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Questions on Social Interaction

What is social interaction?

Social interaction involves verbal and nonverbal communication between people acting and reacting to one another. It is ordered by norms, roles, and statuses.

In what sense social interaction is based on competition?

When we interact socially, we exchange valued resources-everything from attention and pleasure to prestige and money. However, because people typically try to maximize their rewards and minimize their losses, social interaction may be seen as a competition for scarce resources.

Is competition only basis of social interaction?

No, it is not. People may interact cooperatively and altruistically because they have been socialized to do so. They may also maintain interaction based on domination.

How do symbolic interactionists analyze social interaction?

Symbolic interactionists focus on how people create meaning in the course of social interaction and on how they negotiate and modify roles, statuses, and norms. For example, dramaturgical analysis is based on the idea that people play roles in their daily lives in much the same way as actors do on stage. When we are front stage, we act publicly, sometimes from ready-made scripts. Backstage, we relax from our public performances and allow what we regard as our "true" selves to emerge. We may distance ourselves from our roles when they embarrass us, but role-playing nonetheless pervades social interaction

Is all social interaction based on language?

No, it is not. Nonverbal communication, including socially defined facial expressions, gestures, body language, and status cues, are as important as verbal communication in conveying meaning.

Do people act the way they do only because of their interests and emotions?

People's motives are important determinants of their actions, but social collectivities also influence the way we behave. Because of the power of social collectivities, people sometimes act against their interests, values, and emotions.

What is network analysis?

Network analysis is the study of the concrete social relations linking people. By focusing on concrete ties, network analysts often come up with surprising results. For example network analysis has demonstrated the strength of weak ties in job searches and shown that a rich web of social affiliations underlies urban life.

What are groups?

Groups are clusters of people who identify with each other. Primary groups involve intense, intimate, enduring relations; secondary groups involve less personal and intense ties; and reference groups are groups against which people measure their situation or conduct. Groups impose conformity on members and seek to exclude nonmembers.

Is bureaucracy just red tape? Is it possible to overcome bureaucratic inefficiency?

Although bureaucracies often suffer from various forms of inefficiency, they are generally efficient compared with other organizational forms. Bureaucratic inefficiency increases with size and degree of hierarchy. Flattening bureaucratic structures, decentralizing decision-making authority, and opening lines of communication between bureaucratic units can often improve efficiency.