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Definition of Subjectivity

(noun) Opinions based on personal impressions that are influenced by bias and prejudices.

Subjectivity Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: sub·jec·tiv·i·ty

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /suhb-jek-tIv-uh-tee/
  • British English – /suhb-jek-tIv-i-tee/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˌsəbˌdʒɛkˈtɪvədi/
  • British English – /ˌsʌbdʒɛkˈtɪvᵻti/

Usage Notes

  • Subjectivity is opposed to objectivity.
  • Also called subjectiveness.

Related Quotations

  • “[F]avoritism for the attractive and discrimination against the unattractive—creates a structure of unequal opportunity, providing unearned advantages to the attractive and disadvantages to the unattractive. While it is often claimed that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’—that the assessment of attractiveness is a highly subjective matter—in fact there are high levels of agreement about attractiveness that are largely unaffected by the ‘beholder’s’ sex, age, or socioeconomic status. There is even substantial cross-cultural agreement” (McNamee and Miller 2013:208).
  • “In ‘action‘ is included all human behaviour when and in so far as the acting individual attaches a subjective meaning to it. Action in this sense may be either overt or purely inward or subjective; it may consist of positive intervention in a situation, or of deliberately refraining from such intervention or passively acquiescing in the situation. Action is social in so far as, by virtue of the subjective meaning attached to it by the acting individual (or individuals) it takes account of the behaviour of others and is thereby oriented in its course” (Weber [1922] 1947:88).
  • “In a society that accords priority to that which is predictable and places a premium on certainty, our spontaneous, preconceptual experience, when acknowledged at all, is referred to as ‘merely subjective.’ The fluid realm of direct experience has come to be seen as a secondary, derivative dimension, a consequence of events unfolding in the ‘realer’ world of quantifiable and measurable scientific ‘facts'” (Abram 1996:34).
  • Phenomenology, as [Edmund Husserl] articulated it in the early 1900s, would turn toward ‘the things themselves,’ toward the world as it is experienced in its felt immediacy. Unlike the mathematics-based sciences, phenomenology would seek not to explain the world, but to describe as closely as possible the way the world makes itself evident to awareness, the way things first arise in the our direct, sensorial experience. By thus returning to the taken-for-granted realm of subjective experience, not to explain it but simply to pay attention to its rhythms and textures, not to capture or control it but simply to become familiar with its diverse modes of appearance—and ultimately to give voice to its enigmatic and ever-shifting patterns—phenomenology would articulate the ground of the other sciences” (Abram 1996:35).
  • Symbols are instrumental in helping people derive meaning from social interactions. In social encounters, each person’s interpretation or definition of a given situation becomes a subjective reality from that person’s viewpoint. We often assume that what we consider ‘reality’ is shared by others; however, this assumption is often incorrect” (Kendall 2006:20).
  • “To begin with, all our experiences are inescapably subjective. There is no way out. We can see only through our own eyes, and anything peculiar to our eyes will shape what we see. We can hear things only the way our particular ears and brain transmit and interpret sound waves. You and I, to some extent, hear and see different realities” (Babbie 2011:42).
  • “Whereas our subjectivity is individual, our search for objectivity is social. This is true in all aspects of life, not just in science. While you and I prefer different foods, we must agree to some extent on what is fit to eat and what is not, or else there could be no restaurants, no grocery stores, no food industry” (Babbie 2011:43).

Related Video

Additional Information

Related Terms


Abram, David. 1996. The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. New York: Pantheon Books.

Babbie, Earl R. 2011. The Basics of Social Research. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Kendall, Diana. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

McNamee, Stephen J., and Robert K. Miller, Jr. 2013. The Meritocracy Myth. 3rd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Weber, Max. [1922] 1947. The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Translated by A. M. Henderson and T. Parsons. New York: Oxford University Press.

Works Consulted

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Taylor & Francis. (N.d.) Routledge Handbooks Online. (https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/).

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (http://en.wiktionary.org).

Wiley. (N.d.) Wiley Online Library. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/).

Cite the Definition of Subjectivity

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “subjectivity.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 18, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/subjectivity/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

subjectivity. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/subjectivity/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “subjectivity.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/subjectivity/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“subjectivity.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 18 Jun. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/subjectivity/>.