Ideas of Charles Cooley

Topics: Sociology, Charles Cooley, Looking glass self Pages: 4 (1525 words) Published: November 23, 2012
Charles Cooley was born on 17th August 1864 and died on 8th May1929. He was George Mead’s contemporary, and each greatly influenced the other’s thinking. Like Mead, Cooley believed that social interaction is the basis of the socialization process. Cooley saw the individual and society as parts of a whole, not as separate entities. In Cooley’s theory, each individual is linked to the social world mainly through the looking glass self. His own self-examination and observation of his children aided him in forming his concepts of the looking-glass self and primary groups. This essay focuses on the looking glass self theory of Charles Cooley and his other ideas.

Sociologist Charles Cooley is best known for his concept of looking glass self, the theory that self-image is formed largely by the message we get from others, and an individual’s interpretation of those messages. Cooley argued that a person’s self grows out of a person’s transaction with others. One’s consciousness of him or herself is a reflection of the ideas about him or herself that he or she attributes to other minds; thus, there can be no isolated selves. In other words Cooley says that we see ourselves as we think others see us. For example, when learning table manners children develop a sense of what others find acceptable and as they a taught they become socialized. Through the looking glass, we learn that we are intelligent or dull, attractive or unattractive. Cooley argues that the judgments of some people in our lives are more important than judgments of others, for example a spouse’s compliment or low opinion may have a greater effect on someone’s self perception than the same comment made by some stranger. The lingering influence of significant of others helps explain how we can sometimes maintain a positive self image at times when many people look down on us, or negative self image when many people think well of us. The looking glass self is a simple and domestic metaphor for the way...

Bibliography: Coser L.A, Masters of Sociological Thought, 2nd Ed, Aarcourt Brace & Company, New York, 1977.
Levine, D. N, Visions of the Sociological Tradition. The University of Chicago Press, 1995
Starks, R. Sociology. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007.
Stolley, K.S, The Basics of Sociology, Greenwood Press, Westport Connecticut, 2005
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