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The Self and Socialization

Complete understanding of “the self” and the role and importance of socialization to shape “the self”

We all have various perception, feelings, and beliefs about who we are and what we are like. We were not born with these understandings. Sociologists recognize that we create our own designation: the self. The self is a distinct identity that sets us apart from others. It is not a static phenomenon but continues to develop and changes throughout our lives. Sociologist and psychologists have expressed interest in how the individual develops and modifies the sense of self as a result of social interaction.

Sociologist Approaches to the Self

Cooley: Looking Glass Self

In the early 1900s, Charles Horton Cooley advanced the belief that we learn who we are by interacting with others. Cooley used the phrase looking glass self to emphasize that the self is the product of our social interactions.

The process of developing a self identity or self concept has three phases.

  • We imagine how we present our self to ourselves to others
  • We imagine how others evaluate us
  • We develop some sort of feeling about ourselves

A critical aspect of Cooley’s looking glass self is that “the self” result from individual’s imagination of how others view him or her. As a result we can develop self identities based on incorrect perception of how others see us.

Mead: Stages of the Self

George Herbert Mead developed a useful model of the process by which the self emerges, defined by three distinct stages.

The Preparatory Stage

In this phase children merely imitate the people around them. As they grow older, children become more adept at using symbols to communicate with others. Symbols are the gestures, objects, and words that form the basis of human communication.

Like spoken language, symbols vary from culture to culture and even from subculture to another. In multicultural societies, such differences in the meaning of symbols create the potential for conflict. For the French, the headscarfs symbolize the submission of women. But to Muslims, the headscarf symbolizes modesty and respectability.

The Play Stage

During the play stage, children begin to pretend to be other people. Mead noted that an important aspect of the play stage is role playing. Role taking is the process of mentally assuming the perspective of another and responding from that imagined viewpoint.

The Game Stage

In the game stage the child of about eight or nine years old no longer just plays roles but begins to consider several actual task and relationship simultaneously. Consider a girl or boy who is part of a scout troop out and a weekend hike in the mountains. The child must understand what he or she is expected to do but also must recognize the responsibilities of other scouts as well as the leaders.

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User Comments
  1. Lucy Lockett

    On September 13, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    That was an interesting article!

  2. jason karoumy

    On June 13, 2008 at 9:39 am

    thanks, this really helped me understand the concept of self of mead and cooley and the differences… thanks sooo much!

  3. Mr. Haren Nover

    On July 26, 2008 at 4:19 am

    My assignment!— Tnx!

  4. adz

    On December 9, 2009 at 7:18 pm

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    On December 9, 2009 at 7:20 pm

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  6. Krista 118

    On March 15, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    I might actually pass sociology now :)

  7. Sarah

    On April 15, 2010 at 3:43 am

    I actually have a shot at passing now :)

  8. Cute

    On April 20, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Very helpful for my assignment

  9. judith akinyi

    On October 25, 2010 at 3:52 am

    On October 25, 2010 at 10:53
    thanks 4 incorporating all the ideas that explain the concept of self and socialization, it gives a balanced view.

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