Looking Glass Self Theory by Charles Horton Cooley

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 00:33 -- Umar Farooq

How does a Biological Person become the Social Person?

In 1902 Charles Horton Colley presented the theory of looking glass self is a social psychological concept which is interested in how a biological person becomes a social person. He realizes that this involves the process of socialization. He states that infants have no conception of the world as being separate from themselves. This understanding is linked to the learning of language.

Children’s First Mine and Then I, and Me

The children first mine shows that they are becoming aware of themselves as separate people use of I and me”, shows a still high order of abstraction and indicate fuller self-awareness as a person.

The Social Looking Glass

Looking glass is the group or society in which a person imagines how others see him.

Looking Glass Self Concept

A person stands before a minor to look at their reflection in the mirror. The mirror shows how the person seems. The person gets an image from that whether he is handsome pretty or not, clean or dirty. Similarly the person gets an image from the social looking glass and this is other people’s estimate of them.

Self is the Product of Social World 

CH Cooley concludes that this unique aspect of human, called the self is socially created. That is our sense of self develops from interaction with other people. He coined the term “looking glass concept” in 1902 to describe the process by which a sense of self develops.

Three Stage of Looking Glass Theory

The Cooley theory contains three stages

  1. We imagine how we appear to those around us, for example we may think that others see us as witty or dull.
  2. We interpret others reactions. We come to conclusion about how others evaluate us. Do they like us being witty? Do they dislike us for being dull?
  3. We Develop a Self Concept. Based on our interpretations of the reactions of others, we develop feeling and ideas about ourselves.

Position Self Concept. A favorable reflection in this so called mirror leads to a positive self concept

Negative Self Concept. An unfavorable reflection in this so called mirror leads to a negative self concept. For examples A girl (though ugly) is treated by her parents as if she is pretty one, starts behaving in a positive way as if she is really pretty.

The Danger of Misinterpretation. There is also a possibility of misinterpretation that we may misinterpret how other think about us. These misjudgments became a part of our self concept.

Self Concept Starts in Childhood But is Life Long. It is noteworthy that although the self concept begins in childhood, its development is an ongoing life long process.