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Ritzer, Introduction to Sociology, Second Edition
Chapter Summary
Chapter Five Summary
Socialization and Interaction
This chapter examined the aspects of the social world on the micro end of the continuum,
namely individuals and groups. The sociological perspective on the individual and the self
focuses on how these aspects affect the individual’s ability to take part in society. Cooley’s
concept of the looking-glass self, the idea that humans develop a self-image that reflects how
others respond to them, is fundamental to sociology. Symbolic interactionism has been a key
theory in the sociological study of how individuals develop a sense of self. George Herbert Mead
defined self as the ability to take oneself as an object and over time gain a sense of whom one is.
As mind and self develop through interaction, growing children come to incorporate a
sense of the generalized other, which allows them to take the role of the entire group or
community in which they are embedded and thus operate more smoothly within society. During
the play stage children learn to take on the attitudes of specific others toward themselves; in the
game stage they can begin to take on the role or attitude of the entire group, the generalized
Erving Goffman built on Mead’s theories, particularly the tension between the “I” and the
“me.” Goffman believed that in every interaction, or performance, individuals have a front and
back stage. The front stage is where the individual operates in a comparatively fixed and
idealized manner to define the situation for those who are observing the performance. In the back
stage, people are better able to express freely things that were suppressed in the front stage.
Mead’s ideas on the development of the self lead directly to the idea of socialization, the
process through which a person learns and generally comes to accept the ways of a group or of a
society as a whole. Primary socialization begins with newborns and infants, and as they develop,
children experience secondary socialization. Socialization does not end with childhood—adults
continue to be socialized throughout their lives. Gender socialization is a running theme in all
Interaction is crucially important to socialization and many other aspects of the social
world. Simmel believed society was defined by interaction. Sociologists from a variety of
theoretical perspectives have examined interaction. Interaction is deeply involved in people’s
statuses within social systems and their related roles. Conflicting expectations are often
Ritzer, Introduction to Sociology, Second Edition
Chapter Summary
associated with a given status. In addition, those expectations associated with one status often
conflict with those tied to others.
Patterns of interaction and social relationships that occur regularly and persist over time
become social structures. The smallest social structure is a dyad, which may sometimes become
a triad. A group is still a relatively small social structure, made up of a number of people who
over time develop patterned relationships.
Socialization is a lifelong process. Adult socialization occurs whenever there are
significant adjustments to status and/or roles, such as when people change jobs, get married, get
divorced, move from place to place, have children, have their children leave home, and retire.
Sometimes socialization hasn’t been completely effective, and a person experiences
resocialization within a total institution, as when people are incarcerated, join the military or a
Finally, there is the issue of conformity to group norms. Much research has focused on
this issues, including Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Studies, Solomon Asch’s Conformity
Experiments, and Philip Zimbardo’s Mock Prison Experiment. While Americans see themselves
as staunch individualists, these studies have demonstrated that all people are vulnerable to the
demands of conformity, that Group Think is an effective tool for social control, and that when
authority is involved, conformity to its demands happens often as a matter of rote.