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MCAT Content / Theoretical Approaches / Social Constructionism

Social constructionism

Topic: Theoretical Approaches

Social constructionism observes how the interactions of individuals with their society and the world around them give meaning to otherwise worthless things and create the reality of society.

Social constructionism is a perspective that focuses on how knowledge and experiences are not real, but exist because individuals and society give them meaning. This collective meaning provides the reality we live in. Ideas, like health and disease for example, are defined and shaped over time by society, and therefore subject to different cultural norms. The concept of the self (identity) is created by interactions with other people and our expectations of society.

Social constructionism is made up of two strands:

Weak social constructionism – states that social constructs are dependent on two types of facts: brute facts that do not rely on other bits of evidence. And institutional facts which are created by social conventions and rely on other facts to have meaning and example money depends on paper to print on, society to assign value, etc

Strong social constructionism – states that the whole of reality is dependent on language and habits and that all knowledge is a social construct. It argues against brute facts and that humans have created everything we use to explain concepts and reality.

Practice Questions

Khan Academy

To cohabit or not to cohabit?


MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Online Flashcards Sociology Question 16

Sample Test P/S Section Question 58


Key Points

• Social constructionism states that knowledge and experiences are not real, but their meaning is given to it by society and our interactions and understandings with objects and knowledge.


Key Terms

Brute facts: facts that are just fundamental and cannot be explained by other facts

Institutional facts: facts which are created by social conventions and meaning that is lent to concepts from society

Collective: a group small or large of people that offer meaning to objects/concepts

Social construct: something that exists not in objective reality, but as a result of human interaction

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