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What is the interactionist perspective?

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Quick Answer

In sociology, the interactionist perspective is the theory that people develop their beliefs, identities and values according to individual and small group interactions. Interactionist methodology favors qualitative data over quantitative data obtained through traditional methods like experiments, questionnaires and secondary sources.

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The interactionist perspective places great emphasis on influential power of direct human interaction, rather than on the influence of large social institutions or historical developments. Interaction includes verbal communication and mannerisms. Interactions ultimately affect the way people understand themselves, others and the world around them.

The interactionism perspective posits that values are determined by social interaction. According to Sociology.org, interactionism does not claim actions to be inherently right or wrong. The value of an act is socially prescribed. For instance, teen alcohol consumption may be legal and socially acceptable in one country while illegal and frowned upon in another. These moral assumptions are personal convictions received through social interaction.

Interactionism also has a unique perspective on research methodology. It questions the validity of statistic data, claiming that statistics do not give an accurate picture of human experience. Interactionist theory rejects the use of hypotheses, asserting that a hypothesis makes a study biased by steering it in a predetermined direction. Interactionists prefer methods like unstructured interviews, covert participant observation and content analysis.

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