George Herbert Mead was a prominent American philosopher and sociologist who made significant contributions to the field of social psychology. He developed the theory of social self, which suggests that individuals develop a sense of self through interactions with others in their social environment. In this article, we will explore how Mead understood the self and its relationship to society.

Understanding George Herbert Mead

Mead was born on February 27, 1863, in South Hadley, Massachusetts. He studied at Harvard University and later became a professor at the University of Chicago.

Mead was greatly influenced by the works of Charles Darwin and William James, which led him to focus on the role of human behavior in shaping society. His theory of social self is one of his most significant contributions to sociology.

The Self and Society

According to Mead, the self is not an innate characteristic that people are born with but rather something that develops over time through social interactions. He believed that individuals have two aspects of self: “I” and “Me.” The “I” represents an individual’s unique personality traits, while the “Me” represents how an individual sees themselves based on their interactions with others.

Mead argued that society plays a crucial role in shaping an individual’s sense of self. He believed that individuals learn about themselves through their interactions with others in their social environment. Through these interactions, individuals develop a sense of identity and begin to understand societal norms and values.

The Role of Language

Mead also believed that language played a significant role in shaping an individual’s sense of self. He argued that language is not just a tool for communication but also for developing and expressing thoughts and ideas. Language allows individuals to communicate with others about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings, which helps shape their understanding of themselves.

Symbols and Gestures

Mead introduced the concept of “symbols” and “gestures” in his theory of social self. Symbols are objects or words that represent something else, and gestures are actions or behaviors that convey meaning. Mead believed that individuals use symbols and gestures to communicate with each other, which helps shape their sense of self.

For example, when a child learns to wave “bye-bye,” they are using a gesture to communicate with their parents. The parents then respond by waving back or saying “bye-bye,” which reinforces the child’s understanding of the gesture’s meaning. Through these interactions, the child begins to develop a sense of self and understands how they fit into their social environment.

Conclusion

In conclusion, George Herbert Mead was a prominent sociologist and philosopher who made significant contributions to our understanding of the self and its relationship to society. His theory of social self emphasizes the importance of social interactions in shaping an individual’s sense of self. Mead believed that language, symbols, and gestures played significant roles in this process.

As we can see through Mead’s theory, our sense of self is not just an individual characteristic but is shaped by our interactions with others in society. We learn about ourselves through our experiences with others and develop a sense of identity based on societal norms and values. This understanding has important implications for how we view ourselves and interact with others in our daily lives.