G. H. Mead: Self and Identity: Social Construction of the Self and Sets of Individuals in Society

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Symbolic Interactionist

  • Humans have thought capacity

  • Individuals learn meaning through interaction

  • They can modify it

  • Action and interaction make societies

  • Mead is one of the most significant thinkers

  • Importance of awareness of self

  • Symbols give meaning and basis for human interaction

  • Meanings shared by members of society

  • Phenomenological perspectives or Inner human behaviours

  • Emphasis on actors’ views and interpretation of social reality

Social Construction of the Self


  • Immediate conscious acting self

  • Creative

  • Response of individual towards others’ attitudes


  • Stores experiences and memories.

  • Attitudes of others towards self

  • Individual assumes himself

  • Conforming


  • Created by interactions of I and me and generalized others

  • Dialectic between I and me is within the self

  • Book : Mind, Self and Society

  • 3 aspects of self and identity:

Social construction of the self

Social Construction of the Self


  • Receives information from others

  • Adapts to environment

  • Helps in development of self


  • To see oneself from others views

  • Behaviour changes around different people


  • People around individual

  • Regular interaction

Sets of Individuals in Society

Significant Others

  • They matter to an individual

  • Their opinions matter

  • Helps in growth of self

  • E.g. Friends

Generalized Others

  • Include expectations of society as a whole, attitudes, etc.

  • Not important in one’s life

  • Less significant

  • E.g. Movie critics

Development of Self

Play Stage

  • Preparatory stage, childhood

  • Child learns about various roles in society

  • E.g. playing teacher-student

  • Temporary role, no attachment

  • Called ‘playing at a role’

Game Stage

  • Adulthood

  • Concerns others too not only individual

  • Individual acts differently around different people

  • Plays different roles, part of personality


  • Journey from I to ‘Me’ with the help of views, opinions, suggestions of people in society

  • I was unsocialized, me is socialized

  • I and Me become one gradually and thus, identity is created

  • Me = own views + society’s views

  • So, when individual acts he stops to think, “ Should I “?


  • Covert behaviours – thinking process with symbols and meanings

  • Overt behaviours – actual behaviours


1. In symbolic interactionism, who among the following, often refers to ‘objective relativism ‘ as object

  1. H. Blumer

  2. G. Simmel

  3. G.H. Mead

  4. H. Spencer

Ans. 3

2. To Mead “the generalized others” and “significant others” are the creators of:

(1) I

(2) Me

(3) Ego

(4) Super-ego

Ans. 2

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