social action

(noun) A behavior by an individual during an interaction to which the individual attaches meaning based on others interpretations or responses to the act.

Example: Covering you mouth when you cough in public (as to not be rude) or dressing in a suit for a job interview (to impress and meet the expectation of the situation).

Audio Pronunciation: (so·cial ac·tion)

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Usage Notes:

  • Plural: social actions
  • An action differs from behavior in that social action requires intention. Behavior in the simplest terms is everything a person does,  a social action is a behavior based on intentional reaction to their surroundings and expectations based on attitudes, beliefs, norms, and values.
  • Behavior is what you do when no one is looking and a social action is what you do when you have an audience.
  • The study of social actions is action theory.
  • Max Weber developed a typology of four ideal types of social action:
    • affectual action (also called affectional action, affective action, or emotional action) – An action determined by emotion such as crying at a movie or clapping to show approval and appreciation.
    • zweckrational (roughly translated from German as “technocratic thinking,” also called goal-instrumental action, goal-oriented action, or instrumental action) – An action determined by the most rational and pragmatic solution to a problem such as the proper bridge to build over a river based on available materials and the environment or an investment banker choosing which stock to buy.
    • traditional action – An action determined by custom or habit such as celebrating a holiday or combing your hair.
    • wertrational  (also called value-rational action, value rationality, or value-oriented action ) – An action determined by a moral imperative but pursued through rational means such the following the teachings of a religion to achieve salvation.
  • Also called:
    • action
    • meaningful action
    • meaningful social action

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