Full Text

Generalized Other

D. Angus Vail

Subject Psychology
Social Psychology » Socialization

People Mead, George Herbert

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The generalized other is one of George Herbert Mead's central concepts in his seminal discussion of the social genesis of the self. According to Mead, the self resides in the individual's ability to take account of himself or herself as a social being. It thus requires the individual to take the role of the other as well as taking account of how his or her actions might affect the group. Generalized other is Mead's (1962: 154–8) term for the collection of roles and attitudes that people use as a reference point for figuring out how to behave in a given situation. This term is often used in discussions of the play and game stages of development. According to Mead, selves develop in social contexts as people learn to take the roles of their consociates such that they can with a fair degree of accuracy predict how one set of actions is likely to generate fairly predictable responses. People develop these capacities in the process of interacting with one another, sharing meaningful symbols, and developing and using language to create, refine, and assign meanings to social objects (including themselves). In order for complex social processes such as these to work, people have to develop a sense for the rules, norms, roles, understandings, and so on that make responses predictable. While they learn these sets of rules from concrete others, their aggregate constitutes a generalized other. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top