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SOCIOL 2S06 The Theoretical Ideas of Mead

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David Young

Tuesday, March 5 and Friday, March 8 , 2013 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY The Theoretical Ideas of Mead a. Society and the individual  The whole (i.e. society) is prior to the part (i.e. individual)  In order to understand the individual we have to understand the whole b. The Act  The most basic element in his analysis  He identified four interrelated stages in what he called “The Act” o Both lower animals and human beings ACT o Mead was interested in the similarities and differences in terms of how human beings and lower animals act  IMPULSE • The actor experiences an immediate stimulation and responds to that stimulation o Example: HUNGER (you experience hunger – stimulation) o The actor (human or animal) may respond immediately and unthinkingly to that impulse o While it is possible for both animal and human to respond immediately, there is a difference – the human actor will THINK about the appropriate response (i.e. when should I eat? Should I wait until lunch? Ect.)  PERCEPTION • The actor searches for objects that relate to the immediate stimulation • The actor (human or animal) will perceive objects through the senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) to perceive objects that are connected o Example: HUNGER o Animal or human will perceive certain objects as food that can satisfy hunger  MANIPULATION • The actor takes action with regard to objects • This stage marked an important difference b/w human actor and animal actor o Example: HUNGER o The hungry animal actor will perceive a mushroom (for example) and probably eat it automatically o The hungry human actor will perceive a mushroom and then pause (a pause after perception) and then manipulate the mushroom and consider further actions: o The hungry human actor may engage in touching the mushroom, smelling it, and then DECIDING whether or not it is safe to eat Tuesday, March 5 and Friday, March 8 , 2013 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY The Theoretical Ideas of Mead  CONSUMMATION • The actor takes action that satisfies the initial stimulation • I.e. The mushroom will get eaten (however the human is far less likely to get sick b/c of them stopping and pausing to think about their action) c. The Social Act  The ACT involves ONLY ONE ACTOR  The SOCIAL ACT involves TWO OR MORE ACTORS  GESTURES • The MOST BASIC element in the social act • “Gestures are movements of the first organism which act as specific stimuli calling forth the (socially) appropriate responses of the second organism“ - MEAD • Both animal and human actors are capable of gestures  NON-SIGNIFICANT GESTURES • Involve unconscious actions • Actors either animal or human will engage in “a conversation of gestures” o Animals respond instinctively to aggressive actions on the part of other animals (i.e. one animal sees another animal acting aggressively, then they will respond to that aggression in kind – acting with each other on the basis of these gestures) o Humans respond unconsciously (i.e.: to the moves of an opponent in a boxing match or a fencing match) o What one actor does will illicit a response from the other actor w/o really thinking  SIGNIFICANT GESTURES • Involve engaging in conscious thought before actions • Animal actors CAN NOT DO THIS but human actors certainly can (animals respond in terms of instinct) o VOCAL GESTURES o Important aspect of significant gestures – involve the use of LANGUAGE (used to express/vocalize ideas)  SIGNIFICANT SYMBOLS • Gestures become significant symbols when they have the same meaning for both actors o i.e. CAT – the word “CAT” illicit the same meaning/mental image in the actor who is Tuesday, March 5 and Friday, March 8 , 2013 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY The Theoretical Ideas of Mead speaking the word, as it does in the actor who is listening to/hears the word o Because we share that symbol in the English language and because we share the meaning of that symbol, we have the basis for COMMUNICATION (We not only share the word, we share the meaning) o This involves the use of Vocal Gestures **PHYSICAL SYMBOL  i.e. Holding out a hand for a handshake (this is a significant symbol)  Because we have an understanding of this gesture (common understanding of these gestures), we can engage in symbolic interaction d. MIND  Mead did not see the mind as a THING (not like the BRAIN) o Saw the mind as involving “an inner conversation with one’s self” – This becomes possible with the development of the self e. THE SELF  WHAT IS THE SELF? o Involves the ability to take one’s self as both a SUBJECT and an OBJECT o On one hand - We are able to see ourselves from our own point of view (i.e. as a subject) o On the other hand – we are able to see ourselves from the point of view of OTHERS (i.e. as an object)  SUBJECTIVELY AND OBJECTIVELY o An animal does NOT have a self (cannot look at things from the point of view of others) o A human infant at birth does not have a self either, BUT: an animal will NEVER have a self, a baby will soon develop a self as he grows older (through social activity and social relationships)  THE SELF AND ROLE TAKING o The human ability to “take the role of the other” o Through social experience, human beings acquire the ability to consciously or unconsciously put themselves in the place of others o We are able to examine ourselves as others would examine us  As we grow, we can switch from having a subjective view of ourselves, to an objective view  DEVELOPMENT OF SELF (Through Childhood) o The Preparatory Stage  Actually NOT a stage that we Identify (other theorists that have looked at Mead’s work have talked about this, but Mead DID NOT use this term) Tuesday, March 5 and Friday, March 8 , 2013h SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY The Theoretical Ideas of Mead  “Human infants and very young children simply imitate without understanding” – the behaviours of those around them (i.e. parents, older siblings) • Very young children may wave when getting waves (i.e. fathe
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