What Is Social Constructionism in Psychology?


Jane Flores

Social constructionism is a theory that has gained significant attention in the field of psychology over the last few decades. In essence, social constructionism maintains that the meaning we give to experiences and events is shaped by social and cultural factors.

This perspective challenges the traditional notion that we can gain objective knowledge about the world. Instead, it suggests that our understanding of reality is constructed through language, culture, and social interactions.

Key Concepts of Social Constructionism

One of the key concepts of social constructionism is that reality is not objective but rather subjective. This means that our perceptions of reality are influenced by our thoughts, beliefs, and experiences. For example, if we are raised in a culture where mental illness is stigmatized, we may view individuals with mental health conditions differently than if we were raised in a culture where mental illness was more accepted.

Another central concept in social constructionism is the idea that knowledge is socially constructed. This means that what we know about the world comes from our interactions with others and our shared cultural beliefs. For example, our understanding of gender roles and expectations varies across cultures and historical periods.

The Role of Language in Social Constructionism

Language plays an important role in social constructionism because it enables people to create meaning and communicate their perceptions of reality with others. The words we use to describe things can shape how we think about them. For example, if someone refers to a person as “disabled,” it may lead us to view them primarily through their disability rather than as a whole person.

Social Constructionism in Action

An example of social constructionism in action can be seen in how society views addiction. In some cultures or subcultures, addiction may be seen as a personal failing or moral weakness. However, other cultures or subcultures may view addiction as a disease or medical condition requiring treatment.

Another example is the perception of race. Race is a social construct that has been used to create divisions and inequalities. Social constructionism challenges the notion that race is a biological reality and instead recognizes it as a cultural and social construct.

Criticisms of Social Constructionism

While social constructionism has gained popularity in recent years, it is not without its critics. One criticism is that it can lead to relativism, where all perspectives are viewed as equally valid and there is no objective truth. Additionally, some argue that social constructionism ignores the role of biology in shaping our experiences and perceptions.


Social constructionism offers a unique perspective on how we understand reality and the role of culture and language in shaping our perceptions. While it has its limitations, this theory provides an important framework for understanding how our experiences are shaped by the world around us.