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Social Self

  Social self, in sociology, refers to the basis of self-consciousness in human individuals according to the theory established by G.H. Mead in his work Mind, Self and Society (1934). The social self is the identity conferred upon an individual by the reactions of others. A person achieves self-consciousness by becoming aware of his or her social identity, this cannot happen without society.

Mead believed that children develop as social beings by imitating the actions of those around them. In their play children often imitate what adults do. He referred to this process as ‘taking the role of the other’, that is, learning what it is like to be another person. It is only at this stage that children acquire a developed sense of self. Children reach an understanding of themselves as separate agents—as ‘me’—by seeing themselves through the eyes of others. According to Mead, when we learn to distinguish the ‘me’ from the ‘I’, then we achieve self-awareness. The ‘I’ is the unsocialized infant a collection of unbridled wants and desires; the ‘me’, as used by Mead, is the social self.

The concept of social self is important to the developmental and humanistic branches of psychology, and to symbolic interactionism within sociology. DA

See also action perspective; dramaturgical model; generalized other; microsociology; socialization.Further reading P. Rock, The Making of Symbolic Interactionism.



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