Introduction to Reality as a Social Construct

What you’ll learn to do: explain the social construction of reality

A photo of students looking at the teacher standing in the front of the classroom.

Society is based on the social construction of reality. What does this mean? Consider something that we consider “obvious” like Grade Point Average (GPA). Remember, the sociological perspective is about making the familiar strange, right? For college acceptance, scholarships, and many other important events that occur in one’s life, GPA is a factor. We define academic excellence, in part, with a high GPA. A student with two A’s (4.0) and two D’s (2.0) has a GPA of 3.0. A student with four B’s (3.0) also has a GPA of 3.0. Does this average accurately represent student performance? What if one student is taking college classes in high school and the other student is taking all electives?

If a student has a high GPA, they might be given accolades such as a place on the “honor roll” or “dean’s list,” and as we will see, social constructions like this have very real implications for college admissions, scholarships, one’s identity, as well as on the way that others see us. We might eventually perform the role of a high-achieving student once that expression aligns with our sense of self.

Sociologists examine the social constructions of reality as they relate to gender, race and ethnicity, age, economic class, religion, and other factors that make up our social location. We all take on various roles throughout our lives, and our social interactions depend on what types of roles we assume, who we assume them with, and the scene where these interactions takes place.

In this section, you will learn to explain the social construction of reality, define roles, and examine how individuals perceive themselves within a social context.

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