Sociology Index


Symbolic interactionism is a sociological perspective that stresses the way societies are created through the interactions of individuals. Unlike both the consensus perspective (structural functionalism) and conflict perspectives, symbolic interactionism does not stress the idea of a social system possessing structure and regularity. Symbolic interactionism focuses on the way that individuals, through their interpretations of social situations and behavioural negotiation with others, give meaning to social interaction.

George Herbert Mead (1863-1931), a founder of symbolic interactionism, saw interaction as creating and recreating the patterns and structures that bring society to life, but more recently there has been a tendency to argue that society has no objective reality aside from individual interaction. This latter view has been criticized for ignoring the role of culture and social structure in giving shape, direction and meaning to social interaction. Thus upholding the vality of symbolic interactionism. Dramaturgical model is a sociological perspective stemming from symbolic interactionism.

Symbolic Interactionism Books

The conflict perspective, symbolic interactionism, and the status characteristics hypothesis. Triplett, Ruth
Abstract: Though recent theorists acknowledge the dual theoretical foundation of the labeling theory, they limit their focus in discussions of the status characteristics hypothesis of labeling to the influence of the conflict perspective, to the relative neglect of symbolic interactionism. In view of the acknowledged influence of the conflict perspective on the status characteristics hypothesis, this paper demonstrates the importance of symbolic interactionism to the status characteristics hypothesis in three ways: by demonstrating the limits of the conflict perspective in predicting variations in reaction, especially at the level of informal reaction; by demonstrating the contribution of symbolic interactionism; and by empirically evidence hypotheses derived from the theoretical work concerning the determinants of parents' reactions that label their children delinquent.

The Deviant Mystique : Involvements, Realities, and Regulation
By Robert Prus, Scott Grills. Adopting symbolic interactionism perspective and building extensively on the ethnographic research tradition, this book analyzes the mystique that often accompanies deviance by examining deviant behavior as an ongoing feature of community life.


Attribution and Symbolic Interaction: An Impasse at the Generalized Other 
George V. Zito, Syracuse University, 500 University Place, Syracuse, New York 13210. 
Jerry Jacobs, Syracuse University, Human Relations, Vol. 32, No. 7, 571-578 (1979)
Attribution theory and symbolic interactionism have developed independently of each another, although both are concerned with the processes employed by ordinary people to make sense of their everyday world. The authors seek to define the current impasse, which they see as further confounding the problem of intersubjectivity.


Symbolic Interactionism. Dawn Del Carlo.
Originally conceived of by Herbert Blumer, symbolic interactionism is a theoretical and methodological perspective that seeks to understand the socially constructed meaning behind human behavior and interaction.  Grounded within the tenets of social psychology, symbolic interactionism can be used as a framework to shape educational research in the sciences.  A brief history of symbolic interactionism’s development, a description of its assumptions and methods, and its direct applicability to science education research including examples of published research will be discussed.


Herbert Blumer, Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method (Prentice-Hall, 1969). Articles dealing with the point of view of symbolic interactionism and with the topic of methodology in the discipline of sociology. Herbert Blumer is a leading figure in the school of symbolic interactionism, and presents what might be regarded as the most authoritative statement of its point of view. Herbert Blumer states that symbolic interactionism rests on the premise: that human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings of things have for them; that the meaning of such things derives from the social interaction; and that these meanings are modified through, an interpretive process.


Ken Plummer, "Symbolic Interactionism in the Twentieth Century," Chap. 8 in B. Turner, ed., Blackwell Companion to Social Theory.