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Symbolic interactionists offer another lens through which to analyze the social construction of reality. With a theoretical perspective focused on the symbols (like language, gestures, and artifacts) that people use to interact, this approach is interested in how people interpret those symbols in daily interactions. For example, we might feel fright at seeing a person holding a gun, unless, of course, it turns out to be a police officer. Interactionists also recognize that language and body language reflect our values. One has only to learn a foreign tongue to know that not every English word can be easily translated into another language. The same is true for gestures. While Americans might recognize a “thumbs up” as meaning “great,” in Germany it would mean “one” and in Japan it would mean “five.” Thus, our construction of reality is influenced by our symbolic interactions.

Painting depicting Oedipus and three other ancient Greek figures.
The story line of a self-fulfilling prophecy appears in many literary works, perhaps most famously in the story of Oedipus. Oedipus is told by an oracle that he will murder his father and marry his mother. In going out of his way to avoid his fate, Oedipus inadvertently fulfills it. Oedipus’s story illustrates one way in which members of society contribute to the social construction of reality. (Photo courtesy of Jean-Antoine-Theodore Giroust/Wikimedia Commons)

Roles and status

As you can imagine, people employ many types of behaviors in day-to-day life. Roles are patterns of behavior that we recognize in each other that are representative of a person’s social status. Currently, while reading this text, you are playing the role of a student. However, you also play other roles in your life, such as “daughter,” “neighbor,” or “employee.” These various roles are each associated with a different status.

Sociologists use the term status    to describe the responsibilities and benefits that a person experiences according to their rank and role in society. Some statuses are ascribed —those you do not select, such as son, elderly person, or female. Others, called achieved statuses , are obtained by choice, such as a high school dropout, self-made millionaire, or nurse. As a daughter or son, you occupy a different status than as a neighbor or employee. One person can be associated with a multitude of roles and statuses. Even a single status such as “student” has a complex role-set    , or array of roles, attached to it (Merton 1957).

If too much is required of a single role, individuals can experience role strain    . Consider the duties of a parent: cooking, cleaning, driving, problem-solving, acting as a source of moral guidance—the list goes on. Similarly, a person can experience role conflict    when one or more roles are contradictory. A parent who also has a full-time career can experience role conflict on a daily basis. When there is a deadline at the office but a sick child needs to be picked up from school, which comes first? When you are working toward a promotion but your children want you to come to their school play, which do you choose? Being a college student can conflict with being an employee, being an athlete, or even being a friend. Our roles in life have a great effect on our decisions and who we become.

Questions & Answers

Define society in relation to sociology
Tuxa Reply
society is a group of people who live same geographical area and has similar culture while sociology is the study society and how they interact.
yuusuf
what do sociologists study
Rachel Reply
The establishment; its economic system, education system, law, governance, society's behavior, society (in general), demographics, beliefs, cultures etc.
Leonard
aociologists study how society and people interact systematically and differencies of the world
yuusuf
they study group behaviour
owais
I have an assignment on sociology to interview people who have vulnerable diseases such as AIDS, Hepatitis, Cancer, Diabetes etc can someone advice me how to approach them because it's very difficult for me to do it
Mary Reply
Treat them with kindness like you would anyone else. No one likes to be treated with kid gloves - it's insulting and makes anyone feel marginalized. Do not approach them with piety (i.e., asking 'Are you okay?' with the slight head tilt). It's insulting and they will likely dismiss you immediately.
andi
treat them like you are a patient like also giving them motivational stories, play games with them
Great
sociological perspective
Davison Reply
When you are sick what should you do?You consult a physician likewise when the society is not functioning well what should the government do?Also consult a sociologist
Joseph Reply
hi where are you live mr joseph
Abdinasir
yes Abdinasir "in somalia"
yuusuf
and you
yuusuf
hy
nura
Hy is a for skin in Swedish.
Joakim
hi
yuusuf
Hi
Joakim
Hello everyone, who is from cameroon here because am tired with the 2 weeks ghost town here especially in North and South West region and I have not even done my sociology assignment I don't know were to start
Mary
hi everyone
Tariq
am new in this field I was given an assignment any one knows how to, need help
Davison
just give a tip of the assignment
Mary
Can you bring the assignment's question on board? if no than how one will know the assignment's question?
Emmanuel
who here for now?
Emmanuel
Is there anyone in here?
Emmanuel
how sociology affects in them adversity in age of globilization
mohamed
I leave in Nigeria
Joseph
hi
saad
Sociology affects people in many ways for instance, urban people's thought, life style, way of living is totally different than people live in rural areas. availability of Internet has impact on people because we spend leisure time with friends if we get time but now It's change due to internet.
saad
It depends on your geographic location, government, and what type of physician you are in need of. Always - regardless of where you reside - make certain that your doctor is aligned with an organization for physicians seeking higher ethical standards.
andi
hi Great from Zimbabwe ....and I'm new in this field
Great
Am a Nigeria
Olumide
hai
Machila
what is the relevance of sociology?
Love Reply
how conflict theory differs from functionalist theory in relation to education
kealeboga Reply
Education is a major social institution that helps transmit information, beliefs, and skills through formal training or teaching. Education plays a hug role across the world.
Timi
discuss how some symbolic interactionist theories view the family in relation to socialisation
kealeboga
how can counteract biases?
Hawa Reply
is so splendid
Aminu
hi
Aminu
how r u
Farhana
help me in my sociology questions
Farhana
yes
ali
hi sociologist society
yasir
what is social phenomena and it's nature
yasir
Hell am Ilham
Ilham
pls i want to understand dis course because my lecturer x not helping me at all he don't explain in details
Ilham
what do sociologists study?
Rachel Reply
define sociology of culture ?
Qamar
define sociology in culture ?
Qamar
Tell me how can I easily differentiate the methodology vs methods?
Rk Reply
hi
Praveen
Halo
Rk
hi
Hope
hallo how are you
Chilals
m fine nd u
ali
Good morning friends
Md
what is positivism anyone explain this
Amarkhan
The process of social change in the Caribbean society can not be analyzed using the major macro European paradigm as they ignore the caribbean's reality, to what extent is this statement true?
Keron Reply
True
Andrew
I am a PhD candidate and i am creating a Trinidad and Tobago 🇹🇹 centric model
Andrew
am a social work trainee.I want to thank you all for your questions and answers,they really useful to me. so thanks en keep it up
Fatoumatta
why is it true @Andrew
Keron
np. if u in trinidad i may fly home in a few weeks. provided i get a cheap flight for under 1000 us..lmao. you will do well i not worried. Be proud of your caribbean identity
Andrew
It is true because the theories and grounded in their culture.
Andrew
Think about it. If you sample is apples and my sample is 🍇 while the numbers may be the same the output would be different.
Andrew
forgive my fruit metaphor i love food
Andrew
Furthermore when you study Philosophy principles which are way higher than sociological principles you realize that the methodological assumptions (values) of various societies are different.
Andrew
Best FIT will always be better than Best PRACTICES! Create your own.
Andrew
are*
Andrew
It boils down to the demographics of your sample
Andrew
If you have to get a representative sample it must be representative of the Society aka the Population you sampling. Different Societal Structure different representative sample. hint hint. A British model can never be transferred to a Trinidad Society.
Andrew
this is a question for my sociology for project.... I need help
Keron
what is the caribbean's reality?
Keron
what is the Macro European Paradigm?
Keron
oh and Andrew I am from Jamaica
Keron
deconstruct the theme. Macro - large or big Caribbean Thinking (paradigm)
Andrew
just write why you think Jamaican thinking is better than England
Andrew
thats the crux of the question
Andrew
and the Caribbean's reality is?
Keron
sigh
Andrew
bro reality is relative
Andrew
the question demands u think
Andrew
how do u define Caribbean reality
Andrew
the music we listen, the food we eat, how we worship, our laws etc
Keron
What is psychology and discuss its major factors
Peace
explain in details five agents of sociology
Kaoma
Andrew what factors that makes people to stop socialising
Kaoma
I am not agree to data analysis and payment
Dipeshkumar Reply
child marriage with queations
manoj Reply
how has sociology contributed to the welfare of the society?
Teza Reply
scholars definition of culture
Sekinat Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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