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Posted: September 6th, 2023

The Thomas Theorem states, “If men define their situations as real

Sociology 8

Please choose one of the following prompts and respond to it in no less than 300-400 words. In your response, you must fully answer all aspects of the question and support your answer with reference to course materials (textbook, supplementary readings, videos, etc).

The Thomas Theorem states, “If men define their situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” This is the “social constructionist” view on society: we create realities in the social world simply because we believe something is real or necessary, and act accordingly. What does this mean to you? What is a real-life example of this theorem, and how does the theorem apply to that example?

In what ways has the development of social media been good for society? In what ways has it been bad for society? Why is a society that uses social media different from one that doesn’t? How does the usage of social media change the way people interact with, relate to, and perceive/judge each other?

The Thomas Theorem is a sociological concept that states that if individuals define their situations as real, those situations become real in their consequences. This concept is significant because it illustrates the power of social constructionism, the idea that society’s realities are constructed through human interaction and interpretation. To me, the Thomas Theorem means that our perceptions of reality shape the world we live in, and what we believe to be true has consequences that can affect individuals and society at large.

One real-life example of the Thomas Theorem can be seen in the criminal justice system. The way society defines crime and punishment shapes the way the criminal justice system operates. For example, the “war on drugs” in the United States was a social construction created by policymakers and the media in the 1980s that defined drug use as a societal problem that required a militarized response. As a result, harsh drug laws and mandatory minimum sentences were implemented, which led to the mass incarceration of millions of people, particularly people of color. The Thomas Theorem applies to this example because the way society defined drug use as a problem created real-world consequences, such as mass incarceration, that continue to affect individuals and society today.

The Thomas Theorem also has implications for our understanding of the nature of reality. It suggests that what we believe to be true is not necessarily objective reality, but rather a socially constructed reality that is shaped by our beliefs, values, and cultural norms. This can lead to conflicts when different groups have competing beliefs about what is real or necessary. For example, in debates over climate change, some individuals may define the problem as real and pressing, while others may deny its existence altogether. The consequences of these beliefs can be significant, as they can shape policy decisions and the allocation of resources.

The Thomas Theorem is a powerful sociological concept that highlights the importance of social constructionism in shaping our understanding of reality. Its real-life applications can be seen in a range of social contexts, from the criminal justice system to debates over climate change. By recognizing the power of our beliefs to shape our world, we can become more aware of how our perceptions of reality affect the consequences of our actions.


Burr, V. (2018). Social constructionism. Routledge.

Goffman, E. (2014). The presentation of self in everyday life. Simon and Schuster.

Mead, G. H. (2015). Mind, self, and society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist. University of Chicago Press.

Thomas, W. I., & Thomas, D. S. (2018). The child in America: Behavior problems and programs. Routledge.

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