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Lecture 4

SOC483Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Behaviorism, Onomatopoeia, Georg Simmel

Course Code
Vanina Leschziner

of 7
George H. Mead, selections from “Mind,” chapter 2, and “The Self,” chapter 3 in
Self, and Society
(The University of Chicago Press, 1934), pp. 75-82, 135-144, 152-178,
Ferdinand de Saussure, selections from “Introduction,” and “General Principles” in
Course in General Linguistics
(Mc Graw-Hill, 1966), pp.7-17, 65-70, 81-87.
Understanding of language- connection between Durkheim
Because we will talk about concepts/categories, it is good to learn about words, what is a word?
What is a concept and how do we greet certain concepts? Today we are going more inside the mind,
how Mead understands the mind, where does our sense of self come from, how do we
see/understand/think about ourselves, which all comes from society for Mead!
The Looking Glass Self
by Cooley (1864-1929 US) important source for Mead
- 3 steps in the looking glass self:
1. The imagination of our appearance to other people,
2. The imagination of their judgement to that appearance
3. Some sort of self feeling we develop
The fact that you think I’m wonderful gives me a good self feeling even if it is not true! – Not that we
get into each other’s minds, it is just we are always making interpretations
Cooley set the basis used method called
and studied the minds and what went inside.
One break through, before Cooley there were a lot of theories where we learned how to behave in a
group through imitation, via Tarde, we learn by imitation thus how we incorporate normative
behaviour. But Cooley said that is wrong and that we learn through communication and meaningful
ideas passed down. That was his break through based on ideas and what went on in the mind.
Mead is part of Pragmatists (1863-1931) group in Massachusetts that developed new way of
understanding action names associated Dewey, Charles Pearce
What was special about pragmatism? They connected in a new way the understanding of theory and
action by making it less separate. They thought on the one hand regular folks theorize, we find
patterns to predict what to do, we get certain ideas, to allow us to get by. We are thus constantly
theorizing about what we see around us.
On the other hand, with those in academia they should look at behaviour itself, not just ideas. So in
Mead’s book “Mind Self and Society from standpoint of Social Behaviourist” – scholar’s stress we
must look at behaviour to understand what is going on in one’s mind – in order to understand
- Mead contributed a theory of how the mind and self emerged from the process of
communication through signs (significant gestures) - connection to symbolic
interactionism meaningful symbols comes from Mead
o Idea of behaviourism based on the fact we need to look at
conduct/attitudes/behaviour- opposed to habit Mead makes a distinction between
behaviour and habit
o Habit- something we do repeatedly, something we are not aware of, no self-
o In Mead’s sense having a coffee at 3 in the afternoon is not a habit because it is
o Another example of a habit- twitching when talking or touching hair not aware
when you are doing it so vs. anything conscious is not a habit in that there is some
self-reflection so putting socks on you make the decision if you are hot or cold
o Is breathing a habit? it is necessary to breath, you can meditate and thus be aware
of it so with Mead, he means something that is not conscious and not a necessary
function of the body
- Self-consciousness is important for Mead being aware of self as an object. To take the
position of the other, the idea we are self-conscious is that we can see our self as an object
step out of self and look at self from outside, in the way you think other people see me
“Looking Glass Self” – takes us to the idea of THE SELF
- THE SELF- one part that is the internalization of how others see you, there we see how self
is the object, but also self as part of subject.
o For Mead what distinguishes us from non-human animals = LANGUAGE- allows us
to exchange significant gestures, meaningful gestures and incorporate the idea of
how others see us and thus see selves as object, be self-conscious = something
animals cannot do.
- Important to know difference between consciousness and self-consciousness when
understanding the self
- Conversation of gestures: gestures have meaning for Mead, what matters for the
development our minds/self/society are things that have meaning, that interaction that has
meaningful purpose. You have a gesture to me like smiling and I will have a significant
gesture in return and thus significant social meaning taken from that interaction
- Significant gestures- are those that matter in a conversation because they have a certain
o if you smile- that could have meaning but may not be understood properly
o in conversation of gestures we are always making interpretations
- Pragmatism constantly theorizing about life so think about it in those terms we are always
interpreting what people do, we theorize, then have patterns
Conversation of gestures- allows us to develop a sense of self. Originated in the Looking Glass
Self, always through interactions with other people…
That conversation of gestures can happen inside our minds for Mead, we do not need to be
interacting with others, but we need to be part of social group to develop sense of self, but if I do
not form or part of any group whatsoever I will never be able to see self as object, so only once
we see self as via generalized other perspective- we can then see self as an object… this is how
you can be self-conscious need to be part of group, part of a society to develop sense of self
= once this is obtained, can have conversation of gestures with self
Words are gestures too we just tend to interpret physical action as gestures words are
meaningful gestures
We can have conversation of gestures in our minds HOW?
o Ex: in a class room think if my question is dumb, everyone may know the answer
etc. you go through that conversation of gestures in your mind, sometimes have
great questions but don’t ask – because internalized “my sense” of the generalized
other you have that dialogue with yourself
This leads us to why the self is a social structure (not like Marx, Simmel, Durkheim interpretation)
- How is it social? Social community exists prior to self you have conversation with self and
- Mead says it is social in form in that you are having conversation of gestures, can have it in
private/public, not necessarily social in content, social due to structure
- One may have most anti-social thoughts but it is the conversation of gestures, it is the
- Mead and children- from developmental psychology, how kids develop certain skills,
toddlers do not have capacity to view generalized other PLAY and GAME
o Understand one role at a time
o As you grow you play games
o Sports games
o To be a good player you must anticipate what people will do… develop sense of
generalized other, what people will do in particular circumstance, so via playing
games you take role of the other and develop sense of generalized other- a sense of
commonalities once you have that sense you can incorporate it in yourself
o That becomes your ME
o Once you incorporate that generalized other! = me