• First, children learn to use language and other symbols by imitating important people in their lives, such
as their mother and father.
• Second, children pretend to be other people.; that is, they use their imaginations to role-play in games,
such as “house,”
• “school,” and doctor.”
• Third, by the time they reach the age of about seven, children learn to play complex games requiring that
they simultaneously take the role of several other people.
• Once a child can think in this complex way, she can begin the fourth stage in the development of the self.
This involves taking the role of what Mead called the generalized other.
• Years of experience may teach an individual that other people, employing the cultural standards of their
society, usually regard her as funny or temperamental or intelligent.
• A person’s image of these cultural standards and how they are applied to her is what Mead meant by the
• Socialization is the process by which people learn their culture; they do so by (1) entering and disengaging
from a succession of roles, and (2) becoming aware of themselves as they interact with others.
• Without childhood socialization, most of our human potential remains undeveloped.
• In other words, our feelings about who we are depend largely on how we see ourselves evaluated by
others; just as we see our physical body reflected in a mirror, so we see our social selves reflected in
people’s gestures and reactions to us (Cooley, 1902).
• The implications of Cooley’s argument are intriguing. Consider, for example, that the way other people
judge us helps determine whether we develop a positive or negative self-concept.
• Among other things, having a negative self-concept is associated with low achievement in school and
post-secondary institutions (Hamachek, 1995).
• George Herbert Mead (1934) took up and developed the idea of the looking-glass self.
• Like Freud, Mead noted that a subjective and impulsive aspect of the self is present from birth; Mead
called it simply the I.
• Again, like Freud, Mead argued that a repository of culturally approved standards emerges as part of the
self during social interaction; Mead called this objective, social component of the self the me.
• However, while Freud focused on the denial of the id’s impulses as the mechanism that generates the
self’s objective side, Mead drew attention to the unique human capacity to “take the role of the other” as
the source of the me.