mean anything from the presence of police to the installation of gates. The presence of police can actually also provide the reverse symbolism as the police are usually present where crime has occurred. It is the interpretation of their presence in relationship to their purpose that creates either a meaning of safety or threat (Denzin & Faust, 2011). 2. What is the foundation of symbolic interaction? The foundation of symbolic interaction was developed through observation of human behavior. The term was fist coined by Herbert Blumer in 1937, with applications of the term being appropriate to the work of George Herbert Mead and Charles Horton Cooley. Cooley approached the study of human behavior through language, process, and sympathetic introspection. His work was “steeped in morality and eclecticism” (Prus, 1996, p. 49). He also focused on the role of interaction in bonding people together. Cooley’s contention was that understanding these bonding practices was central to understanding society (Prus, 1996). Cooley wrote that “The ideal for sociology is to extend the behavior record to all the essential acts of man, making them intelligible, imaginable and predictable” (Prus, 1996, p. 49). The purpose of the sociological examination is to understand how behaviors are linked to the larger social dynamic. Mead wrote that “Out of language emerges the field of mind…We must regard mind, then, as arising and developing within the social process, with the empirical matrix of social interactions” (Prus, 1996, p. 54). Mead proposed that mind is not constructed of passively attained information, but that it actively engages community and participation in order to develop the learning process. The self, then, becomes “an object of one’s own awareness” (Prus, 1996, p. 54). The sense of self becomes developed through looking at others and then redefining one’s own perception of the self which is based upon observation and learned meanings. 3. How does the ‘self’ fit into symbolic interaction. In order to understand how the self fits into the world, symbolic interaction defines the self as a part of the community in participation and through the reception of meaning for the symbols that exist within that social environment. The self is often considered as part of the private domain, but the development of the self is greatly in part through the interactions one has with society. Personal identity and the self, as studied by sociologists, is created through the impact that society will have on the development o
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