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Social Experience: The Key to Our Humanity
• socialization: the lifelong social experience by which individuals develop human
potential and learn patterns of their culture
– social experience is also the basis of personality
• a person’s fairly consistent patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting
• effects of social isolation
– Isabelle, Genie, institutionalized children, primate studies
The Socialization Process
• Mead: development of the self, role taking
– self: a dimension of personality composed of individual’s self-awareness and self-concept
• develops over time through exchange of symbols and ability to take the role of the other
• influenced by significant others and the generalized other
• Cooley: looking-glass self
– development of self-concept based on interaction with others and how we think others perceive
us (lifelong process)
• Piaget: cognitive development
– progress through stages in developing the ability to reason
• sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, formal operational (may not apply to all societies)
• Freud: personality results from combination of basic biological drives and the
influence of society
– id, ego, superego
Gender Socialization
• conveying values and norms which set different expectations of attitudes and
behaviors (gender roles) for males and females
– sex-linked behaviors in the family
– different gender messages in the mass media
• television, music, etc.
– beyond primary and secondary sex characteristics (anatomical differences), biological
differences between the sexes are relatively limited
– most of the “differences” between men and women are culturally based
Agents of Socialization
• people and groups which influence our self-concept, emotions, attitudes, and
• family
• religion
• day care
• school
• peer group
• workplace
Socialization through the Life Course
• stages of the life course in contemporary America
– childhood: birth to 12
– adolescence: 13 to 17
– young adulthood: 18 to 29
– middle adulthood: 30 to 65
– old age: over 65
• although each stage is linked to the the biological process of aging, the life course is
largely a social construction (and therefore varies among societies)
• the stages in the life course present problems and transitions that require learning
something new and unlearning familiar routines
• people’s life experiences vary depending on when, in the history of society, they are
age cohort
• resocialization: learning new norms, values, attitudes, and behaviors to match a new
situation in life
• total institution: setting in which people are isolated from the rest of society and
under the total control of administrative staff
• two step process
– “degradation ceremony” to remove previous identity and autonomy
– systematically rebuild a different self through rewards and punishments
What about free will?
• Socialization demonstrates the power of society to shape our thoughts, feelings, and
actions. Yet, as free humans, we also have the capacity to act upon society and, in
so doing, shape ourselves and our world. (Macionis)
• Each of us is actively involved in the social construction of the self. Although
socialization is powerful, we are not merely the sum of our socialization experiences.
We can act on our environment and change it. (Henslin)