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Sample Research Paper on Symbolic Interactionism of George Herbert Mead

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Sample Research Paper on Symbolic Interactionism of George Herbert Mead

Introduction

It is often common practice for different groups of people to be involved in different activities that they relate to as members of a group. For instance, a group of people may take a drive to a football match. Upon arrival, this group opens the trunks of their cars and share food alcohol and some form of music as part of their entertainment. The social behavior that is focused on this group is in their ability to make a decision to attend a football match and entertain themselves. One essential aspect about the group is that they do not allow people outside the group to join into the party. They tend to keep to themselves. This act of seclusion and segregation allows members of the group to establish a social norm for the people that gather. In addition, it is only those who conform to the established norms that are allowed to be members of the group. Those who find it difficult to conform are alienated and sometimes they can be eliminated from the group.

It is possible to argue that this is a form of symbolic interactionism as propounded by George Hebert Mead. In his theoretical approach, Mead argued that the technique that individuals create a sense of themselves is partly in relation to the reactions of others. Through the concept of “the I” and “the Me,” Mead provides a discussion on how different individual learn about themselves through different interactions with other members of the society (Benzies & Allen, 2001). It is only by incorporating the reactions of other members of the society that it is possible to develop a sense of self. the group that attends football games, eats together and organizes for some form of entertainment have been able develop behavior of the group based on the reactions of other members of the society or other groups which attend the football match. The need to differentiate themselves and establishes more authority within their environment can be cited as sufficient reason for the development of the social norms.

The main objective of this paper is to provide an in-depth study of George Hebert Mead’s Symbolic interactionism. This will be through the identification of the theory, assessing the application of the theory, analysis and explanation of at least two peer review research. 

Theory identification

The theory of symbolic interactionism by Hebert Mead is based on the understanding that people in the society use symbols as a tool for sense making. This is founded on the assertion that all objects possess a representational value (Benzies & Allen, 2001). The image of any competed act is symbolically constructed irrespective of whether it originates from history or whether it comprises that which is envisioned for the future (Mead, 1934). This is an indication that every action that man participates in is social and it is often used as a tool for communication the desires of the actor. Mead explains the essence of symbolic interactionism in understanding the activities of man and his ability to manipulate different environmental factors through the four stages of an act (Prus, 2003).

According to Mead, these stages are incisive of impact, perception, manipulation and consummation. It is through stages in the view of Mead that a social act originates, and continues to exist in the communication platform (Prus, 2003). Furthermore, Mead perceives every action in social life to revolve around commonly held perceptions, future expectations, religious views and actions (Mead, 1934). Public acts that are largely social in nature must always be understood in relation to their ability to provide individuals with a platform of understanding an object or their surroundings (Meltzer, 2003). The environment from the theory of symbolic interactionism is not just about the physical aspects a symbolization of every artifact both existing and the imagined in time. Meaning for Hebert Mead lies solely in the behavior of man. Symbolic interactionism asserts that meaning and language are not static but are highly dependent on the perception of an individual towards different elements in their surroundings (Mead, 1934).

           A very important aspect in Mead’s understanding of symbolic interactions is in the ability to distinguish the differences that exists between individual and social objects (Meltzer, 2003). According to Mead, the process of applying society to symbols required the understanding that individuals are social objects in the process of interaction; these objects are applicable whenever human beings perform certain functions that are perceived as social acts (Benzies & Allen, 2001). The process of evaluating social acts is through the interaction and interpretation that follows them. It is a fact that most of the activities of man are based on habit (Meltzer, 2003). However, mead argues that the process of relating these actions to meaning is through a process of interaction and interpretation. Such actions will provide the intended meaning of a social act in relation to the individual actor or a group of individuals (Mead, 1934). For example when an individual wears a necklace as part of his or her clothing, it is possible to perceive this necklace as an element of fashion. However, further interpretation and an elaborate interaction process would mean a commitment to a long term of long distance relationship between the said individuals and the spouse.

Theory application

           Language and culture have been essential in understanding different concepts of symbolic interactionism and it applicability in relation to the development of an effective understanding on real life scenarios. Cultural practices have been subjected to change overtime but this cannot be used as a short coming of the theory. Instead it helps in the development of an understanding that members of a society will always develop meanings in relation to the events in their surroundings (Meltzer, 2003). According to this theoretical approach, the group that decides to drive to a football match can be considered as cultural this is because their actions are based on common beliefs and understanding of the prevailing circumstances that necessitate the need to come together and operate on a common understanding (Mead, 1934). Watching football, sharing food and turning on music as a form of entertainment can be perceived as the defining principles that uphold the social cohesion that is necessary for its existence. Football, food, cars and entertainment are the unifying factors.

           The social norms that are developed by members of this group are based on their possessions, likes and dislikes. Other members of the community who do not own cars, do not share interest in football, do not enjoy public meals or entertainment will be differentiated from this group. The uniqueness of the grippe is therefore found in its defining features.

           Symbolic interactions when understood from this perspective provides the understanding that culture is a strong component of the social life since it defines the approach that members of different cultures will have towards similar objects (Mead, 1934). Interpersonal communication among members of the same cultural orientation such as the group that decides to drive to a football game is relatively less complicated as opposed to the approach given to communication when it involves individuals from different cultural backgrounds.  Communication forms the basis of the understanding of symbolic interactionism (Mead, 1934). All forms of communication are social elements that can be effective through the realization or essential elements such as the mind, self and society. Language, which is an essential tool of verbal and nonverbal aspect of communication, can only be understood in situations where the individuals in question operate in accordance with the cultural requirements in identification of symbols for a specific group of people (Mead, 1934).

           Despite the ability of symbolic interactionism to provide an explanation on different cultural elements that characterize activities in the society and within a specific group. The theory of symbolic interactions does not provide an explanation whether an individual while engage in in this approach wants to win or get his own way (Hewitt, 2003). This is based on the understanding that there are times when people construct samples and generate personalized meanings. To this extent, one would argue that the use of symbolic interactionism in the explanation of the society is subjective hence cannot be used in the presentation of objective views concerning a culture of a group of individuals. The relativity in meaning can also provide additional understanding that the theory does not provide the logically approach that individual use to arrive at meanings (Hewitt, 2003). The question whether people generate meanings because of personal deliberations of to please other members of the society can be used in assessing the practicality of the theory. Furthermore through this theoretical approach it is possible to ask questions related to the ability of individuals to develop meanings to symbols without elaborate consultation of the members of the larger group. Language and meaning from the perspective of Hebert Mead is not a product of a community but the efforts of individual members of the society (Mead, 1934).

Research review
Precepting and symbolic interactionism – a theoretical look at preceptorship during clinical practice- Elizabeth Carlson (2013)
  1. Explain the study
           Hypothesis

To engage in a process of presenting a discussion of precepting by using symbolic interactionism as exemplified by the findings from an initial ethnographical study (Carlson, 2013). 

           Participants: The participants in this study were derived from a group of nurses who were placed under the supervision of precepting nurses as part of their nursing education. 

           Methods used: The study embraced quantitative approach to data collection. The data sources are from an initially conducted ethnographical study whose full details were aimed at providing information. The sources were about the results from the observations conducted by the nurses about a group of students especially on how they perceive and develop meanings about doctors and the hospital facility in relation to their experiences (Carlson, 2013).

           Findings: It is possible to understand precepting as an aspect that involves the development of a trusting relationship between the student and the nurse. The actions of the nurses often influence the meaning derived and adopted by the students in relation to their expectations on the hospital. In addition, through this approach it is possible to argue that students who eventually enroll to become nurses develop certain behavioral aspects according to the information they acquired during their training in a hospital facility (Carlson, 2013).

  1. Relationship between the study and the football match scenario

           According to this study, precepting is a complex and largely advanced responsibility that the nurses must always be prepared for. This is based on the understanding that the attributes that an individual reveals to the society can be used as essential aspects concerning their beliefs and behavioral systems. The preceptor must be prepared to ensure the minimization of the possibility of confusion from the students. This necessitates the need for some form of orientation to ensure that there is a common understanding of the behavioral attributes that are embraced.  The process of preparation by the preceptor must always focus on critical thinking, reflection and communication skills.

           When this assertion is assessed in relation to the group driving to a football match, the study argues that it would be important for the drivers to engage in some form of preparation prior to their decision to form a group identified by passion for football, sharing of food and entertainment. This would only be applicable when it involves members of the group who do not understand the norms but are interested in becoming members. Symbolic interactions from this approach are specific to a group of people whose understanding about common features is essential for every member. From this assessment it is possible to argue that symbolic interactionism is group specific and it discriminates against members of the society who do not share a common understanding of the practice. The terminologies, the language and meaning that members of the group derive from their practices are therefore specific to the members.

Symbolic Interactionism: A Lens for Judging the Social Constructivist Potential of Learner-Centered Chemistry Software-Gregory MacKinnon
  1. Explain the study
Hypothesis

To determine the possibility to which the symbols that students hold as artifacts and approaches to learning impact on their attitudes towards different learning practices and their capacity to engage in effective learning (MacKinnon, 2005).

Number of participants: the sample constituted 60 students of a grade 12 chemistry class of a rural high school. In terms of distribution, 60% of the sample was females while 40% were male (MacKinnon, 2005).

           Method used: the study used the naturalistic interpretive philosophical perspective. This approach to the realization of the objectives of the study allowed the researcher to engage in a process of negotiating meaning through different themes of empirical materials. This was based on the assumption developed by symbolic interactionism. According to this theory, symbols and meanings held by different individuals affect the way an individual interacts. The focus of the researcher was in the relationship between the essence of computer symbols and those learned through a classroom process affect the meaning that these students adopt concerning different elements (MacKinnon, 2005).

           Findings: According to the results of the study, the symbols that students acquire throughout their learning process are essential determinants of their academic achievements in chemistry class. This is because through these symbols they get to understand the relevance of education in their contemporary society. This does not mean that the symbols that they understood prior to their enrolment in a chemistry class become irrelevant. Instead, these students use their prior knowledge as the foundation of understanding the symbols that are relevant to the chemistry class. The students develop the understanding that the symbols that they learn are appropriate and productive in learning how to use computer knowledge as part of the chemistry class (MacKinnon, 2005).

  1. Relationship between the study and the football match scenario

           From the study it is possible to argue that symbolic interactionism is based on symbols and their meanings in different contexts. The use of computer knowledge the students acquired prior to their enrolment in class may have been essential in the development of a general understanding about computers and their functioning.  This knowledge was essential in the development of an understanding about the role of computers in boosting their understanding on different concepts that are unique to chemistry. The symbols developed in this understanding are only unique to chemistry class.

           The findings of the study are in agreement with the activities of the group that attends the football match. These individuals engage in actions that are not only unique to them but also those that provide them with the greatest satisfaction. Students in this class are enrolled through a process that ensures that they understand the prevailing conditions within the academic platform. Through the qualitative approach the study demonstrates the importance that students place of on the nature of technology and its use. When perceived in relation to the activities of the group that attends the football match, it is possible to argue that the decision of this group to associate with different activities of one way of making themselves unique and distinguishable from all the other groups within their surroundings.

           Symbolic interactions therefore is a philosophical approach that not only focuses on the role of symbols in generating meaning but also on how different individuals and groups use the symbols that they generate to give meaning to divergent aspects of the society (Hewitt, 2003). This is in agreement with Mead’s assertion that people often develop behavior in relation to the perceptive of others (Hewitt, 2003). It is the other person in the society that provides a group with the best way through which they can define themselves in terms of the attitudes and other behavioral attributes. The students will develop an understanding of the symbols according to the dictates of their instructor while the group will develop its social norms according to the perception of the population around them. When the population perceived them as boastful of discriminatory the activities of the group will be founded on these perceptions hence the development of a common behavior among group members.

Conclusion

           Symbolic interactions is a philosophical approach that not only focuses on the role of symbols in generating meaning but also on how different individuals and groups use the symbols that they generate to give meaning to divergent aspects of the society. Through the concept of “the I” and “the Me,” Mead provides a discussion on how different individual learn about themselves through different interactions with other members of the society. The terminologies, the language and meaning that members of the group derive from their practices are therefore specific to the members and they are inspired by the perceptions of the onlookers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Benzies K.M. & Allen M.M. (2001). Symbolic interactionism as a theoretical perspective for

           multiple method research. Journal of Advanced Nursing 33(4), 541–547.

Carlson, E. (2013). Precepting and symbolic interactionism – a theoretical look at preceptorship

during clinical practice. Journal Of Advanced Nursing69(2), 457-464. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.06047.x

Hewitt J.P. (2003). Symbols, objects and meanings. In Handbook of Symbolic Interactionism

(Reynolds L. & Herman-Kinney N., eds), Alta Mira Press, Walnut Creek, CA, pp. 307–325

MacKinnon, G. (2005). Symbolic interactionism: A lens for judging the social constructivist

potential of learner-centered chemistry software. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 1(2), 89-102.

Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Meltzer B.N. (2003) Mind. In Handbook of Symbolic Interactionism (Reynolds L. & Herman-

           Kinney N., eds).Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. pp. 253–266

Prus R. (2003). Ancient forerunners. In Handbook of Symbolic Interactionism (Reynolds L. &

           Herman-Kinney N., eds). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press pp. 19–38.

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