Social constructionism

Social constructionism is a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about reality. The theory centers on the notion that meanings are developed in coordination with others rather than separately within each individual.[1]

Social constructionism questions what is defined by humans and society to be reality. Therefore, social constructs can be different based on the society and the events surrounding the time period in which they exist.[2] An example of a social construct is money or the concept of currency, as people in society have agreed to give it importance/value.[2][3] Another example of a social construction is the concept of self/self-identity.[4] Charles Cooley stated based on his Looking-Glass-Self theory: "I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am."[2] This demonstrates how people in society construct ideas or concepts that may not exist without the existence of people or language to validate those concepts.[2][5]

There are weak and strong social constructs.[3] Weak social constructs rely on brute facts (which are fundamental facts that are difficult to explain or understand, such as quarks) or institutional facts (which are formed from social conventions).[2][3] Strong social constructs rely on the human perspective and knowledge that does not just exist, but is rather constructed by society.[2]

Definition

A social construct or construction concerns the meaning, notion, or connotation placed on an object or event by a society, and adopted by the inhabitants of that society with respect to how they view or deal with the object or event.[6] In that respect, a social construct as an idea would be widely accepted as natural by the society.

A major focus of social constructionism is to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the construction of their perceived social reality. It involves looking at the ways social phenomena are developed, institutionalized, known, and made into tradition by humans.