Following founding symbolic interactionist George Herbert Mead , Herbert Blumer claimed that people interact with each other by attaching meaning to each other's actions instead of merely reacting to them.
Human interaction is mediated by the use of symbols and signification, by interpretation, or by ascertaining the meaning of one another's actions.
Race and ethnicity affect the meaning we attach to each other's actions.
A person is generally presumed to be a citizen of a nation if one or both of their parents are also a citizen of said nation; this is often called jus sanguinis (Latin legal term), meaning "right of blood. " A jus sanguinis policy means grants citizenship based on ancestry or ethnicity, and is related to the concept of a nation state common in Europe.
This policy is called by jus soli (Latin legal term), meaning "right of soil.” These first two factors are usually lumped together under the term birthright citizenship .
It almost always has an element of exclusion, meaning that some people are not citizens; this distinction can sometimes be very important, or not important, depending on a particular society.
Human language differs from communication used by animals () because the symbols and grammatical rules of any particular language are largely arbitrary, meaning that the system can only be acquired through social interaction.
Written languages use visual symbols to represent the sounds of the spoken languages, but they still require syntactic rules that govern the production of meaning from sequences of words.
A sign language is a language which, instead of acoustically conveying sound patterns, uses manual communication and body language to convey meaning.
While institutions are obviously comprised of individuals and create rules through these individuals’ agentic actions, institutions act as forces of socialization, meaning that they teach individuals to conform to their norms.
While institutions tend to appear to people in society as part of the natural, unchanging landscape of their lives, sociological studies of institutions reveal institutions a social constructs, meaning that they are created by individuals and particular historical and cultural moment.
This resulted in the concept of culture as objects and symbols; the meaning given to those objects and symbols; and the norms, values, and beliefs that pervade social life.
The understanding of culture as a symbolic system with adaptive functions that vary from place to place led anthropologists to define different cultures by distinct patterns or structures of enduring, conventional sets of meaning.
When trying to understand the concept of culture, it is important to remember that the concept can have multiple levels of meaning.
Given this approach, Durkheim proposed that religion has three major functions in society: it provides social cohesion to help maintain social solidarity through shared rituals and beliefs, social control to enforce religious-based morals and norms to help maintain conformity and control in society, and it offers meaning and purpose to answer any existential questions.
Further, Durkheim placed himself in the positivist tradition, meaning that he thought of his study of society as dispassionate and scientific.
Symbolic interactionist researchers investigate how people create meaning during social interaction, how they present and construct the self (or "identity"), and how they define situations of co-presence with others.
Symbolic interactionists believe that objects have meaning only through people's interactions with them in the environment, that the meanings people have for things develops through social interaction and that those meanings are handled and modified by a constant and ongoing interpretive process by individuals.