What Is Interactional Perspective and Its Basics?

The interactional perspective, also known as interactionism theory, is one of the common concepts in sociology. Ideally, it observes human societies, especially from the interactions between individuals in different relationships.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

The interactional perspective is a theory that claims that people’s behavior depends on the impacts and effects of the environment. In this case, a person’s behavior is determined by the environment and people as they interact. Therefore behavior results from the surroundings and experiences one has within it.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

Interactional perspective theory essay

The interactional perspective theory is one of the oldest perspectives in social psychology, developed by Charles Cooley in 1902. According to this theory, everyone is the center of the universe, and their perceptions of themselves are primarily based on how society views them. For example, in the context of gender, if society perceives a man as masculine, a male individual will also consider himself masculine. He considers this aspect as the ‘looking-glass self.’

It is how people see themselves through other people’s eyes. In this case, one could argue that our beliefs and ideas about ourselves are derived from our interpretation of the environment, including the response from others.

The looking-glass self is composed of three parts;

  • The real self is the part of a person that people believe they are and is also known as the true self.
  • The ideal self is a self-image in which a person aspires to be.
  • The Secret self is the part in which a person thinks about the other two selves and is unknown to the outer world.
Interactional perspective theory essay
What Is Interactional Perspective and Its Basics? 1

Symbolic Interactional Theory

This concept aims to understand human behavior by analyzing the critical role of symbols in human interaction. George Herbert Mead founded this theory and had strong backing from Charles Cooley. While these theories are in sociology, they’re also used to explain biological, cognitive, and organismic interactions.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

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The symbolic interactionist perspective argues that human beings are purposeful and active agents who use signs and symbols to manipulate the environment to satisfy their needs and wants.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

In this case, humans use symbols to indicate a mental concept of actions, ideas, and objects. Therefore while the symbol can represent an idea, ideas can also represent a symbol.

Human beings use language to communicate information, ideas, and values. In this case, symbolic interactionism claims that people do not receive information passively through their senses.

On the contrary, people select information from their surroundings and transform it into meaningful symbols that align with their world perception. Additionally, this concept emphasizes that people produce the social reality of the environment around them rather than directly observing the environment.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

Interactional Theory Principles

Herbert Blumer Highlighted different principles used in symbolic interactionism, as indicated below.

  • People act towards things based on how they perceive them. Specifically, people do not interact with the environment but rather their projections of things and meanings.
  • Objects do not have meaning unless human beings give meaning to them. In this case, events happening in the environment are perceived to have meaning. However, there is no specific meaning rather than that projected by human beings.
  • Social actions are derived from social interaction. In this case, people relate to one another depending on what each perceives and goes beyond individual projections.
  • Human beings act towards things and events based on their meaning derived from social interactions.
  • Action is the starting point in understanding human behavior as it is a reference point for a person’s actions and the reasons behind his behaviors.
  • A person’s view of the world is rarely about what is happening in the environment but rather about the person’s perception of the world.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

Relationship Between Social Psychology and Symbiotic Interactionism

George Herbert Mead argued that a person’s behavior is mainly determined by their response to the events and activities in which they interact. Specifically, what a person receives from the outside determines their actions and how they respond to the actions of others. Therefore if the response they get is different from what they expected, they will try to get it again.

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The main aspect of social interaction is shared meanings. Ideally, the response one expects from their peers is based on social interactions. Thus, there is a better interaction where people perceive their environments similarly.

This concept goes both ways as the response one expects to receive from others is based on the other individuals meaning of it. In this case, a person’s meaning depends on the response they expect from others.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

For example, if a person responds positively, they are also likely to respond with a positive attitude. However, when a person responds negatively, they will also give her a negative attitude to match the response. In this case, the response a person expects from others determines the actions, and people act differently if they get a response that does not match their expectations.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

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Interactional Theory and Society

As earlier identified, society functions through the shared meanings perceived by the members. Nonetheless, this behavior is regulated through social norms where society agrees on what is right and wrong. Specifically, this theory helps to develop common practices and laws which regulate interactions and enhance social stability.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

Members of a certain community are required to follow the specified rules to enhance order. While society is an interaction between different classes, groups, and members who share common norms and values, they tend to agree on what they should follow and should not. (Interactional perspective theory essay)

Today, the social system is composed of different institutions such as schools, families, and businesses. Therefore to have a specified way of operation, it is essential to regulate the behaviors of these individuals. 

For example, children are taught about gender roles, the need to respect elders, language, and conflict resolution when they are young. Additionally, they are supposed to hold on to these norms and pass them to their generations to uphold culture.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

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What are the different identities associated with interactionism Theory?

The study presents people’s identities based on their social personal and situated forms. In this case, they include the following;

  • Personal identities such as religion, national, and ethnic identities.
  • Social identities such as group membership and social roles.
  • Situated identity is based on the physical environment in which a person interacts. It includes the events and people who influence their behavior.

What are the main Principles of interactionism?

The three core principles of the interactionism theory include language, meaning, and thinking principles.

Why is the interactionism theory important?

This theory helps to highlight the importance of social interaction and provides an understanding of how factors influence a person’s behavior.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

Who are the main contributors to the interactionist theory of sociology?

The three main individuals considered the first pioneers of the interactionism theory are Max Weber, George Herbert Mead, and Herbert Blumer.(Interactional perspective theory essay)

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