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George Herbert Mead- The I and the Me

Video transcript

sociologists Charles Cooley and George Herbert Mead both thought that others other people could play a significant role in how we view ourselves however they differ and how they thought this might happen whereas Cooley thought that everyone that a person interacts with during their entire lifespan could influence our self-identity in some way or another meda that the process was somewhat more restricted he thought that only certain people could influence our perception of self and only during certain periods of life and he also thought that the way that others influence us changes across the lifespan for example me believe that infants and other very young children were not actually influenced by others in any way instead he believed that young children see themselves as being the focus of their own world and consequently they don't really care about what other people think of them and at the same time they also lack the ability to even take the perspective of another person and for those of you who are familiar with psychology in with developmental psychology you might realize that this is very similar to PJ's concept of egocentrism but made also believed that as we grow up our beliefs about how other people perceive us start to become more important and we thought that this happened through three distinct stages the preparatory stage the play stage and the game stage during the preparatory stage children interact with others through imitation so they might play with pots and pans when a person is cooking or use a broom or a toy vacuum when their parents are trying to clean which of course usually winds up making more of a mess but these aren't really true interactions but as these children grow older they start to focus more on communication with others as opposed to simple imitation of them and they get practice using symbols things like gestures and words and other forms of communication that they will later have to master as they grow up during the play stage children become more aware of the importance of social relationships and need to believe that this was reflected in children's tendency to pretend play as other people they play as mommies or daddies or doctors or firefighters etc and whereas before they were really incapable of taking on the perspectives of others now they're really focus on them now they're really focused on role taking or mentally assuming the perspectives of another person and acting based on their perceived point of view and even though this might seem like imitation the kind we saw in the preparatory stage this actually goes way beyond it because the children are able to respond they're not simply capable of mimicking social interactions they're capable of creating them during the last stage the game stage children's understanding of social interactions become even more developed so during the play stage children become able to consider the attitudes beliefs and behaviors of the individuals who are closest to them but during the game stage they start to understand the attitudes beliefs and behaviors of what mean to refer to as the generalized other or society as a whole and with this comes a whole new understanding of society for example children start to realize that people not only perform in ways based on what they personally believe but also based on what society more broadly expects of them they also start understand that someone can take multiple roles that people aren't simply moms or doctors or teachers that they can be multiple things at once and this is something that I actually recall from when I was a kid I remember that as a really young child I really believe that all my teachers did was teach I thought that that was really the sum total of their existence and so I actually remember it being really confusing when I saw them in a supermarket or learned that they had children of their own and as all of this is happening as children start to acknowledge the generalized other and they start to realize that people have multiple roles they also start to understand that other people must have opinions about them and that those perceptions are influenced by how they act in what they say and so in response they themselves begin to be influenced by these perceptions and they start to be concerned about the reactions of others to what they do but they don't really care about the perceptions of everyone they come across they're mainly focused on the perceptions of the significant others in their life and by that I don't mean a girlfriend or a boyfriend at least not exclusively but by all the people who have important relationships to that individual parents teachers close here's an me believe that this understanding led to the development of the eye and the me where the me is our social self and the eye is our response to the me so the me is how we believe the generalized other sees us it is what we learn through interactions with others and the eye thinks about what those things mean so as an example the me might understand that people in the u.s. typically go from high school directly to college but the I might wonder if that is best if maybe it would be best if some people traveled first or if they maybe worked for a few years and I actually always found these terms to be somewhat confusing and so the way that I think about it is to think about the me as society's view and then the I is the individual identity stepping in or our personal responses to what society thinks and even though we have these two parts and they might seem like they're conflicting Mead would say that who we are our actual self is the balance of both the I and the me