Part IV. Symbolic Interaction Theory



Symbolic Interaction Theory

The Symbolic Interaction Theory can be considered as a theatrical framework that views humans as living in a world of meaningful objects. In itself, a micro-level social orientation theory and is indeed an interpretive sociology framework that acknowledges that it is humans themselves who create meaning for the objects in their surroundings (Kivisto, 2013). An illustration of a situation in which the Symbolic Interaction Theory is well illustrated is the elevator scene from the movie “You’ve Got Mail”. The scene takes place in an elevator (lift), where Joe Fox and his girlfriend (Parker Posey) and two other people get stuck in an elevator.

First and foremost, the interaction of the individuals which occurs in the ill-fated elevator is in itself a small scale unit of social interaction which triggers the occupants to start interpreting the situation and offer meanings of various aspects from within their interpretive abilities. This makes the scene resemble a Micro-Level Orientation. The second element that makes the scene to represent the Symbolism Interaction Theory is linkable to the occupants’ actions. When the elevator gets stuck, Joe Fox expresses concerns of inquiry and spontaneously asks what was happening. The other male in the lift, Charlie, responds explaining the possibility that the elevator had got stuck. Charlie further and spontaneously interprets the situation as caused by errors that would be rectified by pressing all the elevator buttons. When this option does not work, Charlie suggests that they jump since, as he had interpreted, the elevator had not sensed their presence (YouTube, 2009). All these represent symbols that trigger interaction between the four individuals. A keen study on the happenings unfolds that the interaction is  initiated when conversations are engaged, and symbolize interpretive sociology (Kivisto, 2013).

In no time, the four individuals start sharing their thoughts as a way of socializing, which can  be considered to have originated from the short time interaction. All of a sudden, they started expressing what was important in their lives. Therefore, in these aspects of interactions, the elevator scene turns out to be a valid illustration of the Symbolic Interaction Theory





















Kivisto, P. (2013). Social Theory: Roots and branches. New York: Oxford University Press.

YouTube,. (2009). You’ve Got Mail – Elevator Scene. Retrieved 21 June 2015, from