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Social Construct – What It Means and Why Does It Exist?

Social Construct – What It Means and Why Does It Exist?

Updated on Jul 07, 2023

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

Social Construct - Meaning, Examples, Benefits & So Much More

Key Takeaways

  • A social construct is an established idea that is formed by mutual and collective social action and acceptance.
  • These constructs became meaningful only by the shared perceptions of people.
  • Social constructs also depict established norms, traditions, and behavioral outlooks of the people.
  • Social constructs exist and operate because people living in society believe them to be true and valid.
  • These are beliefs and practices that are shared by people living in society.

Social construct develops through mutual knowledge sharing and cooperation. When people accept certain ideas as real and valid, society works peacefully and systematically.

These constructs are ideas, concepts, and facts that are created by humans just for the smooth running of the community.

It becomes an objective reality for all due to human interaction and collaboration.

Sometimes, these constructs symbolize what is building in people’s minds. It may not have become an established reality without social interaction and social context.

There are different types of social constructs such as gender, race, time, and religion that have developed over time. These constructs form the basis of social norms and conventions.

Going forward, we will discuss the various types of social constructs and the way they operate in our social life.

Read On….

Social Construct – What It Means and Why Does It Exist
Social Construct – What It Means and Why Does It Exist

Social construct – definition, and meaning

Social construct is a put-up established concept that is created, nurtured, and accepted by all people living in a society. It means shared thinking that is mutually agreed upon and slowly becomes a reality for all.

Social construct refers to shared perceptions that exist only because people in a society think that they do.

It does not portray reality but carries meaning because members of a society accept them as real and authentic. 

The introduction to social constructionism suggests that people do not wish to know what is considered right or wrong, good or bad across the world.

They only trust their feelings and go by what others are saying. 

These are all those things that include systems and shared knowledge. They become the basis for cooperation, communication, productivity, quality of life, and peaceful existence.

In simple terms, any shared knowledge that science fails to explain is called a social construct.

They do not have any inner meaning but carry the meaning that people assign to them through social interactions. 

For instance, the thought pattern that blue color is applicable for boys and pink is suitable for a girl is a perfect example of a social construct.

It carries the link between gender and the color of items.

In their famous book “The Social Construction of Reality”, published in 1966, sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann viewed society as created by mutual social interactions.

This book summarizes how social constructionist ideas operate in social sciences.

For them, social constructs are shared beliefs that give meaning to certain things that are not otherwise real but become a reality because people assign meaning to them and make them real.

Why Are Social Constructs Created? (Social Constructionist theory)

The social construct theory says that human beings create constructs to make proper sense of the objective reality. It helps them to understand every single aspect of life in their manner. 

They create social constructs through a proper structure related to what they face and experience by dividing them into categories.

When people frame constructed reality as per their beliefs and ideas, they do not always go by logic. They tend to voice their opinions because of how things seem to them. 

There is no attempt to make any differentiation between right and wrong.

For instance, when they see people of different physical characteristics and skin colors, their minds set up the social construct of race. 

Similarly, society also frames its opinions of boys and girls based on their preconceived notions.

People opt for the easier route of not getting into any aspect’s scientific backing or logic.

They only do what they feel is right, not paying heed to reality. That is how they tend to lead their lives in a carefree manner.

There is absolutely no knowledge of reality but goes by social convention. They do not differentiate between right and wrong.

Social construct examples

People frame their constructed ideas on various aspects of society. Hence, one can easily understand that social constructs are not natural occurrences. 

Social constructivism happens due to the creation of people who have become a part of society. 

It is a critical concept as far as social sciences are concerned. Without their presence, society would never be the same. 

You would have never made out who thinks what about people according to gender, culture, sex, race, religion, marriage, family, illness, and many more.

Let us now discuss 17 examples to understand this concept better:

1. Gender is a social construct

Genders refer to the roles, human behavior, and actions that society considers perfectly suitable for men and women.

The social construct of gender takes place in two parts, gender behaviors and gender roles.

   a) Gender Behaviors

People carry the idea that certain behaviors are specific to someone’s gender. Hence, it is a social construct. 

It is applicable to the thought patterns that men must keep their emotions in check or the idea that women are highly emotional.

It even applies to the beliefs, which people in society possess, that girls should only play with dolls and boys with cars. 

These are only perceptions that they carry with themselves. There is no hard and fast rule as such to suggest these specifications.

  b) Gender Roles

There are certain social constructs associated with the roles of genders as well.

In this respect, one of the beliefs is that women need to take care of the household chores, while men should go to the office.

It also takes into account the beliefs that some kinds of jobs like nursing and teaching are only suitable for women. 

On the other hand, the rest of the roles are men’s duties, like doctors, lawyers, sales representatives, etc.

2. Race is a social construct

One does not take birth with a race assigned against his or her personality. It is a social construct.

There is absolutely no cluster of genes present, common to all white people or all blacks.

If race were indeed real, racial classifications for people of different origins would have stayed constant across geographical boundaries. 

Even then, a person who is black in America might be recognized as colored in South Africa.

It is a classification system invented by humans.

By terming race as a social construct, people tend to state the physical differences that exist between individuals. 

They have used it quite often as an instrument for violence and oppression.

3. Time is a social construct

We know that time and tide wait for none, but as a social construct, society uses it as per their convenience.

It allows them to plan, schedule, and carry out various activities of their lives.

Time happens to be one of the most common examples of something that builds itself through the ideals that people carry. 

People create the concept of time and assign a meaning to it. It does not have any predetermined existence until we define it.

When we consider that time is a social construct, it is not that anyone is saying that time does not exist, or that it is nothing but an illusion. 

Human beings have developed various systems of meaning, which create the social construction of reality.

Even though most parts of the world follow the same calendar, the time zones are different. That is why various regions mark the New Year in different years. 

As per the Buddhist Calendar, it is 2565, whereas as per the Hebrew calendar, it is the year 5782. 

It clearly indicates that different cultures mark their times based on important happenings or events linked with their belief systems.

4. Virginity is a social construct

We call a person virgin, who has not yet had sex with another person, but the concept of virginity is a social construct. 

It is not something that someone can see or hold in their hand, but it is a concept that exists due to societal beliefs.

They use it to rate the purity of girls and the experience of boys.

According to the beliefs, if a girl has not yet had sexual intercourse, she is pure. In the case of a boy, he is inexperienced. 

Purity and virginity tend to regard sex as the act of sexual intercourse. It considers the girl as someone with a vagina. 

As per the belief, once the vaginal penetration happens, the girl becomes loose and immoral. 

On the other hand, when a boy has sex, he gains experience.

Hence, this particular aspect of social construct also suggests that if an individual is sexually active, the person becomes less respectable. 

Some cultures are obsessed with the idea of virginity. Hence, they even conduct virginity testing. 

Virginity testing was carried out using the two-finger method to test the vaginal opening. It helped to make sure the hymen was still intact. 

The World Health Organization has condemned this practice by calling it a violation of human rights. 

5. Government is a Social Construct

The idea of how a government should operate is a social construct.

People do not have the same perception regarding how a government should carry out its activities. Opinions vary across the world.

Governments across countries follow their own set of rules and regulations to formulate various plans. They frame their rules by considering different factors. 

These factors include the age groups of people, sex ratio, number of employed and unemployed, tax-paying and non-taxpaying individuals residing in a country, etc.

Still, no matter what decisions governments take, individuals perceive them according to their conditions. 

No person in the world tends to be happy with all the steps of their Government, but they have to accept and abide by the rules and regulations.

6. Family is a Social Construct

Society treats the family as a social construct. They take it for granted to suggest that there is a married couple having children, apart from having grandparents. 

There could be some relatives who have direct blood relations.

It is a stereotypical view and fails to consider that society has undergone a sea change. The values and norms have seen rapid changes. 

Hence, the family is a much broader concept and not just confined to these individuals alone.

Cousins and distant relatives are nowadays as important as immediate family members. They have become part of families across the world. 

People make plans which include all these individuals and enjoy life to the fullest. 

Views and opinions vary from one person to another regarding which type of family is better – Nuclear or Blended. 

Some feel that a nuclear family is the ideal one as it allows you to focus on the well-being and issues of immediate family members. 

There are others who feel that a blended family is a way forward.

When you have to undergo tough times, a blended family gives you the strength to come out of difficulties with flying colors.

7. Technology is a Social Construct

Technology is the application of science to produce systems and tools that help serve the needs of human beings. 

The combination of applied sciences and hard sciences shapes technology. Even then, it is a social construct at a partial level. 

For instance, a video game contains different characters. Their getup and how they should look depend on the game developer’s choice. The execution of the same is an engineering product.

The impact and significance of technology are not the same for each society.

Some depend heavily on it to undertake daily activities, from paying bills to ordering groceries to doing personal and official work. 

They believe that the discovery of mobile phones, computers, laptops, and the internet has become a boon for society. 

While others feel, technology makes people too dependent on it and hence do not allow them to use their brain for carrying out any work. 

Even now, they prefer to put in their labor while executing any activity rather than doing it just by clicking a button. 

On the contrary, some individuals cannot even think of undertaking any work without their laptop or mobile phone.

8. School is a Social Construct

School is indeed a social construct, but learning is not. Learning is an inherent aspect.

People are born with the ability to learn and apply their learning across different spectrums of life. 

In its present scenario, the schools’ curriculum gives the impression of a one-size, fits-all concept. The functions of this institution maintain a regular pattern. 

Every school has a set of similar rules, the same kind of curriculum, and comparable daily practices. 

We all have created this familiar construct. The idea that we have developed over the years has stayed on even in these current times. 

It has enabled us to judge schools from those perspectives. Society believes that schools are of great importance in maintaining democracy.

It is the place that teaches us our history with the histories of countries across the world.

School is also where we understand the exact value of writing, reading, and mathematics. 

It even allows young students to understand details regarding empathy, social justice, and equality.

Even when we have cited several reasons, for how a school plays an essential part in the growth and development of children, a section of society has put forward a contradiction. 

They believe that kids would learn a lot more without schools. The learning would be vast and in-depth.

9. Illness is a Social Construct

 Do you know that illness is a social construct? Different societies diagnose health problems differently. Hence, the treatment of patients also tends to vary as per the diagnosis. 

Something that might seem to be a critical problem for someone may not be an ailment that one should lose sleep thinking about it for another individual. 

Due to this reason, patients portray their issues to health experts or doctors in their way.

Hence, the patients’ views of their health issues largely influence doctors’ diagnoses. The line of treatment also varies accordingly, at least for the initial part. 

As time goes by, things can change from undergoing thorough check-ups.

10. Marriage is a Social Construct

Marriage is the union of two or more individuals. It receives social support to enter into a stable arrangement based on a mental and physical bond. 

Society calls it cultural universal as it exists in some form or the other in different regions across cultures.

Now, the concept of marriage can be different in different societies. There are some societies where it may require either a civil or a religious sanction. 

While in others, they may even consider some couples as married, only because of them living together for some time.

Marriage involves the conduct of several functions. It helps to identify children socially by defining the relationships with their parents and relatives. 

It also plays its part in regulating sexual behavior. 

While marriage gives couples the license to have sex and conceive, it also helps various cultural groups to keep control over the population growth. 

Even though there are legal rules in place on population control, they vary according to the rules and regulations of different cultures.

11. Norm is a Social Construct

Norm refers to the standard that the members in a group understand and guide social behaviors without any legal binding. Now, the norm is a social construct. 

It has its existence due to shared assumptions about what people do and what others expect an individual to do when someone is part of the group.

Approval or disapproval from society helps maintain these social norms.

The norms include shaking hands while meeting someone for the first time or bowing your head down to give due respect to the position.

They are all part of how society has developed. 

You will not find any mention of certain etiquettes that one must follow in their lives anywhere in writing. 

The fact that you should stand up, shake hands, or bow your head down as a mark of respect towards another individual are people’s ideas.

They occur naturally, as society has built these as norms over a while.

12. Emotion is a Social Construct

Emotion is a biological thing. It would have its existence even without society.

Society manages to add some color to it with some social constructs like the concepts of kindness and bravery.

People create their own emotions out of previous experiences and bodily sensations. 

The emotional concepts that they learn from their parents make a tremendous impact on their personalities. The role of culture in one’s upbringing also influences their emotions.

Therefore, emotions do not turn out to be reactions to the world. Our brains give rise to emotions and feelings for explaining the real cause behind various actions.

13. Religion is a Social Construct

Even though religion might have a biological origin, as per some claims, human beings devise the form of religion we come across. 

No individual is right or wrong for the religion they follow. The only thing is that they can differ from one person to another.

It is so because the religion you belong to is thrust on you from a certain period and the way people you see around have been following it since your growing up years. 

They determine the kinds of ideas and the manner in which you expose yourself to those ideas.

For instance, one who is the Father of a Church in Italy and another individual who is an Imam from the United Arab Emirates could have stepped into each other’s shoes had they exchanged their places of birth. 

Religions are all similar only with different representations. Hence, there is no denying that there is nothing called truth in religion. 

It is relative, the same as language and other various social constructs. It exists because you and I think it is real and exists somewhere in society.

14. Language is a Social Construct

Among all the social constructs present around us, language happens to be the greatest of them.

People can convey various things like emotions through facial expressions and gestures. 

Even then, one’s language plays a crucial role in explaining certain concepts, ideas, and feelings clearly. 

It enables us to write down our thoughts and express them elaborately. Hence, it ensures that the receiver understands the message better.

It is a far more effective way to communicate among individuals. Moreover, countries across the world have different languages. 

When people travel to foreign countries, they can either make themselves comfortable communicating with people in their local language or continue interacting in the universal language, English.

Thus, it is evident that society adopts languages to suit their purposes and enable dealing with people of different cultures in a convenient manner.

Therefore, language is indeed a social construct.

15. Music & Literature is a Social Construct

 All those products of one’s imagination, like music and literature, thrive only from the likings of the present culture. Hence, society partially constructs it. 

Directly or indirectly, people have a lot of say on what kind of music and literary works would thrive. Hence, they influence them based on their preferences. 

One section of the society may like listening to soft, soothing music, while another section might prefer rock music. 

The preferences of both segments of society have a lot to do with how people have seen these types of music thrive among those belonging to the same age group.

16. Fashion is a Social Construct

The sense of fashion varies across cultures and communities. People think about it through its visual form that comes out of branding, shape, texture, and color.

Fashion is far more than just a social process, which involves address and clothing. It helps to appreciate one’s individuality expressively. 

People can adopt a new fashion and make it a trend for others to follow. Hence, they make it popular after trials of different dresses and hairstyles.

Therefore, fashion is indeed a social construct.

17. Good manner is a social construct

We are always expected to behave in decent ways in society. Otherwise, our fellow beings might feel hurt and maltreated. Why is it so?

It’s because good manners and etiquette symbolize social construct. It is an accepted and shared opinion accepted as real and followed by all of us.

Manners are created in a societal set up so that unity and cohesive living are made possible. No human feels abused and maltreated by others. 

It has become an accepted fact that society cannot operate in healthy ways if people living in it do not show manners and a proper code of behavior.

Benefits of social constructs

There are different benefits of creating social constructs. Some of them are:

  • Creation and acceptance of shared ideas by people of the society.
  • Mutual collaboration and group unity.
  • It helps to run society smoothly.
  • The social construct can help in developing conformity.
  • Social constructs guide the public to follow the same things so that order and system prevail in societal living.

The video link shared below shows the concept of social construct in easy ways. Do check out.

Summing Up from ‘ThePleasantMind’

To end the discussion it can be said that there are so many things around us that do not exist in isolation. 

They all carry meaning and purpose. This meaning about their reality is developed out of social interaction and mutual agreement. 

These social concepts are mutually agreed upon as real and existent because we wanted to give them meaning. Social constructs are simple ideas. 

They exist because the people living in the society wanted to make a realistic and objective sense of this world.

Article Sources


Several times, women are exposed to misogyny. Want to know what it is, then don’t forget to read all about it here!

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