Thomas theorem  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Thomas theorem is a theory of sociology which was formulated in 1928 by W. I. Thomas and D. S. Thomas (1863–1947):

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, Thomas stated more precisely that any definition of a situation will influence the present. Not only that, but—after a series of definitions in which an individual is involved—such a definition also "gradually [influences] 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."

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