Charles Horton Cooley and the Symbolic Interactionism Theory

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Charles Horton Cooley and the Symbolic Interactionism Theory

By | November 2012
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Charles Horton Cooley and the Symbolic Interactionism Theory

Should we associate the abandonment of ‘self’ with symbolic interactionism? Do you feel the need to ‘change your stripes’ to fit in with society?
‘An individual is an abstraction unknown to experience, and so likewise is society when regarded as something apart from individuals.... Society and individuals do not denote separable phenomena, but are simply collective and distributive aspects of the same thing…’ (Thomas Francis O'Dea) In this aspect of his theory, Charles Horton Cooley, a symbolic interactionist, concluded that our sense of ’self’ develops from interactions with others. Cooley described this process as the looking -glass self. The looking- glass self consists of three principle elements. We first imagine how we appear to those around us. We may feel that others see us as monotonous or quiet. Therefore, we try to interpret the reactions of others when we are around them to confirm if what we think is true. If others seem to avoid you or go out of their way to make sure you don‘t see them at all, your typical assumption would be that they have seen or heard something to turn them off from wanting to be an acquaintance of yours .

Secondly, in order of the concept, one imagines the judgment that others may be making regarding that appearance. In other words, how their actions must look to those observing. If someone saw another person walking down the street with all sorts of colors in their hair, one must wonder what compelled them to do such a thing. But if that person turns around with the crazy hair that’s out of the norm and on their shirt it says, ‘I am doing what I want to my hair before chemo takes it from me,’ then there you go. Judgment served.

Lastly, how Cooley put down in words the symbolic interactionism theory was how one feels, either prideful or mortified, about appearances and other judgments of that imagined appearance. People changing themselves or even...

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