What is the Sociological Self?
Let’s assume for a moment that the self is like a container that holds all of our
different attributes, characteristics, and defining features. Let’s also assume
that this container is filled with stuff that comes from outside of us, and
perhaps even connects us to others, or even shows our differences with
At this point, please take out a blank sheet of paper and draw a circle in the
middle with label “THE SELF”.
Next, write down a list of all of the stuff that makes up the self. Hint: think of the
ways that you define your self to your friends, family, co-workers,
professors, strangers, etc. Also think about how the image you present to
different people depending upon how well you know them, what you want
from them, what they want from you, etc.
Last, draw a circle around the original circle for each “identity marker” that you’ve
Does your “self” look like this?
What important aspects of the self are you missing? Am I missing any?
THE SOCIALIZED SELF:
SOCIALIZATION AND THE CONSTRUCTION
OF SOCIAL REALITY
Can anything you do (or think, for that matter) have any meaning
apart from your assessment of how some other people are
likely to evaluate your behavior?
How is this question related to the cartoon on the previous
Questions to consider:
• How do people acquire language/symbols?
• What does it mean when we talk about the social
construction of the self?
• What is the difference between expressions given and given
off, and how do these expressions affect social interactions?
Charles Horton Cooley’s
“Looking Glass Self”
“I am what I think you think I am”
1. We imagine how we appear to those around us
2. We interpret others’ reactions
3. We develop a self-concept
George Herbert Mead and the Importance RoleTaking
• taking the role of the other means putting yourself in another
person’s place to think/reflect about yourself
• taking the role of the other helps to control your own response
• taking the role of the other is important for the development of
• taking the role of the other helps to integrate the individual with
organized social processes
• taking the role the other is also a source of self criticism
George Herbert Mead and Childhood
Children internalize the expectation of “significant” others and the “generalized
other” [the rules and roles of a culture taken as a single object]. This happens
in TWO stages:
1) The PLAY STAGE [~ 3-6 years old]
role playing, dress up (ex., tea parties; cops and robbers)
start to realize the perspective of others
begin to conform to learned social rules and roles
» (ex. gender = toys are at this age are often very gender specific)
2) The GAME STAGE [~ 6 years old +]
organized play or team games
simultaneously, understand expectations and roles of self and others, and
that one affects the other
understand rules and organization of activities
» (ex. Baseball = need know what the other players are doing)
G.H. Mead’s Critique of Behaviorism
For Mead, rather than action being defined by:
Action is more appropriately identified with the following sequence of
Our interpretations of different stimuli and our subsequent actions are
influenced by our culture (i.e., the “generalized other”)
“It is by means of reflexiveness – the turning-back of
the experience of the individual upon himself – that
the whole social process is thus brought into the
experience of the individuals involved in it; it is by
such means, which enable the individual to take the
attitude of the other toward himself, that the
individual is able consciously to adjust himself to the
process and to modify the resultant process in any
given social act in terms of his adjustment to it.”
– G.H. Mead, from Mind, Self, & Society (1934)
Mead argued that the SELF is binary rather than singular. That is,
it is made up of two equal parts, one is essentially a product
of its social environment and the other is what allows for
creativity and change.
1) The “me” represents an organized set of group attitudes
learned from past encounters
➢ The self as object
➢ The socialized self
➢ Social order is maintained by the “me”
2) The “I” represents the present moment (spontaneity,
creativity) and provides a response to others.
➢ The self as subject
➢ The self of action
➢ Social change is instigated by the “I”
G.H. Mead’s “SELF”
Only through language is thinking possible; thinking is a conversation between one’s “I”
Erving Goffman and the Dramaturgical View of
“All the world’s a stage, and all
the men and women merely
They have their exits and
And one man in his time plays
many parts . . .”
As You Like It (circa. 1600)
Erving Goffman and the Dramaturgical View of
• Dramaturgical theory makes use of concepts that parallel
those of stage performances: roles, props, scenes, sets,
scripts, audiences, etc.
• People project images of themselves on the social stage to be
seen in particular ways and to achieve particular ends.
• People rely on “scripts” to control how others see them, often
to avoid shame or embarrassment. This is called “impression
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