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Generalized Other

D. Angus Vail

Subject Psychology
Social Psychology » Socialization

People Mead, George Herbert

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Extract

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

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