Sociology And Social Activity : How Individual Actors Interpret Social Situations

Sociology And Social Activity : How Individual Actors Interpret Social Situations

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A vital element of the study of sociology and social activity is the study of how individual actors interpret social situations. Deep within the discussion of how individual actors understand and react to social situations, there is an underlying dualism similar to that of ‘nature versus nurture’. Individuals understand and act in social situations based on both individual interpretation, as well as large underlying structural forces. The micro interpretation of this concept can be critically examined with theories such as interpretivist sociology and symbolic interactionism (Scott 2009:16, 24). This perspective sees the understanding of how to act in situations as deriving from previous experiences and individual interpretation. The macro explanation of understanding social situations can be examined with theories such as structural functionalism. This understanding of social situation focuses large structures and common understandings in society that influences individuals’ behaviour through mass consent (Scott 2009:14-20). These influential social forces give individuals a sense of how to behave in a society. The last component of this process is the person’s actions. Once a social actor has interpreted how to act in a social situation, they then take on a role based on what they can interpret (Scott 2009:14). Individual actors understand situations from applying experience to recursive social practices and through structural forces deeply embedded in society. Actors used their knowledge to constantly define their situation and adapt their role to the social setting, counter-role, and their understood typification of the situation so they may smoothly interact with others. This is significant to the study micro-so...

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...heir life without conscious interpretation (Ibid:14,20,24). The free will lies in how individuals present themselves to society. The actors consider elements such as role, setting, props, and the type of situation, so they may determine how to operate easily (Goffman 1959:22). While these forces seem to ‘rule’ ones life, it is important to realize that all of these structure and processes are socially constructed. The fact that we allow situations in our life to be defining the way they are (greetings, meetings, interviews etc.) enables them to be real (Scott 2009:21). While this may cause one to feel socially repressed by society, it should be noted that without structure, and definition, interaction would be chaotic and tiresome. It is important to understand the existence of these structures so that one may have a full, rich understanding of social life and order.

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