Herbert Blumer's Symbolic Interactionism

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Herbert Blumer's Symbolic Interactionism


Symbolic Interactionism as thought of by Herbert Blumer, is the process of interaction in the formation of meanings for individuals. Blumer was a devotee of George H. Mead, and was influenced by John Dewey. Dewey insisted that human beings are best understood in relation to their environment (Society for More Creative Speech, 1996). With this as his inspiration, Herbert Blumer outlined Symbolic Interactionism, a study of human group life and conduct.

Blumer came up with three core principles to his theory. They are meaning, language, and thought. These core principles lead to conclusions about the creation of a person's self and socialization into a larger community (Griffin, 1997)

The first core principle of meaning states that humans act toward people and things based upon the meanings that they have given to those people or things. Symbolic Interactionism holds the principal of meaning as central in human behavior.

The second core principle is language. Language gives humans a means by which to negotiate meaning through symbols. Mead's influence on Blumer becomes apparent here because Mead believed that naming assigned meaning, thus naming was the basis for human society and the extent of knowledge. It is by engaging in speech acts with others, symbolic interaction, that humans come to identify meaning, or naming, and develop discourse.

The third core principle is that of thought. Thought modifies each individual's interpretation of symbols. Thought, based-on language, is a mental conversation or dialogue that requires role taking, or imagining different points of view.


Last week, I received an exciting e-mail from an old flame named Jeremy. Je...

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...nteractionist believes that meaning arises out of the interaction between people, while a contradicting point of view a asserts that meaning is already established in a person's psychological make-up.


While it is debatable if Symbolic Interactionism is a good theory, or not, I find it effective in evaluating human interaction. My conflict with Jeremy is the perfect example of how different meanings can cause communication problems. While this is a fairly insignificant example, it is easy to see how larger problems can arise if the lines of communication are not open, and assumptions are made.


Griffin, E. (1997). A First Look at Communication Theory. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

The Society for More Creative Speech. (1996). Symbolic Interactionism as Defined by Herbert Blumer.
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