Charles Cooley's Looking-Glass Self
However, the individual may not accurately judge others' views. A person may interpret others' reactions incorrectly. For example, a person may think others are laughing in a negative way, when they are actually laughing at the person's wit. In this case the resulting feelings would be shaped by incorrect interpretation. Regardless of the accuracy of the individual's beliefs regarding the views of others, these beliefs form the sense of self.
This sense of self begins developing in childhood and by adulthood is usually solidly formed, although not completely defined. The process of developing and modifying a sense of self continues throughout an individual's life. As an individual comes into contact with new people and situations, beliefs regarding perception continually shape and reshape the sense of self.
George Herbert Mead's Concept of the Self
Mead's Theory of the Self
At around age six the child moves into the game stage, playing team sports and other organized games. The child begins to understand the roles of other team members and how those roles interact. As the child advances through this stage, learning what each team member is expected to do during different game situations and coming to understand that individuals take multiple roles, the child begins to understand what Mead called the generalized other. The generalized other represents the perspective of society, including common behavioral social expectations—the roles society expects people to play and how they are expected to behave in those roles.
Socialization is the process through which people learn the values, norms, beliefs, and expectations of their society. Through socialization, people learn how to be members of their society, by developing and understanding how to behave in a way society finds appropriate. In turn, by learning and internalizing their society's culture, norms, values, and beliefs, individuals maintain and pass on the core characteristics of their society and culture.
Socialization takes place throughout a person's lifetime, but the effects of socialization are most clear in childhood. In a series of experiments that began in the 1950s, psychologists Harry and Margaret Harlow began studying the effects of social contact and social isolation on the rhesus monkey. In one experiment, the Harlows took baby rhesus monkeys from their biological mothers and placed them with two inanimate substitute mothers. One substitute mother was made of wire mesh and held a bottle to feed the baby monkeys. The other was covered in soft terry cloth but had no bottle or means for feeding the babies. Researchers found that the baby rhesus monkeys preferred the terry cloth mother. The babies visited the wire mother to eat, but they spent most of their time clinging to and cuddling with the terry cloth mother, especially when they were scared. Researchers theorized that physical comfort is an important element of healthy emotional attachment. In later experiments the Harlows isolated baby rhesus monkeys from their mothers and other monkeys for varying lengths of time. The monkeys suffered psychologically, and even after they were returned to their monkey group, they did not develop normal social behavior.
While rhesus monkey behavior does not necessarily represent human behavior, researchers have also studied rare cases of feral human children—children who have been isolated from human contact at early ages. One example is the so-called Leopard Boy, a feral child found near orphaned leopard cubs in India in 1912. Genie, an American girl who was discovered by authorities in 1970, was severely neglected in early childhood while locked alone in a small dark room with little to no human interaction. These children did not learn to walk, eat, behave, react, or interact as their socialized human counterparts did. Since they had rarely heard language, they did not learn to speak. Even when they were integrated into society and given care, social interaction, and rehabilitation, the children had extreme difficulty developing social skills and behavior. Because they had not been socialized, the children were unable to function as members of society and to develop a sense of self, or identity in relation to others and society.