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Mead Readings.doc

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Dan Silver

MEAD  Social psych’s aim: is to understand how our mental self is the product of people’s interactions and relationships GESTURES - We have the minimal ability to make and understand a gesture (movements of the first organism calling/ evoke responses by the second organism. Famous example of dogs: 1 dog is just drinking, 2 dog barks and provokes a different attitude and make a different response of the 1 dog due to the gesture. Example- If you bark at a dog, the dog will bark back. If you bark at a human, the human may or may not bark back. It all depends on the human's decision to the symbol - Conversation of gestures: movements without words, back and forth process, whole relationship is taking place. Example- boxing/ martial arts has a lot of interaction that happens even before you hit the person (not significant gestures since they don’t require a lot of thought) - For Mead, the development of the self is intimately tied to the development of language. To demonstrate this connection, Mead begins by articulating what he learned about the gesture from Wundt. Gestures are to be understood in terms of the behavioral responses of animals to stimuli from other organisms. For example, a dog barks, and a second dog either barks back or runs away. The “meaning” of the “barking gesture” is found in the response of the second organism to the first. But dogs do not understand the “meaning” of their gestures. They simply respond, that is, they use symbols without what Mead refers to as “significance.” For a gesture to have significance, it must call out in a second organism a response that is functionally identical to the response that the first organism anticipates. In other words, for a gesture to be significant it must “mean” the same thing to both organisms, and “meaning” entails the capacity to consciously anticipate how other organisms will respond to symbols or gestures. How does this capacity arise? It does so through the vocal gesture. - A vocal gesture can be thought of as a word or phrase. When a vocal gesture is used the individual making the gesture responds (implicitly) in the same manner as the individual hearing it. If you are about to walk across a busy street during rush hour, I might shout out, “Don't walk!” According to Mead, “Gestures become significant symbols when they implicitly arouse in the individual making them the same responses which the explicitly arouse, or are supposed to arouse, in other individuals”. He also tells us that, "the critical importance of language in the development of human experience lies in this fact that the stimulus is one that can react upon the speaking individual as it reacts upon the other” - Significant symbols: is an important next step since Mead viewed communication as evolutionary, interpretation becomes key. Ultimate Examples: are words b/c they are able to arouse or stimulate others and make a common space where true 1 communication is possible for genuine interaction. Language, in Mead's view, is communication through significant symbols. Language brings out the same response in both speaker and hearer. Language is the highest form of communication, a mature development of the gesture situation; therefore, the major tool of the interaction from which minds and selves emerge. Language is important because it is the means by which an individual may convey his attitudes and assume the roles of others, and thus participate in the interactionary creation of mind and self. Language also makes possible the critically important ability of people to think, to engage in mental processes. - Organic conditions of having a mental life 1. Allow for adjustments: you can communicate your displeasures 2. Having a mild/ mental life: is simply an internalized conversation with yourself, thought is really just talking to yourself, when you were composing a book you would usually think of how it would physically sound aloud 3. Creating the possibility of symbolic interaction: example of a book or play (allows you to have more complex communications, more than you would personally meet) 4. Having a self-arises: you can have a less or more developed self, who you are becomes the topic of conversation, instead of directing your thoughts on other you shd do it on yourself although this process doesn’t come automatically, the self is not inner or private, its actually public. You start to acquire a sense of self through REFLEXIVITY (which allows you to see why you’re promoting a certain response) We need to study THEORY OF ACTION to really see human mentality occurring 1. IMPULSE: need to respond to an external stimulus, actor and enviro are intertwined (feel thirsty, you find a drink to quench your thirst) 2. PERCEPTION: looking for stimuli that can help you find something that will solve your initial impulse, but not everything will help (Gatorade will help your thirst, bl
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