Classical: Chapter 9
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Brandon Howe and Shalee Hanson
 Born on February 27, 1863 in South Hadley,
His father was a minister in the Congressional Church
and taught the art of preaching at Oberlin Theological
His mother also taught at Oberlin but later became the
president of Mount Holyoke College
Mead attended Oberlin at the age of sixteen,
graduated in 1883
In 1887 Mead attended graduate school at Harvard
University, studied physiological psychology
More Background
 Mead quit graduate school and accepted a teaching
position at University of Michigan in 1891
 In 1893 Mead was invited to teach at the University of
Chicago, this is where he spent the rest of his life
 Died in 1931 at the age of 68
Intellectual Influences
 William James: James Principal of Psychology re-
examination of the relations between individuals and
society. Mead perspective of “habit” was also influenced by
James, “Individual acquires a new nature through habit.”
Another critical aspect of James’s psychology was his
rethinking of the role of consciousness, had an effect of
Mead’s Mind, Self, and Society.
 Charles Darwin and Evolutionism: Darwin’s
presentation of evolution helped free him from his
religious beliefs. He also influenced Mead in his
philosophical and psychological beliefs.
More Intellectual Influences
 German Idealism: “Romantic idealists utilized the
self-not-self process in experience, and identified this
process with the subject-object process” Mead learned
that there is no consciousness that is not conscious of
 American Pragmatism: “Rejected the ideas as
absolute truths and regard all ideas as provisional and
subject to change in light of future research.” Truth
and reality do not simply exist. Pragmatists believe
that humans reflect on the meaning of a stimulus
before reacting.
Concepts and Contributions
 Pragmatism: The extension of the scientific method
to all areas of intellectual inquiry, including
psychology, sociology, and philosophy. Provides
intellectual justification for social action.
 Symbolic Interactionism: Suggests that people cope
with the reality of their circumstances according to
their comprehension of the situation.
More Concepts and Contributions
 Mind, self and Society: Mead’s attempt to understand
individual social experiences in relation to society. Argued
that there can be no self, no consciousness of self, and no
communication apart from society.
1) Mind- process, not a thing. Reflects the human
capacity to conceive what the organism perceives, define
situations, evaluate phenomena, convert gestures into
symbols, and exhibit pragmatic and goal-directed behavior.
2) Self-Actors reflect on themselves as objects (able to
be object and subjects) It has a development and is not
initially there at birth.
3) Society-Cannot exist without minds and selves.
The organization of human experience and behavior.
More Concepts and Contributions
 The “I” and the “Me”: According to Mead, the self is
composed of two parts, the “I” and the “Me”, both are a
part of an individual’s self concept and the self is the
dialogue between the two. “I” is spontaneous,
unsocialized, unpredictable, and impulsive aspect of
the self. The subject of one’s actions. “Me” develops
gradually through interaction and internalization of
the community, it monitors the “I”. When an
individual fails to conform to the expectations of
society, they are under the influence of the “I”.
More Concepts and Contributions
 Development of Self: The development of the self takes place
through several stages
1) Imitation stage: As skills are developing, babies learn to
play based on observing and imitating their parents. Imitation
implies learning (positive and negative rewards)
2) Play stage: at this stage the child has learned to use
language and meanings of certain symbols. In this stage they are
not only acting out but allowing their imagination to let them BE
that person.
3) Game stage: child must now be capable of putting
herself in the role of several others at the same time and be able
to understand the relationship between those roles.
4) Generalized other: Conception of multiple statuses and
More Concepts and Contributions
 The Act: the response to a stimulus is not automatic because the
individual has choices of behaviors in which to react.
1) Impulse: gut reactions or immediate responses to certain
stimuli. The “need” to do something.
2) Perception: People use their senses as well as mental
images in attempt to satisfy impulses and must choose the one
most beneficial to them.
3) Manipulation: Once an impulse has been manifested
and the object has been perceived, the individual must take
some action with regard to it.
4) Consummation: The individual has followed through on
a course of action and can consummate the act by satisfying the
More Concepts and Contributions
 The Social Act: “A social act may be defined as
one in which the stimulus (or occasion) sets free
an impulse (found in the very character or nature
of its being) that then triggers possible reactions
from those found in the environment.”
 Emphasized the importance of the vocal gesture. The
individual that sends the vocal gesture can perceive it in
a different way then the person receiving the gesture.
 Mutually understood gestures become significant
 Common gestures lead to the development of language.
More Concepts and Contributions
 Mental Processes of Intelligence and Consciousness:
Intelligence is defined as the mutual adjustment of the acts
of an organism. Human intelligence is more advanced then
other animals, therefore humans can carry on
conversations. Communication allows for reflective
intelligence, allows a human to inhibit action temporarily.
 Language: Language has its origin in gestures. Gestures
are important because of their social properties. This
affects and coordinates behavior between two or more
individuals. People that share the same language possess
the ability to take the role of the other and understand the
other’s behavior.
More Concepts and Contributions
 Science and Social Progress: Science provides a clear and
effective way to test ideas on how to improve future society. For
Mead, scientific analysis eliminates bias and dogmatic thinking,
making it separate from Christian thought. Mead attached
Darwin’s evolutionary principles to social organization and
 Ethics: “Solving moral problems requires creative intellectual
effort and consideration of all values relevant to the given
situation.” “The value relation is an objectively existing
relationship between subject and object: but it is not equated
with cognitive relation. Value-relations and cognitive relations
are distinctly different.
 Social Theory: The approach on macro theory is based on
evolutionary models and the relationship between people and
their environment.
 Mead’s form of pragmatic social sciences has an
enormous potential for development and elaboration.
 Biggest contribution from a sociological perspective:
symbolic interaction theory. Considered one of the
“big three” sociological theories. It has been and will
continue to be a dominant theory in the field.
 Theories continue to be influential in contemporary
symbolic interactionism, social psychology, and
 Development of the self is dependent on interactions
with others, implies the less interaction with others
then the less the self is developed making it
 His intense focus on the social act (individual focus)
can limit the view of how society works and a whole.
 There is noticeably less detail and precision in macro
facets of Mead’s theoretical system than in the micro.