What is Social Construct theoretical framework and examples

Social Construct

Social construct is a product of the culture that each society generates. We use them to reference and make sense of the phenomena we build based on our beliefs in order to interact with each other and better manage reality and the world we live in.

In this article, we explain what a social construct is, what is its theoretical framework and why we need to create them . In addition, we provide several examples to better understand what they consist of.

Social construct: definition and theoretical framework

Social constructions or social constructions define meanings, notions or connotations that people attribute to certain objects or events. They are artifacts that do not exist in nature and we invented them to facilitate interpersonal relationships and interaction between people and the environment.

Sometimes, a social construct constitutes an idea or notion that seems natural and obvious to individuals who accept it, even if it does not faithfully represent reality; However, this is still an invention or a socially constructed device with which we interact based on established rules .

Perhaps the first work to address the issue of social constructions was The Social Construction of Reality , by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, published in the 1960s. The central idea that these authors defended was the fact that people interact in a social system and form, over time, mental representations of the actions of others , becoming reciprocal roles and rules that end up being typified and incorporated in institutions. Social.

In this sense, based on the theoretical framework of social constructivism, it is postulated that knowledge is always generated within the framework of a series of cultural and social practices that permeate everything; therefore, it is necessary to talk about the fact that reality is socially constructed; that is, the real would be established as a consequence of a dialectical process between social relations, typified habits and social structures .

However, today there is controversy surrounding issues such as; what is and what is not a social construction, what types of experience are more or less influenced by cultural variables or if it is possible that something can be socially constructed and at the same time biologically determined.

Why social constructs are created

Human beings need to understand our reality and this is precisely what social constructivism theory postulates: we create social constructions to understand the objective world .

One of the most common ways to make sense is to create categories and apply labels. For example, we divide people according to the different physical characteristics they have and create the social construct called “race”. Or we classify a living thing based on whether it has branches with leaves. building the concept of “tree”.

These two examples, although very different from each other, have something in common: that both are artificial constructions based on ideas and beliefs that can vary over time and space (context or culture).

Social constructs include values ​​and beliefs that, as we say, can be modified as societies and individuals interact; thus, new meanings emerge or those already available change. The term “feminism” is not the same today as it was several decades ago. And the same goes for other social constructions, such as humor or the concept of gender.

Examples of social constructions

Human beings have generated an infinity of social constructions to better order and understand the reality and situation we have had to live. Next, we will see some examples of social constructions.

1. Social classes

Social class is a type of socioeconomic classification that we use to establish different human groups based on shared criteria, such as: wealth, monetary income, employment, political and purchasing power, consumption habits, etc.

Although most social scientists share the fact that social class appears to represent a universal phenomenon, its meaning is often located contextually, since what determines class varies from one society to another and even within the same culture. different people who have different notions of what determines whether or not to belong to a social class.

2. The language

The language you learn depends on the culture you are born into; therefore, we can say that language is socially determined and is a social construction. However, there is a long list of studies in psychology and neuroscience that show that our brains are equipped by default with the necessary neurophysiological mechanisms to understand how language works and what we can and cannot learn about it.

Although our brains are designed to process language according to certain set rules, we humans try to create artificial languages, using linguistic norms that seem appropriate and logical when we are children; However, what finally happens is that this first “language” changes and acquires all the peculiarities that natural languages ​​have. This means that language would be biologically determined and would be, at the same time, a social artifact .

3. The genre

The way we currently experience the concept of gender , in which we see the “boundaries” between different categories, is influenced by learning and culture. But physiological and biological aspects also influence at a fundamental level.

When talking about gender being culturally constructed, it should be kept in mind that this concept encompasses a set of sexual and non-sexual traits, behaviors and characteristics : some very limited by biology; others only marginally restricted by it; and others that are purely social.

For example, men tend to have more body hair than women; However, some men are hairier than others, and women are the same. In some extreme cases, some women may have more hair than men, but this is uncommon. This is a phenomenon controlled by hormone production, which in turn is controlled by genes. Therefore, this fact would be very limited by biology.

On the other hand, there is scientific evidence that aggression and parental instinct are influenced by different hormone levels in men and women.

However, complex behaviors such as “aggression” and “parenting” are also heavily influenced by learning and culture : so much so that there is overlap between men and women on these dimensions, and some cultures may push men and women towards one end or another of them. In summary, these characteristics would be partially defined by cultural variables.

In summary, many of the social constructs, like gender, are a combination of biological determinants and cultural aspects; therefore, it is necessary to know how to identify how well each of the parts is in order to better understand and use these constructs.

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