Blog 3: Mead’s Symbolic Interactionism

How I see me as through others

George Herbert Mead helped to establish a middle ground between his concept of symbolic-interactionism and behaviorist psychology. Behaviorists such as B.F. Skinner focused on the interaction between an actor and how they react to external stimulus, without any preclusion of the person’s ‘mind,’ which is thought of as an ‘impenetrable black box.’ By introducing the mind—defined here as “process or behavior that allows for the conscious control of one’s actions”–where gestures and symbols can be juxtaposed into a myriad of acted out scenarios, which a person can ponder. This is a feat accomplished only by humans, who can understand the implicit meaning of a gesture (be it someone’s words or physical display), and transfer their thoughts about those things back the first gesture’s originator.

Humans in this way can think about what that other person just said or did, what that means for themselves (‘reflexivity’), and in what way they wish to respond. In this way people express themselves through their personal identities in their environment and as part of a larger culture.

The two parts to Mead’s concept of identity are the “I” and the “Me.”

The “I” being the narrative in your head (I ate vegetables today), and the “me” being the person which things happen to (someone yells at me for stepping on their sneakers). We act on what happens to “me,” so that the “I” will try to be more careful.

Here is a young woman’s youtube pictorial illustrating and explaining the concept of symbolic—interactionism.


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