What Is Social Interaction Theory in Sociology?


Martha Robinson

Social Interaction Theory is a sociological concept that explores the ways in which people interact with one another. It is a key framework that helps us understand how social relationships are formed, developed, and maintained over time. In this article, we will explore the basic tenets of Social Interaction Theory and how it applies to our understanding of human behavior.

What is Social Interaction Theory?

Social Interaction Theory suggests that social interactions between individuals are shaped by shared meanings, norms, and values. It posits that human beings are social animals who rely on social interactions to survive and thrive. Social interactions can take many forms, from casual conversations to formal rituals like weddings or religious ceremonies.

Basic Tenets of Social Interaction Theory

At its core, Social Interaction Theory rests on three key tenets:

1. Meaning: People assign meaning to objects, actions, and events based on their cultural background and previous experiences. This meaning shapes how individuals perceive the world around them and influences their behavior.

2. Symbols: Symbols are a fundamental aspect of social interaction.

They can take many forms, including language, gestures, and material objects. Symbols allow individuals to communicate with one another in meaningful ways.

3. Interpretation: Interpretation refers to the process by which individuals make sense of their surroundings based on shared meanings and symbols. Interpretation is critical for successful social interaction because it enables people to understand one another’s intentions and actions.

Implications for Human Behavior

Social Interaction Theory has important implications for our understanding of human behavior. For example:

  • Socialization: Socialization refers to the process by which individuals learn the norms and values of their culture through social interaction with others.
  • Social Control: Social control refers to the ways in which society regulates individual behavior through informal and formal mechanisms like laws, norms, and customs.
  • Role Theory: Role theory suggests that individuals occupy different social roles (e.g., parent, teacher, student) that come with expectations and responsibilities. These roles shape how individuals interact with one another.


In conclusion, Social Interaction Theory provides a valuable framework for understanding how social interactions shape human behavior. By examining the meanings and symbols that underlie social interactions, we can gain insight into why people behave the way they do. Understanding Social Interaction Theory is critical for anyone interested in sociology or psychology, as it offers a powerful tool for analyzing human behavior.