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Social Interaction

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English

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.

What is Social Interaction?

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

Importance of Language in 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.

Types of Social Interaction

Here are the most common forms of social interaction:

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 behaviors 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 behavior 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?

Non-verbal social interaction

Non-verbal communication

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

These are ways a speaker can non-verbally communicate in a visual way that reflects their mood, thoughts, or feelings:

  • Clothing

  • Hairstyle

  • Shoes

All of these ways can convey an individual's status, attitude, or feelings. Even smell, to a certain extent, can be used to give a non-verbal message to the rest of society. A scan can indicate a wide range of emotions, and can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Study tip: Think of perfume ads. What is depicted to you on-screen is a visual representation of the way a smell is supposed to make you feel. Lust, nostalgia, and delight are all emotions that can be conveyed through smell!

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

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.

  • Some types of non verbal communication expressed through speech are voice quality, pace, pitch, volume, rhythm, and intonation .

  • Non-verbal communication found in speech is known as paralanguage .

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

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 main forms of social interaction are exchange, cooperation, competition, and conflict.

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

Show question

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. 


Show question

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.

Show question

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.

Show question

Question

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


Show answer

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

Show question

Question

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

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Answer

Competition

Show question

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.

Show answer

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?

Show answer

Answer

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


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