What Extent Can Socialisation Be Said to Influence the Behaviour of Humans in Society

Topics: Sociology, Charles Cooley, Self-concept Pages: 5 (1663 words) Published: May 26, 2012
To what extent can socialisation be said to influence the behaviour of humans in society. Give specific examples

Charles Darwin argued that each species evolves over thousands of generations as genetic variations enhance survival and reproduction. Biologically rooted traits that enhance survival emerge as a specific “nature”. People assume that humans like other forms of life have fixed instinctive 'nature' as well. For example, they sometimes claim that our economic system is a reflection of instinctive human competitiveness, that some people are born criminal or that women are more naturally emotional while men are inherently more rational. Socialisation is a process whereby the helpless infant becomes aware, acquires knowledge and becomes skilled in the ways of the culture in which he or she is born. According to some scholars, every individual is born being a blank sheet(Giddens 1993,60).Society eventually scribbles on that particular individual, its expectations in terms of cultural values, norms and expectations. The writer will give a thorough examination of socialisation, that is show the process of socialisation.

We all have various perceptions, feelings and beliefs about who we are and what we like. We are not born with these understandings. Building on the work of George Herbert Mead(1964), sociologists recognise that we create our own designation: the self. The self is a distinctive identity that sets us apart from others. It is not a static phenomenon but continues to develop and change through our lives. Sociologists and psychologists alike have expressed interest in how the individual develops and modifies the sense of self as a result of social interaction. The work of sociologist Charles Horton Cooley and George Herbert Mead, pioneers of the interactionist approach have been especially useful in furthering our understanding of these inportant issues(Gesas 1982).

In the early 1900s Charles Horton Cooley advanced the belief that we learn who we are by interacting with others. Our view of ourselves, then, comes not only from direct contemplation of our personal qualities but also from our impressions of how others perceive us. Cooley used the phrase 'looking-glass self' to emphasise that the self is the product of our social interactions with other people. The process of developing a self-identity or self concept have three phases. First, we imagine how we present ourselves to others - to relatives, friends, even strangers on the street. Then we imagine how others evaluate us, for example if we ar attractive, intelligent, shy or strange. Finally, we develop some sort of feeling about ourselves such as respect or shame as a result of these impressions(Cooley 1902, Howard 1989). A subtle but critical aspect of Cooley's looking-glass self is that the self results from individual's 'imagination' of how others view him or her. As a result, we can develop self-identities based on incorrect perceptions of how others see us. A student may react strangely to a teacher's criticism and decide (wrongly) that the teacher views the student as stupid. This misperception can easily be converted into a negative self-identity through the following process: (1) the teacher criticised me, (2)the teacher must think i'm stupid, (3)i am stupid. Yet self indentities are also subject to change. If the student recieves an 'A' at the end of the course, he or she will probably no longer feel stupid.

George Herbert Mead continues Cooley's exploration of intractionist theory. Mead developed a useful model of the process by which the self emerges, defined by three distinct stages: the prepatory stage, the play stage and the game stage. During the prepatory stage, children merely imitate the people around them, especially family memebers with whom they continually interact. Thus a small child will bang a piece of wood while a parent is engaged in carpentary work or will try throw a ball if an older sibling is doing so nearby. As...
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