Looking-glass self

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This drawing depicts the looking-glass self. The person at the front of the image is looking into four mirrors, each of which reflects someone else's image of him back to him.

The looking-glass self[1] is a social psychological concept introduced and coined by Charles Horton Cooley in his work, Human Nature and the Social Order in 1902.[2] The concept of the looking-glass self describes the development of one's self and of one's identity through one's interpersonal interactions within the context of society. As Cooley explains, society is an interweaving and inter-working of mental selves.

According to Lisa McIntyre’s The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology, the concept of the looking-glass self expresses the tendency for one to understand oneself through their the perception which others may hold of them. [3] Essentially, how one views oneself and acts heavily depends on what the individual believes other people thinks of the individual. This process is theorized to develop one's sense of identity. Therefore identity, or self, is the result of learning to see ourselves through what we perceive to be the perceptions of others. [4]

Three main components[edit]

The looking-glass self comprises three main components that are unique to humans (Shaffer 2005). [5]

  1. We imagine how we must appear to others in a social situation.
  2. We imagine and react to what we feel their judgment of that appearance must be.
  3. We develop our sense of self and respond through this perceived judgments of others.

The result is that individuals will change their behavior based on what they feel other people think about them, even if not necessarily true. In this way, social interaction acts as a "mirror" or a "looking-glass," since one's sense of self and self esteem is built off of others. For example, an individual may walk into an job interview with confidence and attempt to display this confidence. A person in this situation most often examines the reactions of the interviewers to see if they are positively or negatively reacting to it. If the individual notices positive reactions, such as nodding heads or smiles, this might further develop the individual's sense of self-confidence. If the individual notices negative reactions, such as a lack of interest, this confidence in self often becomes shaken and reformed in order to better oneself, even if the perceived judgements were not necessarily true.

Symbolic interaction[edit]

In hypothesizing the framework, "the mind is mental" because "the human mind is social". From the time they are born, humans define themselves within the context of their social interactions. The child learns that the symbol of his/her crying will elicit a response from his/her caregivers, not only when they are in need of necessities such as food or a diaper change, but also when the child is in need of attention. Cooley best explains this interaction in On Self and Social Organization, noting that "a growing solidarity between mother and child parallels the child's increasing competence in using significant symbols. This simultaneous development is itself a necessary prerequisite for the child's ability to adopt the perspectives of other participants in social relationships and, thus, for the child's capacity to develop a social self." [6]

George Herbert Mead described the creation of the self as the outcome of "taking the role of the other", the premise for which the self is actualized. Through interaction with others, we begin to develop an identity of our own as well as developing a capacity to empathize with others. As stated by Cooley, "The thing that moves us to pride or shame is not the mere mechanical reflection of ourselves, but an imputed sentiment, the imagined effect of this reflection upon another's mind" (Cooley 1964).

Role in social media[edit]

The rise of social media very much reflects the mechanisms of the looking-glass self, as multiple forms of social media offer all different "mirrors" in which individuals present themselves, perceive judgements of others based on likes, follows, etc., and further develop their sense of self. Indeed, as cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken, PhD. explains, social media has created a concept named the "cyber self," a version one wishes to portray online and to the public to others and based on the judgements of others. Unlike the real self, different forms of media allow judgements to be clearly posted, so in many cases, judgements may not even need to be imagined. Aiken explains this concept best, noting that "selfies ask a question of their audience: Like me like this?" [7]

Far different from face-to-face interactions, social media is intended to be accessible and public at all times. This means social media users are constantly exposed to criticism and judgement from others. Additionally, given the nature of social media, being a platform to share certain aspects of an individual's life at any time and in any means possible, the cyber self can be very easily changed and perfected to fit the supposed acceptance of others.

These aspects of social media and its relationship with the looking-glass self present a whole range of effects on social media users. Aiken notes that individuals, and particularly teenagers, who are increasingly involved in updating their online personas, risk damaging the development of their real-world self. She also notes that this effect may be even greater among users who display all different sorts of "cyber selves" among different platforms with different purposes, such as between Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. [7] A social media study also uncovered a host of positive effects of the use of social media and in developing oneself, with dozens of creators citing that producing content gave them a sense of self-confidence and self-worth, enhanced their creativity, increased their sense of professionality, and their platforms offered a positive space to interact with others. [8]

Studies[edit]

The term "looking-glass self" was coined by Cooley after extensive psychological testing in 1902.

Self reflection study in children [9][edit]

Procedure[edit]

In 1976 Arthur L Beaman, Edward Diener, and Soren Svanum (1979) performed an experiment on the looking-glass self’s effect on children, exploring the relationship between self-awareness and transgressive behavior. In the study, 363 children trick-or-treated at 18 different homes in Seattle, Washington, instructed to take only one candy while the greeter was occupied in another room. In each house, an observer who was hidden could record the results of the experiment. In half of the homes, the researchers performed self-awareness manipulation, and a mirror was placed at a ninety degree angle so that the children could always see their reflection in the mirror when taking candy from the bowl. After greeting the children at the door, a second condition named individuation manipulation was performed, with a woman at the door asking each of the children their name and where he or she lived. Just as in the first condition, a mirror was used half of the time and was removed for the other half of the experiment.

Findings[edit]

While the study offers interesting results involving the gender, age, and whether children trick-or-treated in a group, Beaman, Diener, and Syanum's study truly highlights the effects of self-awareness of others' thoughts. Out of the 363 children involved in the study, 70 children transgressed, taking more than one candy when instructed not to. Overall, self-awareness induced by the mirror decreased rates of transgression. 15.6% of bows transgressed when the mirror was present and individuation manipulation was performed, compared to 35.8% with lack of both manipulations. This trend was the same for girls; 8.4% to 13.2%. However, what is important to note is that if children were left anonymous to the greeter, transgression rates did not change, regardless of the presence of the mirror. This indicates that the children's actions were directed through fear or deference of the greeter and what the greeter though about them, and not by mere reminder of one's individual sense of morality as the mirror might present. [9]

Family study [10][edit]

In another study in the Journal of Family Psychology in 1998, researchers Cook and Douglas measured the validity of the looking glass self and symbolic interaction in the context of familial relationships. The study analyzed the accuracy of a college student's and an adolescent's perceptions of how they are perceived by their parents, surveying mothers, fathers, college students, and adolescents.

Three areas were investigated: assertiveness, firmness, and cooperation. In reference to the three areas respondents were asked the following: how they behave toward the target, how the target behaves toward them, and how they think they are viewed by the target. The study identified the looking glass self as a "metaperception" because it involves "perception of perceptions." One of the hypotheses tested in the study was: If "metaperceptions" cause self-perceptions they will necessarily be coordinated. The hypothesis was tested at the individual and relationship levels of analysis

Findings[edit]

The study determined that the hypothesis is strongly supported at the individual level for cooperation for both college students and adolescents, but is only partially supported for assertiveness for college students. Also for college students, at the relationship level with their mothers the study supported assertiveness. There was an irregular finding regarding firmness in the mother-adolescent relationship that indicated that the firmer adolescents were perceived by their mothers, the less firm they rated themselves in the relationship. While there was not strong support of the hypothesis on the relationship level, on the individual level the findings suggest that how college students and adolescents think about themselves is directly correlated to how they think they are perceived by their parents.

Social media study [8][edit]

In 2015, Julie Jones, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, asked a range of questions to 46 Youtube producers to evaluate how producing in media has positively or negatively affected them. As Jones explains, "digital media can serve as a mediated mirror and social media sites provide the space where others' judgments are clearly posted." [8]

Findings[edit]

Of the Youtube producers asked, many noted that producing content gave them a sense of self-confidence and self-worth, enhanced their creativity, increased their sense of professionality, and their platforms offered a positive space to interact with others.

Critical perspectives[edit]

It has been argued that the looking glass self conceptualization of the social self is critically incomplete in that it overlooks the divergent roles of ingroups and outgroups in self-definition.[11] That is, it has been demonstrated that while individuals will converge upon the attitudes and behaviours of ingroup members, they will also diverge from the attitudes and behaviours of outgroup members.[12] The neglect of the latter scenario is attributed to the looking glass approaches’ implicit focus on ingroup member appraisals. This alternative perspective is derived from the self-categorization theory analysis of social influence.[13] Indeed, it is further argued that the looking glass self metaphor fails to reflect the fact that influence derives from the self-categorization of other individuals as part of the self.[11][14] In other words, people are not shaped by the reflections from ‘others’, but rather are shaped by the creation of a collective social identity that contrasts ‘us’ against relevant ‘others’. Therefore, the concept of self-identity may be considered an example of a social construction.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The term is sometimes hyphenated in the literature, sometimes not. Compare, for example, the titles of Shaffer (2005) and Yeung & Martin (2003), below.
  2. ^ From Charles Horton Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order, New York: Scribner's, 1902, pp. 152:
  3. ^ McIntyre, Lisa. The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006. ISBN 0-07-288524-6.
  4. ^ Yeung, King-To, and Martin, John Levi. "The Looking Glass Self: An Empirical Test and Elaboration." Social Forces 81, no. 3 (2003): 843–879.
  5. ^ Shaffer, Leigh S. (2005-1). "From mirror self-recognition to the looking-glass self: exploring the Justification Hypothesis". Journal of Clinical Psychology. 61 (1): 47–65. doi:10.1002/jclp.20090. ISSN 0021-9762. PMID 15558625. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ 1864-1929., Cooley, Charles Horton, (1998). On self and social organization. Schubert, Hans-Joachim. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226115089. OCLC 38550770.
  7. ^ a b Mary,, Aiken,. The cyber effect : a pioneering cyber-psychologist explains how human behavior changes online. New York. ISBN 9780812997859. OCLC 933719272.
  8. ^ a b c Jones, Julie (2015-08-01). "The Looking Glass Lens: Self-concept Changes Due to Social Media Practices". 4: 100.
  9. ^ a b Beaman, A. L.; Klentz, B.; Diener, E.; Svanum, S. (1979-10). "Self-awareness and transgression in children: two field studies". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 37 (10): 1835–1846. ISSN 0022-3514. PMID 512839. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ Cook, William L.; Douglas, Emily M. (1998). "The looking-glass self in family context: A social relations analysis". Journal of Family Psychology. 12 (3): 299–309. doi:10.1037//0893-3200.12.3.299. ISSN 0893-3200.
  11. ^ a b Turner, J. C.; Onorato, R. S. (1999). Tyler, T. R.; Kramer, R. M.; John, O. P., eds. "Social identity, personality, and the self-concept: A self-categorization perspective". The psychology of the social self. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum: 11–46.
  12. ^ David, B.; Turner, J. C. (1992). "Studies in self-categorization and minority conversion: Is being a member of the outgroup an advantage?". British Journal of Social Psychology. 35: 179–200. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.1996.tb01091.x.
  13. ^ Turner, J. C. (1991). Social influence. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
  14. ^ Turner, J. C. (1999). Ellemers, N.; Spears, R.; Doosje, B., eds. "Some current issues in research on social identity and self-categorization theories". Social identity. Oxford: Blackwell: 6–34.

References[edit]

  • Beaman, A. L.; Klentz, B.; Diener, E.; Svanum, S. (1979-10). "Self-awareness and transgression in children: two field studies". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 37 (10): 1835–1846. ISSN 0022-3514. PMID 512839
  • McGraw Hill Ryerson "Challenge and Change: Patterns, Trends and Shifts in Society" New York: 2012 pp. 130 ISBN 0-07-094157-2 for quote ""In Cooley's words, "I am not what I think I am and I am not what you think I am; I am what I think you think I am." ""
  • Cook, W. L., & Douglas, E. M. (1998). The looking-glass self in family context: A social relations analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 12(3), 299-309.
  • Cooley, Charles H. Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Scribner's, 1902. Confer pp. 183–184 for first use of the term "looking glass self".
  • Cooley, Charles H. On Self and Social Organization. Ed. Schubert Hans-Joachim. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. ISBN 0-226-11509-7. (pp. 20–22)
  • Cook, William L., and Douglas, Emily M. "The Looking Glass Self in Family Context: A Social Relations Analysis." Journal of Family Psychology 12, no. 3 (1998): 299–309.
  • Coser, Lewis A., Masters of Sociological Thought : Ideas in Historical and Social Context, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. ISBN 0-15-555128-0. He has a chapter on Cooley and the Looking Glass Self.
  • Hensley, Wayne. "A Theory of the Valenced Other: The Intersection of the Looking-Glass-Self and Social Penetration." Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal 24, no. 3 (1996): 293–308.
  • McIntyre, Lisa. The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006. ISBN 0-07-288524-6.
  • Shaffer, Leigh. "From Mirror Self-Recognition to the Looking-Glass Self: Exploring the Justification Hypothesis." Journal of Clinical Psychology 61 (January 2005): 47–65.
  • Starks, Rodney. Sociology. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007. ISBN 0-495-09344-0. (pp. 73–75)
  • Yeung, King-To, and Martin, John Levi. "The Looking Glass Self: An Empirical Test and Elaboration." Social Forces 81, no. 3 (2003): 843–879.