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Social Interaction and Social Processes


Social interaction has been the central point of focus of many classical sociologists. Among them are Max Weber who illustrated the interaction element in the social life of people by the well Known examples of opening umbrellas. This focus was further enriched by tale of passions whose whole theory is based on action and interaction. A sum up of this consideration is converged by Inks in his statement that not blinking out blinking is a social fact as the latter invariably invites response from the other individual or individuals. That is how in the whole study of sociology social interaction forms the centre-piece in all the concepts, terms and typologies.

All social animals engage in interaction. What makes human interaction so different is the capacity to use language. Because of the frequency with which language symbols are used, sociologists often describe human interaction as symbolic interaction. Thus the need of language in human social interaction clearly differentiates it from that which exists among other species.

Meaningful reciprocal action among persons is social interaction. Social interaction is possible through signs and symbols. As Charles Anderson points out, Indeed Human interaction is symbolic interaction, for interaction is meaningful or intelligent only when the participant share a common universe or communiting of symbols, words or names. Symbols tell us what to expert as we meet another and inform us as to the meaning of the encounter for ourselves and future furthermore, the interaction process involves not only imaginatively taking the role of the other in the attempt to anticipate and respond to the actions of the other, but also anticipating and responding to our own action. Charles. H.Cooley conveyed this notion through the metaphor of the looking glass self.

Nature of Social Interaction

Social interaction is mutual influences that individual and groups have on one another in their attempt to solve problems and their strining towards goals. - Arnold W. Green.

Structured and Unstructured types of Social Interaction

There are two types of social interaction structured and unstructured. Structured social interaction is guided by previously established definitions and expectations, owing either to familiarity with the other as a person, as among family and friends, or to knowledge of the others formal position, as between lawyer and judge in court room proceedings, unstructured encounters lack prior expectations and must be defined as required in the course of action.

Although at a proposition of intimate relationships are highly structured even the most familiar partners and friends remain capable of unpredictable and novel responses in relationships in fact the most interesting trends and associates are those who widely improvise. Conversely rarely do we find a situation completely lacking in structure. Even two strangers come from quite diverse backgrounds, their interactions of likely to be governed by norms of physical safety, age, sex, etc. Thus special interaction may be viewed as partly governed by pre-established rules and expectations and as partly inventive, interpretive and improvisational.

Intimacy: Social interaction, besides varying in terms of predefined expectation or structures, varies in its degree of intimany. Intimate or psychologically close encounters were fist referred to by cooley as primary-relationships or groups such as families and social eliques. Contrasted with these are impersonal or psychologically distant contacts or secondary relationships such as transitory consumer exchanges etc.

Time: Finally we might simply note the influence of time as ir acts upon the degree of intimacy. Time generally increases the intimacy and informality of a relationship. What might begin as a rigid lunch-counter meeting between waitress and truck-driver may after many lunches at the same counter, eventuate in a warm friendship or perhaps love. Even under the most formalised condition/as between military grades, primary ties may develop if men are exposed to one another over an extended period of time, especially under severe duress when formal status claims tend to breakdown.

Certain common forms of social interaction which are called as social processes exit all over the world. Social processes refers to repetitive forms of behavior which are commonly found in social life.

Types or Modes of Interaction or social processes

Social processes can broadly be divided into Associative and Dissociative types, co-operation, Assimilation and Accommodation are Associative social processes. Competition and conflict are dissociative social processes. From the standpoint of the operation of the larger society and no doubt, the individual's own feeling of well-being, among the most important qualities of interaction are co-operation and conflict Samnel Butler once observed that our experience with other 'partake of the nature of either a string or a knife they find us closer together or they cut us apart. This is only a picturesque way of saying that in all group life both unifying and dividing forces are operative.

Those processes which link and connect individuals either physically or mentally and brings them together are termed as associative and those which disconnects people and sometimes develops antipathy feeling against each other, is associative process.

Co-operation: When men work together for common goals, their behavior is called co-operation. One form which co-operation takes is called labour in common when common labor is carried on merely for the pleasure of working together, it is referred to as companionable. While on the other hand there is a real advantage in having assistance at a task, as in getting a car out of the mud, the mode of co- operation is designated supplementary labor. Finally there is integration of differentiated labours.This exists when individuals work towards a common end but each has his own specializes function to perform, as in the case for example, when carpenters, plumbers and masons co-operate to build a house.

The study of co-operation has not received much attention from the sociologists, as Nimkoff says, because of our highly competitive society, sociologists are under considerable compulsion in their selection of subject matter, although perhaps largely unwillingly so.

Accommodation: This aspect of social interaction follows from conflict. Accommodation is the term used by the sociologists to describe the adjustment of hostile individuals or groups. In accommodation, co-operation and conflict co-exist This fact led summer to refer accommodation as antagonistic co-operation. The more friendly the relationship the greater the degree of cooperation. For example, the case of Negroes in the south at the time of American civil war. There were two classes of slaves, those who worked in the fields and those who worked in the households. The latter had a higher status and enjoyed more privileges, hence felt more friendly towards the white man. The degree of accommodation of the household Negroes was greater than that of the field slaves as may be seen from the fact that far fewer of the former deserted their masters. There are several form of accommodation, like victory, subordination, compromise, toleration, conciliation, conversion etc.

Assimilation: An important as pert of social interaction, assimilation is the process where by individuals or groups once dissimilar become similar; that is become identified in their interests and outlook. It is a process of interpenetration and fusion in which persons and groups acquire the memories, sentiments and attitudes of other persons or groups, by sharing their experiences and history, are incorporated with them in a cultural life. A common but mistaken notion about assimilation is that it is a one way process. Close contact of persons of dissimilar cultures always results in mutual interpenetration and fusion of culture traits.although the borrowing may not bes as pronounced in the one direction as the other. Further some assimilation probably occurs in all lasting interpersonal situations. Again assimilation is often incomplete and creates adjustment problems for individuals. And lastly, assimilation does not proceed equally rapidly and equally effecting in ail inter-group situations.

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Competition: It occurs whenever there is an insufficient supply of anything that human beings desire insufficient in the sense that all. cannot have as mauch of it as they wish. In other words, as W.H. Hamilton observes, the basic terms of competition are a population of insatiable wants and a world of stufforn and inadequate resources.

Conflict: When there is a shift in interest from the objects of competition to the competitors themselves, rivalry or conflict results. It is a personalized competition.

However these two processes are not entirely distinct and unrelated process. Doubtless in our society competition is popularly conceived to be the more basic process, a view which extends back at least to Heraclitus at the close of the 6th century B.C. Later Hoffes thought that struggle is the basic law of life, that earliest man lived in a continued state of warfare, with every man's hand raised against his brother. In this view, Hoffes was followed by a long fine of theorists and philosophers such as Hume, Hegel, Roussean, and Bagchot. The idea that struggle is all important was later taken over by the evolutionary school of biologists following publication by the Darwin and Wallace of the doctrine of natural selection on the basis of the survival of the fittest. The Darwinian theory was not without influence on social theory . The. conflict school of sociological theory was thus ushered in, represented by such writers as Ratzennofer and Gumploniz.

However many prominent sociologists like Kropotkin (mutual aid) challenge the conflict school and argue that the struggle is not so much between members of a given species as it is between different species, and most of all a struggle of all species against adverse circumstances. The idea of competition within a species is overplayed by Darwin, while quite neglected is the fact that cooperation plays a major role in survival.

Culture and social Interaction: Culture also has a deep impact on social interaction. It may be said that culture determines both the direction and the development of cooperation and competition. The culture stipulates the goal for which individual will strive. It Indicates whether these goals will be approached competitively or cooperatively. The social interaction in human society, then do not operate naturally as they do among animals, but are subject to a number of pressure and controls.

Since these cultures vary from culture to culture, the competitive and cooperative behavior of individuals differ in different societies. The individual with whom one may or may not compete or cooperate are also indicated by social heritage. Finally, the form which the basic social processes take in a particular society is also affected by the culture.


Kai on October 27, 2012:

Hei! Where did you get the source information for this article ?

sai gollapudi on September 18, 2012:

thanks for the article. good summary. I am particularly interested in learning about individual / mental / cognitive processes (or even individual preferences) and how they relate to social processes (or even culture). I got a good hint from what you said in the tail end of your blog: culture may be defining and suggesting what to compete for... what to cooperate for... how to behave. The tendency to prefer one over the other could be those individualistic cognitive preferences. Did I understand this correctly? Other thoughts on this topic?

wellie on August 30, 2012:

thanks for this useful articles

anny on June 02, 2012:

i need advantages and disadvantages of accommodation

Audrey Howitt from California on April 08, 2012:

Very interesting and provocative article!

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