Three theories represent sociological perspectives of behavior of humans as they interact with one another in society. According to the theories, the human mind and the physical body work interdependently. The physical results bear significant resemblance to personal mental functions. This paper examines the three theories which are symbolic interactionism, conflict theory and functionalism, and their applicability in sensitive issues of racism and prejudice and deviance. Human beings live not only by their physical strength, but also their mental power and functionality.
Symbolic interactionism is a theory which pays attention to the way people communicate with one another, interpretation and adjustment among them. Functionalism, on the hand, emphasizes on the physical output and the behavior output that that occur because of mental states such as desires, beliefs and a state of feeling pain. Besides, conflict theory focuses on the political, material and social inequality among members of a society. Deviance is the tendency to engage in crass behavioral acts that violate societal norms and standards. Racism and prejudice are causes of intolerance that exist society because of cultural, racial and ethnic differences. Such discriminatory behavior would lead to inappropriate actions of violence, abuse and hate. The idea of deviance then fits into the context of symbolic interactionism.
The labels and tags that the society puts on individuals present weighty implications that influence their interactions with one another. Terms, like teacher, parent and doctor, are symbols that people use in respect of symbolic interactionism theory. The symbol of teacher, in society, is an automatic tag that attracts respect from people around the individual bearing that title. The society expects that to happen (Charon, 2004). As a result, the treatment that such a person is entirely different from the treatment that another person with a different tag expects.
Similarly, when people perceive each other as whites, blacks and other terms, they trigger incidents of racism and prejudice. For instance, if a teacher pointed out that students with blue eyes are cleverer than those with a different eye color, a demarcation incidentally appears with similar eye color trying to identify themselves with one another. This, in the process, brings prejudice among the groups.
In view of the conflict theory, inequality of whichever kind within a society would elicit different reactions from different quotas of the society (Weber, 2004). An automatic response from the unequal members would be a sharp boundary separating the dissimilar groups of individuals. This is the beginning of prejudice. In some cases, those who feel that the society or the environment does not favor them would resort to unacceptable behavior just to have their place in society. This is deviance.
In a different scenario, it is true that people do what previously occupied, or currently resides in the mind. A person would hurt someone they hate because that is what occupies a substantial portion of their mental space. Physical outcomes are products of mental functions. It is, therefore, only in an abnormal situation that a human would do something with physical results without any mental input. Social intolerance, or prejudice, starts in the mind. It then manifests itself in a physical form through actions of insult, intimidate or harm them physically (DeLancey, 2002). This relates the theory of functionalism and racism and prejudice. In another scenario, a thief does not rely on their legs, eyes and hands to carry out their unacceptable acts. They think about what they want to do, meditate upon it and desire it before making the final move of looting whatever they have to loot. This is relational in respect of the theory of functionalism and the concept of deviance.