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Social Construction of Reality

Social Construction of Reality

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize the social construction of reality, and how it relates to symbolic-interaction theory.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain Images from, Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on social construction of reality. As always don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today we're looking at the social construction of reality. Now to really think about the social construction of reality, let's first look at what reality is. So if you look in the dictionary, most dictionaries are going to give you something along these lines here.

Reality is a thing that actually exists. It's a fact. It's a real thing. It's an actual event. But as you've learned in other tutorials, sociology doesn't really see reality as that simple.

Sociology sees it as the idea of a socially constructed reality. So people, both individually and collectively, create meaning through human interactions. So things aren't really real in the abstract of human interactions. It's all the meaning. The meaning to something actually comes from the humans, from the social interactions of humans. And this is all again part of the symbolic interaction approach.

Now, one thing about this construction is that it's really complex. It's really messy. Different backgrounds and experiences, those all play in together to have us have different meanings for stuff. So if I give you a term like "school," and maybe even break it down to being high school, you have a pretty good understanding of what that means and sort so I.

And it's constructed meaning, a shared meaning that we have. But if you actually try to break it down, it's really complex. I mean, we have a physical building. And maybe the building I went to in school was different from yours.

And we have the teachers. And we have the students. And we have technology. We have cliques and friends.

We have studying. And we have sports. And we have graduation. There's all these different things just around the simple term of "high school."

So it's really complex. That doesn't mean that it's not true and that there isn't a really good meaning for what is real behind high school. But it's really complex.

Now, another thing about this social construction of reality is that it's really a process. So things get into the meaning. The meaning gets really created by this ongoing and repeated process. A society-- things take on meaning within a society by people repeating a meaning or repeating and tweaking a meaning. And it's ongoing. And it's actually always changing.

A good example of that I think is the word "freedom." Freedom is something that in the post-9/11 world is really a catch phrase word for a lot of movements, political movements, social movements. And our understanding of what freedom is really changed and is continuing to change through this process.

So today's take-away message, the social construction of reality is just the idea that people create meaning through human interactions. And again, this happens both on an individual level and collectively. And then that's a part of the symbolic interaction theory. And that's the idea that society is a result of many individual and everyday interactions.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing me on a screen again soon.

Terms to Know
Social Construction of Reality

The process whereby people shape and create reality through their interactions.

Symbolic-Interaction Theory

A theoretical framework that holds humans create meaning in their day-to-day, micro-level interactions.