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George Herbert Meads Labeling Theory Essay

Question 1: George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) was a symbolic interactionist that pointed out just how essential play was to one’s development of “self”. To speak on this topic, first I need to define just what the term “self” means. The author of the text, James M. Henslin, defines self as the unique human capacity of being able to see ourselves “from the outside”; the views we internalize of how others see us. Mead believed that as children begin and continue to play with those around them they begin to take to take the role of the other. They are essentially learning how to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes.

This learned skill allows the growing child the opportunity and skillset to understand how the other person is feeling and thinking, further helping them to anticipate how another will act. This growth does not happen overnight of course. To begin with, the child is only taking on the roles of their significant others (an individual who significantly influences someone else). These individuals are influencing the child, and with this the child is assuming that person’s role during play, for example, such as dressing up in their parents’ clothing.

In doing this they are beginning to cultivate the ability to put themselves in the place f someone else. As our self develops, the child’s ability to take on different roles expands tremendously. As the child continues to learn how to take on the role of many different people, they eventually get a clearer idea of how “people in general” think of them. To define our perception of how others think of us in general, Mead called this “generalized other”. Generalized other refers to the norms, values, attitudes, and expectations of people “in general”.

The child’s ability to do this (take on the role of the generalized other) is a very important step in the development of a self. Mead developed and broke down three stages he believed we all went through to find our self. The first stage Mead named “Imitation”. In this stage the child is under the age of three, and doesn’t have a sense of self separate from others. Instead they are only able to imitate those around them. They can be seen imitating gestures and words. Though this stage is not actually role taking, it does however prepare the child for it.

Mead named the second stage “Play”. During this stage the child is generally three to six years of age. This is when the child pretends to take roles of more specific people. This could be nybody from a firefighter to a princess to a nurse. We see creativity as they use objects around the house to make outfits and costumes to become these people. The third stage Mead called “Team Games”. In this stage we see more organized play and/or team games. Mead felt that this stage was the most significant of the three. The significance of this stage is that the child is taking on several roles.

In this stage, the child has the ability to take on the roles of others and not just one for them. Mead developed the stages that we see in children all the time. We see these stages in action as we see children grow up. Mead identified just what happens and the significant role significant others played. He identified how children begin to generalize how others think about them. A fascinating feat some don’t see children doing so young. Question 2: In chapter five the concepts of roles, dramaturgy, stages, sign- vehicles, role performance, role strain and role conflict are discussed.

These are all very important concepts that apply to all of us. The first concept – dramaturgy – is a special area of symbolic interactionism. One sociologist, Erving Goffman (1922-1982), pioneered a new approach. He added a new twist to microsociology when he rought about a new meaning to a once theatrical term. By his definition, Goffman meant that the term meant that social life is like a drama or a stage play. He was basically saying that just because you try to be someone else in front of different people, the same true person lies within you.

Your impression management is the efforts we make to control the impressions that others receive from us. We are trying to manage just how we’re viewed by those around us. The author of the text, Henslin, discusses the stages we play in our lives. The first stage he discusses is the “front stage”. This tage compiles all the places where people give performances. He uses examples such as when teachers lecture to show a front stage. Waiting to tell somebody bad news when they’re in a good mood is also another front stage. The front stage is where we spend most of our time.

Whenever and wherever we deliver our lines, we are in a front stage. Another stage is the back stage. This back stage is any place where people are resting from their performances, discussing their presentations, and are planning their future performances. When we are in a more comfortable zone we are in this back stage. Sometimes the same setting can serve as both a front and a back stage. Role performance is defined by the author as the ways in which someone performs a role; showing a particular “style” or “personality”.

The roles attached to our statuses essentially lays down the basic outline for our role performances. Though we have performed these roles forwards and backwards, over again, they are not as rigid, but more flexible. They are interpreted in many different ways, for every different audience, and every different setting. Sign-vehicles is the term used by Goffman to refer to the social etting, appearance, and manner, which people used to communicate information about the self. There are three types of sign-vehicles: social setting, one’s appearance, and one’s manner.

The first vehicle is the stage, the place where the action unfolds essentially. This where one finds themself playing their part and following through with their lines practiced and ran through. This can be wherever one interacts with others. The second vehicle is one’s appearance. How does one look when they are playing their role. This appearance can include props which can decorate the body rather than the setting. The hird vehicle is the manner in which is used to play these roles. The attitude shown to play this role.

This is how they communicate the messages they want to portray about feelings and/or moods. Role conflict is a conflict that someone feels between roles because the expectations are at odds with one another. When our statuses run together, and not in a good way, we have a conflict. Usually we try our best to not have any, but it can not always be avoided. To segregate our statuses a big juggling act has to be acted out and followed with. On the other hand, role strain is a conflict one feels within their role. We see this hen the same status contains incompatible roles.

A great example the author uses is when you are well prepared for an assignment, the class is asked a question that you know the answer to, yet you do not want to make your classmates look bad. This is a strain. Role conflict is when the different statuses all clash together and create conflict for you. Role strain however is when you feel the strain within the role you’re playing. Question 3: In chapter six, an important term discussed is deviance. Within that term we delve in the “labeling theory”. Deviance is defined as the violation of norms (or rules or expectations).

Sociologists use this term to refer to any type of violation. Sociologist Howard S. Becker described deviance this way: “It is not the act itself, but the reactions to the act that make something deviant” (Henslin 146). This quote seems to accurately describe just what deviance is and how we as human beings view something or someone or an act as deviant. The term “labeling theory” is one that focuses on just how significant reputations are and how they help or hurt us. One’s reputation can steer them towards deviant behavior or it can do the opposite and divert them away from it. Nobody wants to have a “bad” eputation.

We resist negative labels and reputations. We resist ones that people attempt to pin on us if we feel it seemingly isn’t us and will hurt us in the long run. Some people reject these labels, even those that do nothing but negative and wrongdoing. Some people neutralize or deflect society’s norms. Reasons as to why their deviance is accepted in their own book. Why it should be accepted in society’s book as well. While some of us deflect and go in the opposite direction of deviant behavior and deviance, there are some who strive for a deviant identity, and do not care how they will be labeled.

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