Social Self Essay
Question Drawing upon the work of Cooley and Mead, discuss how the self is developed in childhood. Do you think these concepts are still relevant today? Please substantiate your answer with relevant examples drawn from both your life as well as from your research. (Word limit:1,200 words) Cooley and Mead are symbolic interactionists whom emphasized on the importance of construction of self through social interactions and communications using symbolic tools such as language and gestures.
As such, the development of self is thought to be a dynamic and interactive process (Symbolic Interactionism, 2000). Cooley proposed that the feedback we received from others not only form a source of our self-knowledge, they can also mould our sense of self (Hayes, 1993). “Looking-glass self” embodies the concept that people serve as our “social mirrors” and self-image is constructed after imagining how others’ opinions of us, particularly responses from significant others such as parents and teachers (Smith & Mackie, 2000).
There are 3 steps involved in the formation of self-idea; a conception of how we appear to others, the imagination of how one thinks others are judging him and the emotional responses to the interpretation to the imagined evaluations from others (Shaffer, 2005). One’s opinions of oneself are often affected by the internalization of positive and negative evaluations from others (Cook & Douglas, 1998). For instance, a child who is often praised by his parents as “smart” tends to experience greater self-esteem as compared to a child who is often criticized as “stupid”.
Feedbacks from others were found to exert strongest effects on young children or people who lack stable self-concepts (Smith & Mackie, 2000). Cooley argued that our self are derived from interactions with members of the society (Rahim, 2010). An individual then forms a self-idea based on the society’s viewpoint of him, exemplifying social forces at work. Cooley also discussed about the importance of primary and secondary groups to a person’s self.
He defined primary groups as small social groups characterized by close, interpersonal interactions and contended that they play a critical role in the development of personal identity (Charles Horton Cooley, n. d. ). Primary groups such as family and religious institutions provide the intangible components such as love and emotional support which has great bearings on the development and growth of person’s self. SSC113: THE SOCIAL SELF: TMA submitted by student
People who are high in self-monitoring tend to monitor and adjust their social performance often to create their desired impressions (Myers, 2010). Sociologist Scheff (1988) agreed with Cooley by adding that self-monitoring is a perpetual process that encompasses the presumed assessment of others and that people are constantly in affective states depending on how they conceive others are judging them (Shaffer, 2005). People experience feelings associated with pride (e. g. joy, satisfaction) and shame (e. g. embarrassment, dissatisfaction).
Cooley’s looking-glass self is applicable to impression management in today’s society. It was found that humans are motivated to make conscious efforts to create and manage impressions of themselves, often to seek some desired outcomes from others (Myers, 2010). During a job interview, an interviewee not only has to be well-attired but also give the interviewers the impression that he is expressing interest and sense of engagement in the questions asked. By doing so, this ensures higher chances of being accepted into the job (desired outcomes).
Martin & Yeung (2003) offered an alternative explanation to Cooley’s looking glass self by postulating that one’s selfperception may not necessarily be formed by internalization of others’ opinions. Studies have shown that externalization can actually influence the perceptions of others have of one if he works actively to bring others’ perceptions in line with his self-perception (Yeung & Martin, 2003). For example if one views himself to be a helpful person and he wants other to perceive him in the same way, he can put in more efforts in an attempt to convince others by helping out in old folks’ homes or orphanages more often.
Moreover we have to entertain the possibilities of erroneous interpretation of others’ responses to us which may lead to inaccurate self-perception (Mustard, n. d. ). Like Cooley, Mead theorized that self-consciousness emerged out of social experience (Hayes, 1993). He conceptualized that language is a key mediator involved in socialization processes and it is through language that a child becomes increasing able to take on perspectives of others (Me, n. d. ). The ability to take on perspectives of others paves the way to increased self-awareness.
Mead believed that the self is a social process marked by continuous interactions and can be distinguished into 2 phases of an individual; the “I” and the “Me” (Byers, 1993). “I” represents the impetuous tendencies of an individual while the SSC113: THE SOCIAL SELF: TMA submitted by student “Me” component signifies the objective self incorporated with various socially acquired perspectives and experiences (Martin, 2007). “Me” is formed from the internalization of roles obtained from communications with others and thus is a reflection of ourselves from the perspectives of others (Cronk, 2005).
Mead reckoned that “I” and “Me” are in constant interactions and “Me” exert regulatory effects on “I”. For instance, an individual was a hot-tempered person in the past (“I”). As his friends provided feedbacks for him to control his temper, he eventually becomes less hot-tempered (“Me”). As a result, the socialized self “Me” emerged out of the uncivilized self “I”. The self is formed from the interplay between “I” and “Me” using symbolic tools in social settings (Ibid). In addition, Mead maintained that role playing through symbolic tools also contributes to the generation of a sense of self (Cronk, 2005).
The 3 stages in role playing are preparatory, play and game stages. During the preparatory stage, the infants merely imitate the people around them. As they age, they are capable to utilizing symbolic tools in communicating with others. In the play stage, the child begins to form a sense of self as they take on the roles of others, one at a time (Byers, 1993). In the game stage, the child achieved selfhood as he takes on multiple roles simultaneously (Cronk, 2005). The game stage represents different social settings where an individual takes on several different perspectives of others.
He imagines what is expected of him and defines his behaviours accordingly (Ibid). For example in a football match, one must not only know his role but understand the roles and relationships of everyone involved with him in the game before he can conduct himself in an organized and consistent manner by viewing himself from the standpoints common to the group. Likewise Mead proposed that a full sense of self is attained when an individual is able to see himself from the viewpoints of generalized others; a reference point that allows one to act appropriately in various social contexts (Cronk, 2005).
Martin argued that Mead’s understanding of the self is incomplete by pointing out Mead’s over-emphasis on the sociocultural aspect and downplay of developmental processes brought about by gene maturation. Our genetic makeup, environment and the epigenetic interactions occurring between them are important precursors to developmental processes that fuel the emergence of self (Martin, 2007). Without the necessary and appropriate amount of brain development from gene maturation, it is unlikely that a child can recall, understand and take on perspectives of others.
SSC113: THE SOCIAL SELF: TMA submitted by student Although Cooley and Mead’s works provide us with thoughtful insights of social interactions and development of self, symbolic interactionism (SI) has its share of criticisms. Firstly, it is often difficult to test SI as some concepts are too broad and vague. Secondly, SI relies too much on quantitative measures instead of qualitative research methods. Symbolic tools such as pictures and gestures were used in place of empirical evidence, leading to a lack of credibility.
Lastly, there is a lack of focus on physiological factors such as motivation, needs and emotions that may lead individuals to certain actions (Criticisms of Symbolic Interactionism, n. d. ). Owing to the reasons provided above, the relevancy of Cooley and Mead’s works in today’s society remains fairly limited and their works need to be further revised in order to provide a more holistic explanation to the development of self. (Total word count including in-text citation: 1288 words) References Byers, B. (1993).
The Social Psychology of George Herbert Mead. Readings in Social Psychology, (pp. 87). United States of America: Allyn and Bacon. Charles Horton Cooley 1864-1929. (n. d). Retrieved from: http://www. bolenderinitiatives. com/sociology/charles-horton-cooley-1864-1929 Cook, W. L. , & Douglas, E. M. (1998). The Looking-Glass Self in Family Context: A Social Relations Analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 12(3), 299. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Criticisms of Symbolic Interactionism. (n. d. ). Retrieved from: http://sobek. olorado. edu/SOC/SI/si-criticisms. htm Cronk, G. (2005). George Herbert Mead (1863- 1931). Retrieved from: http://www. iep. utm. edu/mead/ Hayes, N. (1993). The contexts of social interaction. Principles of Social Psychology, (pp. 14). UK: Psychology Press Martin, J. (2007). Interpreting and Extending G. H. Mead’s “Metaphysics” of Selfhood and Agency. Philosophical Psychology, 20(4), 453, 445. doi:10. 1080/09515080701385826 Me. (n. d. ). Retrieved from: http://www. marxists. org/glossary/people/m/e. htm Mustard, F, M.
D. (n. d. ). Socialization. Retrieved from: stan. lacmedia. ca/filecabinet/152 Myers, D. G. (2010). The Self in a Social World. Social Psychology 10th Edition, (pp. 72, 74). New York: McGraw-Hill. SSC113: THE SOCIAL SELF: TMA submitted by student Rahim, E. A, M. D. (2010). Journal of International Academic Research. Marginalized through the “Looking Glass Self”- The Development of Stereotypes and Labeling, 10(1), 9. Retrieved from: http://www. uedpress. org/ojs/index. php/jiar/article/view/4/8 Shaffer, L.
S. (2005). From mirror self-recognition to the looking-glass self: Exploring the Justification Hypothesis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61(1), 54. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Smith, E. R. & Mackie, D. M. (2000). Social Psychology 2nd Edition. (pp 106-107). USA: Psychology Press Symbolic Interactionism. (2000). Retrieved from: http://uregina. ca/~gingrich/f100. htm Yeung, K. , & Martin, J. (2003). The Looking Glass Self: An Empirical Test and Elaboration. Social Forces, 81(3), 847. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.