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Thomas Theorem

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A concept formulated by the American sociologist William Isaac Thomas (1863–1967) that ‘“*facts” do not have a uniform existence apart from the persons who observe and interpret them. Rather, the “real” facts are the ways in which different people come into and define situations’. Famously, as he and his research assistant and wife Dorothy Swaine Thomas (1899–1977) put it in 1928, ‘If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences’. Such a ‘subjective’ definition of the situation by a social actor, group, or subculture is what Merton came to call a self-fulfilling prophecy (as in cases of ‘mind over matter’). It is at the heart of symbolic interactionism. See also constructionism; frame of reference; framing; perspectivism.

Subjects: Media studies

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