George Herbert Mead- The I and the Me | Individuals and Society | MCAT | Khan Academy

George Herbert Mead- The I and the Me | Individuals and Society | MCAT | Khan Academy

– Sociologists, Charles
Cooley and George Herbert Mead both thought that other people could play a significant role
in how we view ourselves. However, they differed in 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, Mead thought 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. He also thought that the
way that others influence us changes across the lifespan. For example, Mead believed 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. At the same time, they
also lack the ability to even take the perspective
of another person. For those of you who are
familiar with psychology and with developmental psychology, you might realize that
this is very similar to Piaget’s concept of egocentrism. But Mead also believed that as we grow up our beliefs about how
other people perceive us start to become more important. Mead 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. 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. As these children grow older they start to focus more on
communication with others as opposed to simple imitation of them. 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. Mead believed that this was reflected in children’s tendency to
pretend play as other people. They play as mommies or daddies or doctors of firefighters, etcetera. And, whereas before they
were really incapable of taking on the perspectives of others, now they’re really focused 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. 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. During the play stage children become able to consider the attitudes,
beliefs and behaviors of the individuals who
are closest to them. During the game stage they start to understand the attitudes,
beliefs and behaviors of what Mead referred to
as the “generalized other,” or society as a whole. 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 to understand that someone can take multiple roles, that people aren’t simply
moms or doctors of teachers, that they can be multiple things at once. This is something that I actually recall from when I was a kid. I remember that as a really young child I really believed that all
my teachers did was teach. I thought that that was
really the sum total of their existence. I actually remember it
being really confusing when I saw them in a supermarket or learned that they had
children of their own. As all of this is happening, as children start to acknowledge
the generalized other and they start to realize that
people have multiple rolls, they also start to
understand that other people must have opinions about them and that those perceptions are influenced by how they act and what they say. 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. 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 peers. Mead believed that this understanding lead to the development
of the “I” and the “me,” where the “me” is our social self and the “I” is our response to the “me.” The “me” is how we believe
the generalized other sees us. It is what we learn through
interactions with others. The “I” thinks about
what those things mean. As an example, the “me” might understand that people in the US 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. I actually always found these terms to be somewhat confusing. The way that I think about it is to think about the
“me” as society’s view and then the “I” is the
individual indentity stepping in, or our personal responses to what society thinks. 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.”


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    J Brash

    Graduated with a sociology degree at the end of last year. Been looking to learn/relearn sociological concepts. This has been one of my favorite finds after looking around for a few months. Thanks!

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    Oh my god this actually helped me so much thank you! (I'm in grade 10) I had to conduct a social experiment incorporating the ideas of Solomon Asch and George Mead and i didn't understand mead for soo long after seeing like a thousand videos about him this is the only one that actually helped me

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    abhishek shukla

    What is the difference between generalized others and significant others ? How are they influencing the actor in the Game Stage ?

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    these mcat psych/soc kahn videos are terrible..unclear and imprecise af..if you pay close attention, it is hard to find a single continuous line of thought get presented..the narrators are all over the place which makes it impossible to integrate the individual pieces to conceptualise the topic as a unified whole. i cant believe there are people who can learn more easily from this nonsense than a textbook or class lecture.

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    Haylie R. Wilson

    holy cow, this explains why I'm having such an identity crisis now in my 20s. lol I'm like – why in the world do I care so much about what other people think – I used to not care

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