The New Johari Window #18. Quadrant One: Continental School of Thought Regarding Interpersonal Needs and Quad One General Implications
Social Construction of Reality
Several social scientists have written about the social construction of reality—notably Berger and Luckmann. It is assumed that an “objective” sense of reality can never be attained, given that this reality is always viewed and evaluated within a specific social context and through the lens of specific societal values, cultural perspectives, untested assumptions and political agendas. In their embracing of a constructivist notion of reality, these social scientists have taken a significant step in positing that language (or more generally the use of symbols and signs) is central to the definition and description of reality.
Language is not simply a handmaiden for reality, as the objectivists would suggest. Language is not a secondary vehicle that we must employ when commenting on the reality that underlies and is the reference point for this language. While objectivism is based on the assumption that there is a constant reality to which one can refer (through the use of language and other symbol/sign systems), constructivism is based on the assumption that the mode and content of discourse is the closest thing we have to a reality. If reality is a social construction, then the language being used to describe this elusive and changing reality is itself a major source of this social construction.
One of the major implications of this constructivist analysis is that our language creates our reality and that reality is therefore ephemeral. Once we have spoken, the reality is not present that was created when we were speaking. Even if we say the same words, they are spoken in a different context, hence have somewhat different meaning. Thus, even when our “speaking” comes in the form of written words or in the form of other images (visual, tactile, etc.), these words or images will have different meaning. Meaning will shift depending on the audience, what the setting is in which the communication takes place, and which words or images have preceded and will follow these efforts at communication.