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Social Interaction

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Social Interaction

Language without social interaction would make it a curiosity; studied by experts, spoken by no one. Humans interact with each other hundreds of times a day. Some interactions are verbal (a greeting, a farewell, and everything in between) and some interactions are non-verbal or symbolic (a wave, a nod, and even the clothes one wears). For an interaction to work, everyone involved needs to understand the 'code' (the words, the wave, or the wardrobe). In fact, not knowing the code (or codes) is what makes you a cultural 'outsider' (a French person in Vietnam would be lost linguistically and culturally. The road signs, the customs, the language would be unknown or unfamiliar). The study of communication in social interactions is an important topic in sociolinguistics.

Social Interaction, black question marks and one red question mark, StudySmarterNot being able to communicate in a particular language can make things quite confusing when traveling, Pixabay

Social interaction definition

Before we delve into the intricacies of social interaction, let's first cover the social interaction meaning:

Social Interaction refers to the way individuals behave when they meet or spend time together, and involves verbal or non-verbal communication.

Basically, if you've ever spoken to or spent time with anyone, ever, you will have engaged in a social interaction!

Types of social interaction

There are five key types of social interaction which we'll cover right now!

Exchange

The most basic form of social interaction, exchange, is when individuals interact with one another to receive a reward of some sort.

It is assumed that most people perform social behaviours because they can benefit from them in some way. We work for the reward of payment. We are friends with people who we feel we can benefit from, whether emotionally, financially, or physically.

Most people will not surround themselves with people who they cannot benefit from in some way.

Cooperation

Cooperation is when individuals work together to achieve a common goal. When individuals have overlapping desires, they are likely to cooperate with one another. Any behaviour exhibited between a group of people can be considered a form of cooperation.

A world without cooperation would be a pretty empty one! Human beings need to cooperate in order to create. Before cooperation is even possible, communication must occur.

Imagine trying to start a new festival in your town without the cooperation of anyone in that town. How could you secure funding, provide food, or even sort out performances? Creation without cooperation would be an incredibly hard feat.

Competition

Competition is when individuals or groups rival one another in order to win a reward. This reward may be control over resources, or even respect from your peers.

Biology points to competition as a natural human characteristic. The need to compete has been passed down from our ancestors, who competed for physical resources such as land, food, water, mates etc, and non-physical resources such as respect and admiration.

Nowadays, human beings compete against each other in a number of ways.

Study tip: Think of all the ways human beings compete. Think of large-scale competitions like the World Cup and the Olympics, down to small-scale competitions such as school talent shows.

Conflict

Conflict is when there is a clash between the personal interests of groups or individuals. When groups or individuals fail to cooperate with one another in social interaction and their desires do not overlap, conflict occurs.

On a larger scale, conflict can result from the struggle for control of resources. Conflict is an entirely common and natural part of human existence, as the wants and needs of two individuals can never align perfectly.

Conflict can occur for other reasons, too. If in a social interaction, one party feels offended by the words or actions of another, conflict can arise.

Study tip: Think of some of the biggest conflicts in human history. What started those conflicts? Who were the parties involved? Did conflict arise because of a struggle over resources or for other reasons?

Accommodation

Accommodation is a sort of middle-ground between conflict and cooperation. You could essentially think of accommodation as a compromise.

When two parties disagree (or have a conflict) and cannot come to an agreement, the next best option is to compromise. This means that each party gives up something that they are arguing for in order to be able to move forward. The result is that all parties get something that they want, even if they don't get everything they want.

Accommodation can take the form of a truce or mediation where the involved parties work towards a solution.

Social Interaction, two male silhouettes shaking hands, StudySmarterSometimes a compromise can be the best way to move forward after an argument, Pixabay

Social interaction examples

In order to better understand the topic of social interaction, let's look at some quick examples. Here are some examples of situations where social interaction might take place:

  • An employer and employee have a meeting to discuss a promotion. The employer lays out the terms of the new role as well as the additional responsibilities the employee will have to take on. The employee asks about what added benefits or pay rise they will receive. This is an example of an exchange (both parties are seeking to gain something or benefit from the social interaction).
  • A group of students are put together for a group project where they have to give a presentation to the rest of the class on a particular topic. One of the students volunteers to design the slides, one says that they will do the research, and another says that they will present the project. Each student contributes towards a common goal and each plays to their own strengths. This is an example of cooperation (all parties are contributing and working together to get a good grade).
  • There is a scavenger hunt at a birthday party. Each child participating goes about trying to follow the clues in order to find the prize. During the scavenger hunt, the children make jokes with one another, send each other in the wrong direction, and generally try to ensure that no one else gets the prize before them. This social interaction is an example of competition (all parties are trying to outdo each other, or achieve something before the others).
  • Two siblings are in a rush to get ready for school and don't want to miss the school bus. Neither of them showered the night before and they both race to the bathroom that they share. They argue over who should shower first, each one advocating for themselves. As time goes on, the argument gets more heated until neither sibling has any time left to shower. This is an example of a conflict (both parties fail to cooperate with the other, and an argument ensues as a result).
  • Two children both want the last slice of birthday cake in the fridge. Neither will give it up to the other so their mother steps in to mediate. She tells them that she will cut the slice in half so that each of them can have a piece. The children agree to this arrangement and each enjoy half a slice of cake. This is an example of accommodation (an argument is overcome through compromise).

Social Interaction, a slice of chocolate cake on a plate, StudySmarterSharing the last slice of cake is an accommodating social interaction, Pixabay

Non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication is when individuals use social cues in order to understand one another without the use of words.

Some tools a speaker might use to communicate in a non-verbal manner are:

  • Eye contact (using your eyes to point someone's attention to a particular place)

  • Hand gestures (think peace sign, middle finger, even gang signs give social cues and are perceived as offensive / non-offensive based on location)

  • Eyebrows (they can indicate frustration, confusion, shock and other emotions)

  • Lips (a smile, smirk, frown, etc. can convey certain feelings)

Hand gestures in non-verbal language are incredibly important, sign languages such as BSL and ASL enable non-verbal communication. Hand gestures go beyond waving to indicate 'hello' or 'goodbye', whole languages have been created around using hand gestures to communicate nonverbally.

There are forms of non-verbal communication that can be interpreted through speech too, such as:

  • Voice quality

  • Pace

  • Pitch

  • Volume

  • Rhythm

  • intonation

Non-verbal communication found in speech is known as paralanguage. All of these forms of non-verbal communication can be used to reflect the hidden meaning behind a speaker's words.

Speaker: Hey! Are you coming?

There are many ways this can be interpreted. Depending on how the six forms of non-verbal paralanguage are used, this can be interpreted in any number of ways. Imagine the speaker saying this with a pleasant tone in a cheerful, excited way.

Now, let's say the speaker shouts these words (volume), placing emphasis on 'you' (intonation) and with a deep growl (pitch).

Speaker: Hey! Are you coming?!

What is being said might now appear to be scornful, as though the speaker is disgusted that whoever they are addressing is coming with them.

The point is, that the way a speaker delivers their message can greatly shift its interpretation, and can heavily shift/influence a social interaction.

Evaluation of Social Interaction

Language and social interaction go hand in hand. Social interaction is a crucial part of perfecting our understanding of different languages.

Imagine you learn the entire French language, memorising every grammatical rule and perfecting your understanding of the language. While you may feel like an expert, you can never be truly fluent in French without interacting with native French speakers.

There are parts of every language that can only be understood by socializing with the speakers of the language. A non-English speaker could learn everything about the language, and still not understand slang, which arises through social interaction in specific communities.

This is why when learning a language, watching films and videos of the speakers of that language socially interacting, as well as direct communication with native speakers, can be hugely beneficial.

Social Interaction Theory

Social Interaction Theory (SIT) is a theory that looks at how people behave and interact when they're in groups. We all act different when we're in a social group than when we're at home on our own. Different patterns emerge when we're around other people as we react and respond to what the people around us do and say.

When we're around other people, we feel a certain degree of social pressure, or a pressure to behave in a certain way in order to conform to the norms of that particular social group. The degree of social pressure will vary depending on our relationships with the people in each social group. For example, when we're around close friends, we might not feel any social pressure to behave a certain way, whereas if we are around a group of new people that we want to get closer to, our behaviour and speech might be more impacted by this sense of pressure.

Social Interaction - Key Takeaways

  • Social Interaction typically refers to the way individuals behave amongst one another, and involves verbal or non-verbal communication between two or more people.

  • Social interaction is a crucial part of perfecting our understanding of different languages.

  • The most common forms of social interaction are: exchange, cooperation, competition, and conflict.

  • Some non-verbal forms of social communication are expressed through clothes, hairstyles, shoes, smell etc.

  • Other non-verbal forms of social interaction include eye contact, hand gestures, eyebrow movement, lip movement etc.

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Interaction

Social Interaction is the way individuals behave socially and involves verbal or non-verbal communication between two or more people.

Any example of communication between two or more people is considered a social interaction. An example of social interaction could be anything from buying food from a street vendor, giving a stranger directions, engaging in conversation at the dinner table with your family members etc.

The five types of social interaction are exchange, cooperation, competition, accommodation, and conflict.

Social Interaction Theory is a sociolinguistic theory that looks at how people behave and interact when they're in groups. The focus is on how people act and react to other people as opposed to how they would act if they were alone. 

Final Social Interaction Quiz

Question

Why does watching a movie alone not count as a social interaction?


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Answer

Social interaction must occur between two or more people.

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Question

True or False: Social Interaction refers to the verbal communication between individuals.


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Answer

False - Social interaction can involve verbal or non-verbal communication.

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Question

Which of the following are forms of social interaction?

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Answer

Contribution

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Question

Which of the following is not an example of visual non-verbal communication?:

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Answer

Clothing

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Question

Fill in the blanks: Non-verbal communication found in speech is known as  ___________.

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Answer

Paralanguage

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Question

True or False: Conflict is when individuals or groups rival one another in order to win a reward.

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Answer

True

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Question

Becky believes there is a type of social interaction in which we make friends with those who we feel we can benefit from in some way. Which type of social interaction is this?

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Answer

Exchange - It establishes that individuals interact with one another to receive a reward of some sort. 


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Question

Are the following examples of paralanguage, or examples of non-verbal communication?: voice quality, pace, pitch, volume, rhythm, and intonation.



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Answer

Both. Paralanguage is non-verbal communication found in speech.

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Question

The peace sign, middle finger, and thumbs up are all examples of what type of non-verbal communication?

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Answer

Hand gestures.

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Question

  1. Which of the following can not be conveyed through non-verbal communication?:


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Answer

Attitudes


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Question

World Wars I and II are both examples of what type of social interaction?

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Answer

Conflict

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Question

The Olympics, World Cup and school talent shows are examples of what type of social interaction?

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Answer

Competition

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Question

Which of these is not an example of paralanguage?


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Answer

Volume

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Question

Fill in the blank: Any example of communication between ___ or more people is considered a social interaction.

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Answer

Two

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Question

Your town is drawing up plans to put on a talent show in the town hall. Why is this an example of cooperation and not competition?

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Answer

Cooperation is when individuals work together to achieve a common goal. The talent show itself is a competition.


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Question

What is meant be 'social interaction'?

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Answer

Social Interaction refers to the way individuals behave when they meet or spend time together, and involves verbal or non-verbal communication. 

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Question

How many key types of social interaction are there?

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Answer

five

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Question

What happens in a conflict social interaction?

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Answer

A conflict are when the parties in a social interaction argue or fight about something. A conflict always has a source of struggle or tension. 

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Question

What happens in an exchange social interaction?

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Answer

In an exchange, the parties involved interact in order to gain a benefit or reward of some kind. In other words, an exchange takes place between them.

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What happens in a cooperation social interaction?

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Answer

In a cooperative social interaction, the involved parties work together towards a common goal, each contributing towards a solution or aspiration. 

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What happens in a competition social interaction?

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In a competition, people try to outdo one another, or beat one another at a particular thing. In a competition, the participants all want to be the winner. 

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What happens in an accommodation social interaction?

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In an accommodation situation, the parties involved will each give up part of what they want in order to move on from an argument or disagreement. An accommodation is a truce or compromise. 

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What does SIT stand for?

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Social Interaction Theory

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Question

According to Social Interaction Theory, what happens when we interact in a group environment?

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Answer

In a group environment, we feel a certain amount of social pressure which leads us to alter the way we behave and speak. 

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Question

Name three qualities of speech (sound) that can act as non-verbal communication techniques?

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Answer

Any from this list:


  • pitch
  • volume
  • pace
  • rhythm
  • intonation

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