“Social Construction of Reality” Essay

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“Social Construction of Reality”

Reality is not an objective thing that is imposed upon us, but is created by us. Reality does not exist externally but internally, as each individual or group interprets it, and is always changing. Due to these concepts sociologists often speak about the “social construction of reality” which is essential to understand when attempting to explain human social behavior. Since realty is the basis of people’s actions, W. I. Thomas states, “If people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”. The “social construction of reality”, human social behavior and W. I. Thomas’s statement are three concepts that fit hand in hand and are important when trying to explain one another.
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This is evident when one dissects the idea of the enslavement of Africans, known as the “white mans burden”. Whites defined blacks as less than human, savages or creatures that could not survive off of their own minimal cognitive reasoning. This understanding was the basis of slavery. Another example is the idea of marriage and divorce, and how the institution is ever changing. Up until the early 1900’s marriage was viewed as a lifelong commitment, divorce was “taboo” and shunned as being immoral and the abandonment of adult responsibility. In 1945 sociologists Ernest Burgess and Harvey Locke noted that couples were looking at marriage as less of a lifelong commitment and more of an arrangement that was based on attraction and feelings, it became a situation that could be broken when feelings changed. Divorce became more common and was defined more positive as freedom and new beginnings (Essentials of Sociology, pg. 16). An example of another “reality” is how from person to person there is no true definition of success. The letter grade “B” brings on different emotions depending on the individual. One student would jump for joy to pass with the “B” while others would be sad, even cry. In actuality “B” is just a shape, a letter of the English alphabet, given on paper but what the person defines it as gives it meaning to their reality, and then forget about the “+” or “-“ given accompanied with the letter grade. Our social construction of reality
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