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Mead's Symbolic Interactionism

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This solution briefly explains Mead's theory of symbolic interactionism in layman's terms with examples. This solution also includes references for more reading.

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Symbolic Interactionism was never coined by Mead, even though it is the term used to describe his theories. Like the famous Greek philosopher Socrates, Mead rarely wrote down his ideas. After he died, his students published his ideas in "Mind, Self, and Society." Herbert Blumer, one of his students, created the term Symbolic Interactionism.

At its most fundamental level, Symbolic Interactionism (SI) concerns itself with the nature of meaning and reality. Do we create reality in our own minds, or does it exist whether we are here or not? Mead would probably say we create a lot of reality in our minds, since we create meaning and meaning is used to define what is real and what is not.

For instance, when I say the word "Lamp," you ascribe a meaning to that word: a device used light a room. It just so happens (lucky for us) that everyone ascribes the same general meaning for the word "lamp." Instead of everyone giving the word different meanings (one person thinks of an elephant, another person thinks of a glass of water), we have all agreed upon a meaning for that word. This is a fundamental element of language: language only works because everyone agrees what the meaning of words should be. What would happen if everyone in the United States disowned Webster's Dictionary and created thier ...

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