Looking-Glass Self. #PschStuff


So I’ve been studying for one of my courses today and I read something really interesting that I think is worth sharing with you all;

So, If you had lived on a deserted island (or in any other isolated environment your entire life) and never met anyone else, you would not know yourself nearly as well as you do growing up amid people. How? Let me explain.

Charles Horton Cooley came up with the term looking-glass self in 1902 to refer to the idea that people learn about themselves from other people. The theory comprises of three components;

  1. You imagine how you appar to others
  2. You imagine how others will judge you
  3. You develop an emotional response (such as pride or shame) as a result of imagining how other people will judge you

It is as if people hold up a sort of mirror (looking-glass) in which you can see yourself.

It is believed that most self-knowledge comes from feedback received from other people (as elaborated by Mead,1934) so essentially, other people tell us who and what we are.

Now, i know you must be feeling skeptical right about now. Well, this notion has been tested extensively and has been found to be partly true and partly false. There is ample evidence that people do respond to the feedback they get from others.

Then again, if the looking-glass self really was the main source of self-knowledge that individuals had, then there would be a strong correlation between what people think of said person and how that person thinks of himself/herself. But there isn’t. If i asked you to describe yourself to me, then asked all your friends and family to describe you, there would be huge discrepancies.

Why? Well psychologists have found a gap lies between what your friends think of you, and what you think that they think. (Bear with me)

For example, someone may think of herself as kind. If so, she probably thinks that everybody sees her as a kind person, but in reality people may think that she is rude and obnoxious.

She may be mistaken because of two reasons;

  1. People do not always tell the truth
  2. People are not always perceptive to feedback from others

People are very selective in how they process incoming information about themselves. This is probably the biggest fallacy in the notion of the looking-glass self. It depicts the person as a passive recepient of information, as if they just beliieved whatever other people told them about themselves. In reality, everyone picks and chooses what to believe, and sometimes they completely reject what others tell them.

It’s no wonder that people’s self-concepts do not match hat others think of them.

With regard to people’s unnapealing traits, theres a sort of conspiracy of silence; others don’t want to tell them, and they don’t want to hear it.


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