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What is the definition of social constructionism?

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Social constructionism, also known as social construction of reality, is a concept in sociology that explains how our knowledge, and hence our reality, is not created separately within us, but rather jointly through our interactions and experiences with others. Since the understanding of one person is not generated in a knowledge vacuum, but rather shaped and influenced by the understanding of others, the reality of each person could be unique, depending upon who has influenced whom, when and how.

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Constructionists believe that all knowledge, and hence truth, are both created by interaction with others, and not discovered independently by the mind alone. Basically, the concept assumes that human beings create a model of the world based on their social interactions. A large part of this interaction is driven by language. According to this school of thought, a social construct is anything that is assumed to be obvious and omnipresent by a person who accepts it and takes it for granted. This person thinks that his understanding represents reality, even though it may not. Therefore, one person’s reality may be totally different from another person’s reality. Social constructionism attempts to understand how humans participate in activities that influence each other and how this then shapes their mutual realities. It also tries to explain how this leads to the birth of some social phenomena and the subsequent graduation of these phenomena into accepted traditions and best practices. Some of the phenomena examined by this theory include race, gender, social class and even disease.

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