Symbolic Interactionism In The 'Looking Glass Self'

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INTRODUCTION A vital element of the study of sociology and social activity is the study of how individual actors interpret social situations. Deep within the discussion of how individual actors understand and react to social situations, there is an underlying dualism similar to that of ‘nature versus nurture’. Individuals understand and act in social situations based on both individual interpretation, as well as large underlying structural forces. The micro interpretation of this concept can be critically examined with theories such as interpretivist sociology and symbolic interactionism (Scott 2009:16, 24). This perspective sees the understanding of how to act in situations as deriving from previous experiences and individual interpretation.…show more content…
Symbolic interactionism distinguishes between the social self by separating it into the ‘I’ (the self that thinks and acts), and the ‘Me’ (The self that is presented to the world) (Ibid:23). Theorists believe that the ‘Me’ is the part of the individual that is shaped by society and managed by the ‘I’, others argue that the ‘I’ is equally influenced by external relationships and influences (Ibid:24). The concept of the “Looking Glass Self” shows how large structures of social feedback can influence individual behaviour (ibid). There are three elements within this concept; the individual visualizing how others see them; thinking about how others judge them; and, finally, the feelings that it gives an individual to influence their behaviour (Ibid). For example if a high school student is constantly getting into trouble at school, teachers, administration, and his peers may use social sanctions such as calling him/her ‘delinquent’ or gossip. As a result the student may realize that everyone thinks that he/she is a ‘delinquent’, and therefore, subconsciously plays the…show more content…
In order for this to happen, all participants must take on the appropriate role and act the correct way (Scott 2009:27). Individuals employ two different strategies to achieve this: defensive and protective strategies (Ibid). Defensive strategies may include for example, a star basketball player missing a shot and him/her blaming it on injury to save their role/image (Ibid). A protective strategy would include the referee verifying the injury, whether or not it is actually real (Ibid). Social actors work together agreeably to act out situations in their believable roles so that all of them may be sure of who they are and how their daily activity is defined. This notion of social actors working together to make sure that situations play out smoothly reflects the aforementioned notion of the “Looking Glass Self”. Returning to the high school student example, should this student change his behaviour while being in trouble suddenly (expressing great remorse for his actions perhaps), he is not playing into the expected role that has been placed on him. Administration may feel that his said students remorse is fake as it is ‘out of character’. The fact that an individual has the ability to change their demeanor instantaneously, yet it not able to practice it freely and acceptable, exhibits the power of the social structure in which one
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