|“||If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.||”|
In other words, the interpretation of a situation causes the action. This interpretation is not objective. Actions are affected by subjective perceptions of situations. Whether there even is an objectively correct interpretation is not important for the purposes of helping guide individuals' behavior.
In 1923, W. I. Thomas stated more precisely that any definition of a situation would influence the present. In addition, after a series of definitions in which an individual is involved, such a definition would also "gradually [influence] a whole life-policy and the personality of the individual himself." Consequently, Thomas stressed societal problems such as intimacy, family, or education as fundamental to the role of the situation when detecting a social world "in which subjective impressions can be projected on to life and thereby become real to projectors."
- Definition of the situation
- Pluralistic ignorance
- Linguistic relativity
- Sociology of knowledge
- Self-fulfilling prophecy
- Tinkerbell effect
- The child in America: Behavior problems and programs. W.I. Thomas and D.S. Thomas. New York: Knopf, 1928: 571–572
- The Unadjusted Girl. With Cases and Standpoint for Behavioral Analysis. W.I. Thomas. N.Y.: Evanston; London: Harper & Row, 1967: 42
- Social Behavior and Personality. Contribution of Thomas to Theory and Social Research. Edmond H. Volkart [ed.] N.Y.: Social Research Council, 1951: 14