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The Production of Reality

The Production of Reality
Essays and Readings on Social Interaction

Sixth Edition
Edited by:

Other Titles in:
Sociology (General)

June 2016 | 608 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
A one-of-a-kind social psychology book that inspires readers to be awake in the world.  

In this new, Sixth Edition, Jodi O’Brien continues to explore the historical development of the concept of the self, and help readers see the patterns we use to make sense of our own lives. The book introduces the major theories, concepts, and perspectives of contemporary social psychology in a uniquely engaging manner. Compelling original essays that provide an overarching framework are followed by a wide-ranging set of readings.

By grounding social psychology in student experiences and explaining theories through stories and narratives, this one-of-a-kind book helps students understand the forces that shape their feelings, thoughts, and actions. 

Contributor to the SAGE Teaching Innovations & Professional Development Award
Part I: Introduction
Jodi O'Brien
Essay: What Is Real?
Jodi O'Brien
Essay: The Nature of Humanness
Jodi O'Brien
Essay: Perspectives on Social Behavior
Reality as a Collective Hunch
Reading 1: Islands of Meaning

Eviatar Zeruavel
Reading 2: The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Jane Wagner
Reading 3: Truth, Objectivity and Agreement

Earl Babbie
Reading 4: Strange Creatures: The Meme Machine

Susan Blackmore
Part II: Language and Self-Awareness
Jodi O'Brien
Essay: Shared Meaning as the Basis of Humanness
Symbol Use, Language, and Development
Reading 5: That Powerful Drop

Langston Hughes
Reading 6: A Clue to the Nature Of Man: The Symbol

Ernst Cassirer
Reading 7: Yes, Father, Sister

Oliver Sacks
Reading 8: Final Note on a Case of Extreme Isolation

Kingsley Davis
Categorization and Culture
Reading 9: Mindfulness and Mindlessness

Ellen Langer
Reading 10: Metaphors We Live By

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
Reading 11: A Person Paper on Purity in Language

Douglas Hofstadter
Part III: Producing Social Identities and Social Scripts
Jodi O'Brien
Essay: Learning the Script: Socialization
Socialization & Reference Groups
Reading 12: The Self, the I, and the Me

George Herbert Mead
Reading 13: Socialization: The Internalization of Society

Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann
Reading 14: Reference Groups as Perspectives

Tamotsu Shibutani
Reading 15: Shades of White

Pamela Perry
Reading 16: "We Don't Sleep Around Like White Girls Do"

Yen Espiritu
Naming Feeling and Experience
Reading 17: Becoming a Marijuana User

Howard Becker
Reading 18: The Development of Feeling Norms Underlying Romantic Love Among Adolescent Females

Robin Simon, Donna Eder, and Cathy Evans
Part IV: Producing Social Selves
Jodi O'Brien
Essay: Who Am I? Developing Character
Jodi O'Brien
Essay: Self as a Process of Contradictions and Conflict
Significant Others and Self Development
Reading 19: Looking-Glass Self

Charles Horton Cooley
Reading 20: A Theory of Genius

Thomas Scheff
Reading 21: Trans-kin undoing and re-doing gender: Negotiating Relational Identity Among Friends and Family of Transgender Persons

Cameron Whitley
Self and Social Context
Reading 22: Korean Adoptees and the Social Context of Ethnic Exploration

Jiannbin Lee Shiao and Mia H. Tuan
Reading 23: Identity Careers of Older Gay Men and Lesbians

Dana Rosenfeld
Contradictions and Conflict in Self Production
Reading 24: Double Consciousness and the Veil

W.E.B. DuBois
Reading 25: Wrestling the Angel of Contradiction: Queer Christian Identities

Jodi O'Brien
Reading 26: Life as the Maid's Daughter

Mary Romero
Part V: Producing Social Life through Interaction
Jodi O'Brien
Essay: Meaning Is Negotiated through Interaction
Projecting the Definition of the Situation
Reading 27: The Presentation fo Self in Everyday Life: Selections

Erving Goffman
Reading 28: Establishing the Scene in Steampunk Live Action Role-Play

Mark Cohan
Reading 29: Death as Theater: A Dramaturgical Reading of the American Funeral

Ronny E. Turner and Charles Edgely
Reading 30: "Precarious Situations" in a Strip Club: Exotic Dancers and the Problem of Reality Maintenance

Kari Lerum
Self Presentation and Identity Work
Reading 31: The Practice of Headscarf Adoption among American College Girls

Mustafa E. Gurbuz and Gulsum Gurbuz-Kucuksari
Reading 32: In Pursuit of the 'Real Deal': Accomplishing Gender Among Transgender Inmates in Prisons for Men

Valerie Jenness and Sarah Fenstermaker
Emotional Labor, Stigma, and Resistance
Reading 33: The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling

Arlie Hochschild
Reading 34: Panhandling Repetoires and Routines for Overcoming the Nonperson Treatment

Stephen E. Lankenau
Reading 35: Stealing a Bag of Potato Chips and Other Crimes of Resistance

Victor Rios
Part VI: The Social Production of Reality
Jodi O'Brien
Essay: Building and Breaching Reality
A Theory of Reality
Reading 36: Five Features of Reality

Hugh Mehan and Houston Wood
Reading 37: A Conception of and Experiments with "Trust" as a Condition of Concerted Stable Actions

Harold Garfinkel
Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
Reading 38: Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Paul Watzlawick
Reading 39: Nonverbal Mediation of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in Interracial Interaction

Carol O. Word, Mark P. Zanna, and Joel Cooper
The Social Production of the Cultural Status Quo
Reading 40: Coming Home to Friendly Fire

Victor Ray
Reading 41: The Persistence of Gender Inequality in Employment Settings

Cecilia Ridgeway
The Social Production of Change
Reading 42: Discovering "Truth"

Thomas DeGloma
Reading 43: Take Your Good Friday to the Streets

Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo
Reading 44: Talking Back

bell hooks
Name Index
Subject Index
About the Author


Instructor Resource Site

Password-protected Instructor Resources include the following:

  • Microsoft® Word test bank, is available containing multiple choice and essay questions for each chapter. The test bank provides you with a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity for editing any question and/or inserting your own personalized questions to effectively assess students’ progress and understanding.
  • Lively and stimulating chapter activities that can be used in class to reinforce active learning. The activities apply to individual or group projects.
  • Recommended Readings and Films include non-fiction, fiction, feature films, and for additional study


I used this text for my Society and Self course for this Spring semester. It was an excellent text for this course and my students liked it

Professor Rosemarie Kramer
Sociology/Anthropology Dept, Kean University
April 15, 2021

This is a highly recommended text in every respect. It covers significant depth of analysis on reality. It is particularly relevant for social science courses exploring ontological perspectives.
The text explores all the major theoretical perspectives, developing the concept of reality from areas including language, identity and culture.
The text is ideal for any course exploring aspects of reality, including from a social research perspective.
Given the depth of analysis, and complex discussions, it is more suited to undergraduate and postgraduate courses, although it remains a recommended text for all levels.

Mr Gavin Hatton
Sociology , Merthyr Tydfil College
October 13, 2016

This book, although of potential interest to some postgraduate students, goes too far beyond theories that can be reasonably expected to inform the work of pre-doctoral students. It is a very useful read for lecturers who would like to challenge the usual teleological nature of science or knowledge propagated in undergraduate education.

Mr Michael Klingenberg
Faculty of Health & Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University
April 29, 2016

This book is an excellent reader for a qualitative and theory-driven approach to Social Psychology.

Professor Erika M Summers Effler
Sociology Dept, University Of Notre Dame
July 31, 2016
Key features


  • Three new framing essays: “The Nature of Humanness,” “Perspectives on Social Behavior,” and “Self as a Process of Contradictions and Conflicts.”
  • Sixteen new readings, by Susan Blackmore, Langston Hughes, Douglas Hofstadter, Yen Le Espiritu, Cameron Whitley, Jiannbin Lee Shiao/Mia H. Tuan, Mary Romero, Mark Cohan, Ronny E. Turner/Charles Edgely, Kari Lerum, Mustafa E. Gurbuz/Gulsum Gurbuz-Kucuksari, Valerie Jenness/Sarah Fenstermaker, Victor Rios, Carol Ward, Victor Ray, and Thomas DeGloma.   


  • Each part includes one or more "framing essays" that introduce relevant themes and concepts and raise questions about the mysteries of human social life.
  • The Editor combines interactionist and structural perspectives, to give a full picture of social relations.
  • The readings span several decades, represent many different voices and points of view, and include selections from a variety of sources: classic studies, contemporary peer-reviewed journals, narrative essays, and fiction.
  • “Reading Questions” precede each reading and encourage students to reflect on their own lives and experiences.

-There are a total of 14 readings.
-Several new readings explore the topics of socio-biology and the nature-nurture debate.
-Readings on the social psychology of unconscious bias and racism, gender, and gender and sexuality, have been updated 
-Chapter 1 has two additional faming essays by the editor : "The Nature of Humaness" and "Prespectives on Social Behavior"
-The total number of parts has been reduced from seven to six, and material on socialization and the social self has been significantly reorganized.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

For instructors

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ISBN: 9781452217833