Herbert Blumer (1969) set out three basic premises of the perspective:
- "Humans act toward things on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to those things."
- "The meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with others and the society."
- "These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounters."
The emphases on symbols, negotiated meaning, and social construction of society brought on attention to the roles people play. Erving Goffman (1958) was a social theorist who studied roles dramaturgically, through the analogy of theater, to describe human social behavior as roughly following a script and humans as role-playing actors. Role-taking is a key mechanism that permits people to see another person's perspective to understand what an action might mean to another person. There is an improvisational quality of roles; however, actors often take on a script that they follow. Because of the uncertainty of roles in social contexts, the burden of role-making is on the person in the situation. In this sense, we are proactive participants in our environment.