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Mead’s Theory of the Self

Home Free essays Sociology Mead's Theory of the Self

For many years, psychologists and philosophers have considered and discussed the issue concerning the meaning of the self-concept. Taking into account that there are certain notions and aspects which mean the self in the social world, it should be definitely considered as the definition. The solution to this issue can help in understanding the role of the person in society and comprehension of the persons motivations, desires, and reasons behind his/her actions. In order to describe the individuals personality development, George Herbert Mead created the theory of the self, in which he highlighted the key factors that influence the formation of one’s personality.

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The concept of the symbolical interactionism in Meads work is closely linked with his concept of the person, which is not surprising since the scientist was interested in the interaction between individuals as bearers of personal characteristics. Moreover, the concept of identity was the basis of symbolic interactionism. The special place in this concept was taken by the question of structure of the person considered by Mead as a self structure (Cronk, 2005).

Mead singles out two subsystems in the self system, i.e. the I and the me. The me is a set of rules of the other peculiar to this person. The me represents how the individuals see themselves through the eyes of other individuals and how they internalize these generalized ideas about themselves. The I, on the contrary, has independent, self-valuable character and means representing of himself or herself by the individual, in other words, self-representation. It is a source of spontaneous, unpredictable behavior and shows the specifics of the persons reactions to social incentives. The I is identical to the social process. In fact, Mead tried to equate the I not only with social process, but also with the autonomy and freedom of the person and his or her opportunities and prospects to choose and restructure the social roles. The I makes changes in the structure of the interactions, which being summarized change the content of social process, preventing its transformation into a rigid social order (Aboulafia, 2012).

The position of the sociologist concerning the structure of the individual testifies to its dual nature related to the characteristic of the self identity (inner core that is not associated with somebodys opinion and estimates), on the one hand, and to identification and perception of self-representation from others, on the other hand. In this interpretation, the understanding of the sources of social interaction concentrated in this nature and structure is put (Carreira da Silva, 2013).

Characterizing the Meads theory of the self that contains the paradigm of symbolical interactionism, it is necessary to discuss his views on the process of the identity formation (the self in his terminology). The American scientist identifies two main steps in this process studied by him on the basis of research materials of children. At the first stage, the self of the individual is constituted simply by the organization of separate installations of other individuals in relation to him or her and to each other within the specific social actions. At the second stage of the complete development, the self is constituted by the organization of not only these separate installations but also social installations of the generalized other or social group that he or she belongs to (Deegan, 2008).

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Both stages are concerned with studying the play characteristics as the main form of activity of individuals of childrens age. At the first stage, the play is related to the realization of the roles which do not belong to the child. These can be roles of parents, relatives, doctors, sellers, etc. Children play these roles in the process of communication with themselves. For example, the child prescribes itself the treatment on behalf of the doctor and immediately takes it etc. Thus, the dolls, which can be changed depending on the situation or the childs demands, act as the important participant in the process of communication. During the play, the process of formation and socialization of the child takes place (Stets & Turner, 2007).

The second stage of this process, the game, is characterized by the competition with other, as a rule, with contemporaries. In such games, children see themselves not only through their eyes, but through the eyes of other contestants. This causes the need to respond to their rules and actions. Performing these roles, the child enters the organized community, in which the principles of symbolical interaction and communication become the determinants of social behavior. The fundamental difference between the play and the game is that in the first case the child needs to have the rules set by the other, i.e. the individuals involved in this play; the essence of the game is that the participants organize some kind of unity, and this organization controls the response of this individual (Johnson, 2008).

In general, according to Meads research, the behavior of the individual is caused by the structure of his or her personality, social role, and perception of the rules established by the generalized second. Moreover, referring to the views of the American scientist, it should be noted that his analysis of communication between individuals is often only confined to a formality without the characteristics of object activity of individuals caused by factors of social interaction (Dillon, 2010).

Taking into account all the above-mentioned information, it should be noted that George Meads theory about the social self explains that the development of the I and the me results from the life experience and self-development from learning generally for themselves. Besides, the self develops only due to the received social experience. The only lack of this theory is that biological influence is not credited for the social development of the self. Moreover, the social development of childrens self passes through two main stages, which are plays that also include the direct imitation of the adults behavior and games that provide the possibility to meet the expectations of the whole group.

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