Generalized Others by Mead Herbert Definition & Example

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 01:57 -- Umar Farooq

Generalized Other Definition

George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) was a symbolic integrationist who agreed with Cooley that the self developed during social interaction. Mead considered the generalized others to be general cultural norms and values society take as their own.

Taking the Role of the Other. Meads says that children learn to take the role of others. At first children accept the attitude of specific people. At this stage they are not yet ready to interact with a group. They have no conception of the normative system involved, to boot.

Children React Only to Sign Flint Others. Significant others are those persons who have the greatest influence on the formation of the social self such as parents. So children react to these significant others.

Play is Critical to the Development of Self. Mead adds that play is critical to the development of self. In play children learn to learn the role of others that is to put themselves in some one’s shoes to understand how some one else feels and thinks and to anticipate how that person will act.

Generalized other

As the self gradually develops, children internalize the expectations of a large number of people. Now they develop the ability to take the role "the group as a whole" to this our perception of how in general think of us, Mead gives the term generalized other”

Two Part Division in the Development of Social Self "I and Me"

Meads sees two part division in the development of the social self e.g. meads “I” and “Me”. The “ME” is the conventional part of self. The individual’s predictable response to the expectations of others. In other words, the “me” part of the self is an object which other people react to and judge.

Taking the Role of Others is Essential 

Taking the role of others is essential if we are to become co-operative members of human group whether family, peers or work. This ability allows us to modify our behavior by anticipating the reaction of others.

Generalized Other Three Stages of Development of Self

Meads contribution to words the development if self can be summed up into three Stages which are discussed as under.

Preparatory Stage

It is the beginning of second year of child. In this stage the child starts giving reactions to the outside environment. These responses are meaningless to the outsider. The mother or other person in close contact with the child can understand his/her behavior. By the end of the second year child starts talking and his/her vocabulary consists of many words. For example

The Play Stage

This stage starts with the beginning of the third year of age. This has the following examples.

  1. Reaction to significant others. The child plays the role of significant other like mother, father etc. The child behaves like significant others while playing with toys.
  2. The Child Gets Many Selves. At this stage the child gets many selves at the same time. On one hand he plays his own role unconsciously and on other hand play the role of individuals belonging to significant others. For example sometimes a child wear his father coat and pretend to be his father.

Game Stage

The game stage starts at the fourth years of the child. The child starts thinking of others as well as he tries to understand a question like what is he and he is not. In this stage the child has a role and he changes the behavior according to the impressions of others and in different situations.

From Generalized other concept we can learn that child develops as idea about the “self” that whether he is normal or abnormal. This development is a lifelong process but the early period of life is very important.