Social Construction of Reality


The Social Construction of Reality is a way to understand how our perceptions of truth and our understanding of the world around us are formed. It’s like we’re all part of a big group project where we agree on what things mean and how they should work. For example, a piece of paper is just a piece of paper until we all decide it’s money and agree it has value. This idea tells us that the facts and beliefs we hold true don’t just pop out of thin air; they’re put together by our connections with other people, the cultural norms we follow, and the groups we belong to.

In simpler terms, the Social Construction of Reality is like a game of pretend that never ends and includes everyone. As we live our lives, we follow rules and ideas about the world that everyone around us agrees on. But sometimes, new ideas come around or people start to think differently, and what we thought was true can change. Things that seem so real to us, like what we consider right or wrong, or what we believe to be beautiful, are not the same everywhere and can shift over time, depending on what people in a society believe and accept.


Here are some common types of social constructions that shape how we live and see the world:

  • Gender roles: These tell us what behavior fits best for men and women. If a society believes only girls should play with dolls, that’s a social construction that assigns specific roles and expectations based on gender.
  • Race and ethnicity: This is about the ideas people have regarding different racial and ethnic groups. Society forms certain opinions and treats people differently based on these constructions.
  • Class: Society’s view on what it means to be ‘rich’ or ‘poor’, and how people should be treated depending on their social and economic status.
  • Beauty standards: Expectations of what looks good that influence fashion and personal grooming vary greatly across cultures and can change over time.

Examples of Social Construction Of Reality

  • Money: Money is a prime example because its value is something we all agreed on. If everyone suddenly decided that money was no longer valuable, it would just be pieces of paper and metal coins with no buying power.
  • Education: We see education as valuable because society has built a system where degrees and grades are markers of intelligence and expertise. This is a consented idea; different societies might measure knowledge in various ways.
  • Fashion: What’s fashionable is a social agreement. Fabric means nothing until society labels it as trendy or stylish. Fashion changes when society’s views on what looks good shift.
  • Social Media: Likes and follows on social platforms are given importance because people have collectively decided they are measures of popularity or success, even though they are just clicks or taps on a screen.
  • Time: The way we measure time, with 24 hours in a day or seven days in a week, is a social construct. These were established to bring order and structure to society, even though they are not based on any natural law.

Why is it important?

Why should any of this matter to us? When we realize that many of the truths we live by have been socially constructed, we can start to think differently. This realization is important because it allows us to understand that what we take for granted might not be the only way to see things. As ordinary people, becoming aware of these constructs can help us be more open to other perspectives and can encourage us to question norms that might not be fair or just. For example, understanding that beauty standards are socially constructed might help someone feel better about their own appearance.

Moreover, when we’re aware of the social constructions around us, we can work together to change the harmful ones. Recognizing that racism or sexism is not natural but rather built by society can motivate us to act against these injustices. It makes us realize that we are both shaped by society and have the power to shape it in return. This idea empowers us to stand up for what we believe can be a better and more equitable world for everyone.


The Social Construction of Reality began to gain a lot of attention with the publication of a book by the same name in 1966 by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann. They drew on ideas from both sociology and philosophy, and expanded on thoughts from earlier social thinkers like Karl Marx, who focused on how our material conditions shape society, and Émile Durkheim, who emphasized the power of social facts in influencing how a society functions. These ideas still impact the way we see and make sense of the world around us.


Not everyone agrees with this concept. Some argue that if we see everything as socially constructed, we might ignore actual scientific evidence or the importance of moral truths. There’s also a concern about personal responsibility; if we say society is to blame for our actions, does that mean individuals are no longer held accountable? Additionally, there’s an ongoing debate about nature vs. nurture, which questions how much of our behavior is learned from society versus what’s programmed into us by biology.

Despite these debates, the idea that our reality is shaped socially still plays a significant role in our understanding of the world and ourselves within it.

Other Important Aspects

By exploring social constructions, we can address issues of power and inequality, as these concepts impact views on race, gender, and more. Plus, when we realize our perspectives are influenced by our society, we can grow and understand more about ourselves. It pushes us to become critical thinkers and to question the origins of our beliefs.

Related Topics

Other topics that connect well with the Social Construction of Reality and might help us get a better understanding are:

  • Symbolic Interactionism: This looks at how we interact using symbols and how those symbols help create our social world.
  • Critical Theory: Here, thinkers question and try to understand society, aiming to change it for the better, often with a focus on challenging power structures.
  • Postmodernism: This is a way of thinking that says there isn’t just one truth but many, and it encourages us to look at the world from many different angles.

The concept of the Social Construction of Reality encourages us to examine the world we live in critically. It shows us that what we see as ‘real’ is often a result of a social agreement. By understanding this, we can begin to question and perhaps even change these social understandings for the better. It’s an idea that challenges us to look beyond what we immediately perceive as reality and examine our own role in creating and upholding these beliefs.