Oct. 3 – Socialization
- How do we learn our culture?
o We are socialized in our culture, into our society, through our interactions with others.
o Developing our sense of self.
Socialization explores how we come to learn about our culture, our society, and develop our sense of
For sociologists, this is something that happens throughout our lives. They are interested in how as we
move through our lives, we start to occupy different roles. We go from being a child, to an adolescent,
to a university student, to an employee, a parent, a senior citizen – these are all different roles in society
that we take on.
They argue that as we move through these stages, we are developing our sense of self. Our sense of self
is what develops over time – this is the sociological perspective. It argues that we are not born with this
innate sense of self but rather this happens over the course of our lives and it happens because we
interact with others.
Therefore, our sense of self is a product of our interaction with others.
Examples of Socialization
- Research on interactions with babies
o Researchers decided to dress up this baby and test how the adults interacted with the
baby based on the colour he/she was wearing:
Blue When the baby was dressed in blue, the adults automatically assumed it
was a boy and called him “handsome.” They were more physical in the nature of
the playing – they were rougher – and they spoke to him in a normal tone.
Pink When the same baby was dressed in pink, the adults were different in
that they thought the baby was a girl. As a result, there was the nature of the
play became more careful (there was no more rough housing), they called the
baby “pretty, beautiful,” and proceeded to do the high-pitched GOO GOO GA
GA talking to the baby.
o The findings of this study suggest that from the moment we are born, people interact
with us on the basis of our gender. One’s gender therefore affects how others socialize
- Toys R Us
o When the professor went to Toys R Us, she noticed a little boy who had found a doll
that he absolutely loved but when he showed it to his father, his father was stern and
unhappy. He told the boy to “put that away. Boys do not play with dolls.”
o Through that two minute interaction with his father disapproving of the doll, the boy
Boys do not play with dolls
HIs father’s comment on what constitutes appropriate behaviour influenced his
understanding of how boys should behave and what they should do o As a result, the prof says that despite the interaction being short, the boy has received
influential information that impacts his understanding of appropriate behaviour for
- Feral children
o This video demonstrates the sociological importance of interaction. Sociologists believe
that it is only through interaction that we become fully human. To understand the
concept being conveyed, we first must understand what a feral child is.
What is a feral child?
A child abandoned at a young age and raised by wild animals.
A child abandoned at a young age and raised in isolation.
Has not had typical interactions through these formal years
o The video addresses the question: are we the product of nature or of nurture?
Researchers observed that the feral children carried themselves differently
They didn’t have language
They would walk according to the species that raised them (e.g. on all
fours if raised by wolves)
Their ability to hear was different – didn’t recognize sounds unless it
was from the surroundings they were used to
o E.g. when the researchers clapped, the children did not respond
because it meant nothing to them, however, when the
researchers crumpled up some leaves and branches, the
o For sociologists in the debate about feral children, they stress the importance of being
immersed in society, in interacting with people. They want to show the importance of
They are critical of the nature aspect of the debate
Theoretical Perspectives on Socialization
- Symbolic Interactionism
o SI theorists would focus on the significance of the interaction with others. As a result of
this, a lot of the work that comes from socialization is from this perspective.
o This is the dominant theoretical perspective for socialization.
o Socializations serves as a function for society in that it develops culture, self, etc.
- Conflict and Feminist Theory
o Sometimes through socialization, one can see inequality persists, therefore, these
theorists would be critical of the effects of socialization.
How Does Socialization Happen?
- Freud’s Stages of Development
o Freud was the first to say that the “self” developed in response to social interactions. He
was the first to make the contribution to this matter. He laid the foundations.
- Cooley’s Looking-Glass Self (Shredded)
- Mead’s I and Me What do they have in common?
- The belief that social interaction develops our sense of self. Our self is a product of social
Cooley’s Looking-Glass Self and Shredded
Cooley was a SI theorist who was concerned with how individuals saw themselves through the eyes of
other people. He focused on:
How do others evaluate us? How does that evaluation inform our sense of self?
Essentially how we look to other people is what Cooley was talking about. This is a process whereby we
first consider how others are evaluating us.
(1) In the first phase, we make a conclusion based on how we think we are perceived by others.
(2) In the second phase, we use those evaluations – the sense of how others see us – to develop our
own sense of self.
Therefore, our sense of self is a product of how we think others see us. He calls this the “looking glass
self.” This is about how the people around us are the mirrors that reflect how we see ourselves.
The video Shredded is an example of such. The video exemplifies “looking glass-self” in that the males
interviewed wanted to improve their image rather than health. They were consistently working out
because they wanted to change how they were perceived by others.
Mead’s “I” and “Me”
- “I” versus “ME”
- Our ability to develop a “self” = the ability to put ourselves in others’ places
- This happens in stages…
Mead’s contribution was this idea that our sense of self is really about our ability to do some role-taking,
take on multiple roles, take on the role of others. our sense of self develops socially through those
He had two initial concepts: the “I” and the “Me.” The “I” is the subjective self. It is who we are when we
are born. It is our spontaneous self, our innate self. The “Me” is our social self; it is what develops
through social interaction. It is the social component of the self.
This development of the “Me” happens in four stages:
(1) This is the ability to imitate the significant others – our primary caregivers -- in our lives. It is
about imitating others: our parents or guardians. They are the people who are closest to us.
(2) This is when we are pretending to be someone else. We are pretending to be doctor, a teacher,
a firefighter, our mom, etc. This is the imaginative play that kids engage in. It is our first
engagement in role-taking -- pretending to be other people. (3) Our ability to now take on multiple roles now; we are no longer restricted to one role.
a. Imagine a baseball game and the role of the pitcher. The pitcher has to be concerned
with the role he/she is occupying as the pitcher as well as be aware of all other roles:
the first base catcher, the second base catcher, the back catcher, etc.
b. This is essentially when we understand our roles and that of others.
(4) We are able to take on the role of the “generalized other.”
a. “Generalized other”: “…a person’s image of cultural standards and how they apply to
him or her” (Brym and Lie 2012:59).
i. This means that there is no one specific. We have internalized the multiple
perspectives of our culture – standards – and we are thinking about how that
applies to us. It is the general sense of our culture and how it apply to ourselves.
E.g. if you’re at a bar and a song that you like comes on and you want to
dance but you are the only one at the dance floor. You would not be
thinking “oh I love this “but rather thinking “oh man, I look like an idiot
dancing by myself.”
b. This is the Internalized sense of what is typical and developing a sense of who you are
on the basis of this generalized other – what is typical in the culture.
c. It is the ability to adopt to outsider’s standpoint.
Agents of Socialization
- Primary socialization
o The family; our parents or guardians
This is about acquiring the basic skills when you are little
- Secondary socialization
o When you move outside of the home. This typically happens when children go to school.
o Typically think of this as happening in the school system – school as a socializer
Second Socialization cont’d
- Who else is involved (other agents of secondary socialization)
Interacting with people in class
o Teachers and coaches
The individuals in the school who occupy the system and how they implement
the socialization of the children
o Mass media
Kids now compared to back then, are able to pick and choose their own
influences from the media. This ability to pick and choose one’s own
influences is known as self-socialization. This is us shaping our own
sense of self.
This sense of self that kids have changed more rapidly due to the
availability/explosion of mass media.
- Second socialization and The Corporation
o The video clip was about a marketing agent who was talking about how they market
their products to kids o It was this idea that the people who produce the mass media, are interested in being an
agent of socialization – they are the players who are interested in having the influence
in your life
o It is another element to the idea of socialization and the mass media
CHAPTER 3 – SOCIALIZATION
“Wild boy of Aveyron”
o A 10-/11-year-old boy found in southern France (1800); filthy, naked, unable to speak
o When found by police, tried to escape wearing clothes; no one ever claimed him
o No medical abnormalities found of either physical or mental nature
o Why more animal than human? raised in isolation in the woods away from humans
o Remain uninterested in games, cannot form intimate relationships with other people,
develop only the basic language skills
o Some of these children may suffer from congenitally low intelligence; some even abused
o Therefore, condition may not be solely due to isolation
o Potential to become human exists since these examples suggest ability to learn
o To be actualized, socialization must unleash its potential
Orphanage children vs. children in nursing homes
o Both were hygienic, provided good food, and medical care
o Children’s mothers cared for kids @ nursing homes; 6 nurses cared for 45 kids @
o Therefore, orphanage kids had much less contact with other people
o Socially depriving them apparently made them less demanding
o Social deprivation had other effects: aged 9-12 month-olds were more susceptible to
infections and had a higher death rate
o Normal children play with their genitals (o.O) by the end of first year; orphans did by the
end of their fourth year (lol wtf? Someone observed this shit??)
Impaired sexual life when orphans reached maturity
o Normal kids walked by age 2/3; orphans still couldn’t walk
The ability to learn culture and become human is only a potential. The view that social interaction
unleashes human abilities is supported by studies showing that children raised in isolation do not
develop normal language and other social skills. Like a computer, we remain merely a system of
components—just hardware—until software is loaded. Software is to computers as socialization is to
human beings. We as human, social beings are hardwired from birth but are not programmed until
socialization occurs and we learn our culture, develop a sense of self through interaction (according to
Freud, Cooley, and Mead), and are socialized to various roles .
Crystallization of self-identity
o Formation of a sense of self continues in adolescence; turbulent period of rapid self-
o Many people can remember experiences from their youth that helped crystallize their
o Friedenberg: “central growth process in adolescence is to define the self through the
clarification of experience and to establish self-esteem”
o E.g., Robert’s experience: picked to play Tony (the lead role) in “West Side Story” o Such a role can raise an unknown person’s social status as a teenager
o Socialization begins soon after birth; infants cry because of elementary needs
Gratified by food, comfort, and affection
o Freud noted that infants demand immediate gratification but begin to form a self-image
when demands are denied
E.g., parents’ refusal to feed/comfort babies in middle of night
Infants soon learn to eat more, sleep longer, go to sleep when awoken at night
Also begins to sense that its needs differ from parents’ needs somehow
balances its needs with realities of life
Lessons in self-control develops sense of appropriate behaviour and moral