Social Self


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A brief overview of theories of the social self.

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Social Self

  1. 1. The Social Self
  2. 2. How Do You Identify Yourself? <ul><li>Take a moment to introduce yourself to someone around you—someone you do not know. </li></ul>
  3. 3. How Do You Identify Yourself? <ul><li>How did you introduce yourself? </li></ul><ul><li>What did you notice about your partner that they did not mention at all? </li></ul>
  4. 4. How Do You Identify Yourself? <ul><li>Names: These come from our parents or other family members. They are not internal to our bodies. </li></ul><ul><li>Where You’re From: A luck of birth. Not created by your ‘self’ but probably had a shaping influence on the self. </li></ul><ul><li>Major: Something you chose, probably in communication with your parents and others. But how did you choose? Is it a unique expression of you, or the result of social interactions? </li></ul><ul><li>Others? </li></ul>
  5. 5. What is the Self? <ul><li>That which is unique to the individual </li></ul><ul><li>Often equated with the soul </li></ul><ul><li>Generally treated as a product of individual biological makeup combined with personal psychology </li></ul><ul><li>But, we want to look at the soul as a distinctly social phenomenon </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Soul and the Body <ul><li>Usually, we think of our soul as being trapped inside of our bodies </li></ul><ul><li>French philosopher Michel Foucault refers to the soul as the prison of the body, reversing the equation </li></ul><ul><li>His notion is that the body has natural tendencies and urges that are honed in and restricted by the soul </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Sources of the Social Self <ul><li>The social self is produced through the earliest childhood interactions. </li></ul><ul><li>If you had no interactions with your parents, you would not have language, social norms, culture, or a perspective about the world around you </li></ul>
  8. 8. Random Question <ul><li>What’s a person? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who counts as a person? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are there humans that are not persons? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are there humans who are treated as non-persons? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are there humans who regularly treat other humans as non-persons? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are there non-humans that are treated as persons? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What makes someone or something a person? </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Personhood Experiments <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  10. 10. Genie <ul><li>On November 4, 1970 a girl was discovered who had been locked in a room alone for over ten years. She was tied to a kids’ potty chair and left to sit alone day after day. At night, she was tied into a sleeping bag with her arms restrained. Sometimes, she was put into an over-sized crib with a cover made of metal screening. Often she was left alone in the crib or left tied to the potty chair. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Genie <ul><li>At first, people could hardly believe that Genie was thirteen years old. While she seemed to understand a few words, the only words she could say were, &quot;stopit&quot; and &quot;nomore.&quot; She had a strange bunny-like walk— she held her hands up in front of her like paws and moved in a halting way. She could not chew solid food and could hardly swallow. She spat constantly. She sniffed. She was not toilet-trained and could not focus her eyes beyond 12 feet. She weighed 59 pounds and was 54 inches tall. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Genie <ul><li>Genie was rescued and put in Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, California. Genie's mental and physical development began almost immediately. By the third day in the hospital, Genie began helping to dress herself and using the toilet voluntarily. She began moving more smoothly. She was hungry to learn words, pointing at things until people would give her a word for them. </li></ul><ul><li>Scientists wondered if Genie had a normal learning capacity. Could a nurturing, enriched environment make up for Genie's horrible past? Would it be possible for Genie to recover completely? </li></ul>
  13. 13. Genie <ul><li>Within several months Genie had a vocabulary of over one hundred words that she understood, though she was still very silent. Her talking was limited to short high-pitched squeaks that were hard to understand. The team of scientists discovered that Genie had been beaten for making noise. It was hard to know if her inability to talk was a result of living so long without interacting with other humans, being in an impoverished environment with little sensory stimulation, or because she had been abused. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Genie <ul><li>Over the next couple of years, some scientists concluded that Genie was not mentally retarded, even though she was still unable to master language. She was brilliant at nonverbal communication. Sometimes she would be so frustrated at not being able to say what she wanted that she would grab a pencil and paper and in a few strokes, illustrate fairly complex ideas and even feelings. She scored the highest recorded score ever on tests that measure a person's ability to make sense out of chaos and to see patterns. Her abilities to understand and to think logically were also strong. She had a perfect score on an adult-level test that measured spatial abilities. One test required that she use a set of colored sticks to recreate a complicated structure from memory. She was not only able to build the structure perfectly, she built it with sticks of the exact same color as the first structure! Despite all this, Genie remained unable to master the basics of language. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Genie <ul><li>In the late 1970s Genie's mother forbid the Genie Team from having contact with Genie. Even though she at first lived again with her mother, her mother was unable to care for Genie herself, and Genie had to be sent to a series of foster homes. </li></ul><ul><li>In one of these homes she was again abused—this time punished for vomiting. Genie responded by not opening her mouth for several months. Genie began to deteriorate both physically and mentally. Genie's mother moved and placed Genie in a home for retarded adults. Genie is said to still live in a home for retarded adults. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Genie <ul><li>Although Genie is certainly human, her sense of self was very limited until she began to receive attention from these scientists. </li></ul><ul><li>That sense of self seemed to develop rapidly thereafter. </li></ul><ul><li>The story illustrates the role that social interactions playing in shaping our personhood. When did Genie become a person? </li></ul>
  17. 17. Sources of the Social Self <ul><li>Your sense of self derives first from interactions with parents, who name you, provide you with your sense of self-esteem, and teach you language. </li></ul><ul><li>Their values, morals and beliefs also become yours. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Meaning <ul><li>Through social interactions, things become more than just things. They are given meaning. </li></ul><ul><li>A small red tasty fruit acquires a name—apple—and it becomes a symbol of sin (Adam and Eve) or of education (an apple for the teacher) or of health (an apple a day…). </li></ul><ul><li>These meanings are internalized. </li></ul><ul><li>The many meanings we carry around together constitute our selves. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Communication <ul><li>Language is the most basic means of producing the social self. </li></ul><ul><li>Language gives us the metaphors through we which we start to think of ourselves. </li></ul><ul><li>Through communication, we begin to understand how others see us, and we internalize their perspectives. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Social Position <ul><li>Our sense of self and identity also derives from our position in society. This involves what we might call social characteristics. These characteristics not only indicate a particular individual trait, but also a relationship with society. </li></ul><ul><li>Examples include: Gender, Age, Race/Ethnicity. Economic Background, Religion, Sexual Orientation, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>For each issue, we need to think not just about an individual’s variation of the trait—male or female, for instance—but also how that variation is treated by society—women denied social power or men demonized by feminism. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Looking Glass Self <ul><li>Take a look at yourself in the mirror. </li></ul><ul><li>This is the moment when your ‘self’ becomes an object in the world—something external from you which can then be analyzed. </li></ul><ul><li>Do you look like your self? </li></ul>
  22. 22. Pictures and Audio <ul><ul><li>Look at yourself in old photos. Listen to your voice on tape. Watch yourself in a video. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>These activities make us self conscious. They force us to think about ourselves as objects on view for others. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cleary these are different people, yet same DNA! </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. The Presentation of Self <ul><li>We literally ‘put our selves together’ each morning before heading out into the world. </li></ul><ul><li>At the most basic level, this is an issue of appearance. We compose our selves through our clothes, make-up and cologne, grooming (brushing the teeth and hair, etc). </li></ul><ul><li>But we also do this in more complicated ways. Choosing aspects of our background and experiences that will be kept secret. Highlighting the things we are most proud of. </li></ul><ul><li>In addition to appearance, the presentation of self happens in our resumes, our web pages, and even our home décor. </li></ul>
  24. 24. How do you present yourself? <ul><li>Can you name everything that’s in your medicine cabinet? All the supplies and equipment that you need for presenting your self? </li></ul>
  25. 25. Front Stage/Back Stage <ul><li>Social life is a kind of drama. </li></ul><ul><li>We create our self as a character who acts on the stage of society. </li></ul><ul><li>That character has particular ways of behaving and acting, a particular look. </li></ul><ul><li>When we go backstage, we cease to be the character. It’s back stage where we pick our noses and do all those things we would never want others to see. </li></ul><ul><li>But even back stage is a social space, as our family members and some friends are often allowed in. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Social Roles <ul><li>We play more than one character on the front stage. The variety of characters we play is determined by our many social roles. </li></ul><ul><li>Dustin the teacher is very different from Dustin the researcher, Dustin the son, Dustin the friend, and Dustin the boyfriend. </li></ul><ul><li>I would never want you to see me with my close friends, because it would destroy the particular character that I play when I am in this room. </li></ul>
  27. 27. It’s all real! <ul><li>Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your real self is the person you are when you’re alone. </li></ul><ul><li>Social roles are still powerfully real. </li></ul><ul><li>Front stage characters are still part of the real world. </li></ul><ul><li>So what if you only pick your nose when you’re alone? What does that have to do with your ambitions, your morals and values, or your place in the world? </li></ul>
  28. 28. In other words… <ul><li>What really matters about you are those characteristics you have developed through social interactions: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your relationships with your parents </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your schooling/training </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your work experience </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your present and past intimate relationships </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your friendships </li></ul></ul></ul>
  29. 29. Discussion <ul><li>How do you respond to these ideas? Do you find it offensive to think of your self as a product of your social interactions? </li></ul><ul><li>Is this too deterministic? </li></ul><ul><li>Where else would the self come from? </li></ul>
  30. 30. A Framework for Comparing Theoretical Approaches Relation-ship between the individual and society; how do social exp. Create identity How do different hierarchies work hand in hand to oppress some and privilege others Who is treated as ‘other’? How do the marginalized find power Relative positions of men and women, meanings of gender What does race mean? How is it organized What are the beliefs and values of a society Who rules? How is strat-ification reproduced? What need is served by institutions What are the norms, goals, and means? Key Questions Agency Matrix of Domination Dispersed Patriarchy White supremacy; racial dictatorship Hegemony Ruling class, bourgeoisie and capitalists Power important for social cohesion Neutral Implication for Power Social Psychology Comb-ination of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. Sexuality; social boundaries; mainstream Gender Racial hierarchy Systems of Meaning Economics Purpose of every social institution How society is organized; resources and schema Focus of Explan-ation Social Self Inter-sectional Queer Feminist Theory Racial Conflict Inter-pretive Class Conflict Function-alism Structur-alism
  31. 31. A Framework for Comparing Theoretical Approaches Key Questions Implication for Power Focus of Explan-ation Relationship between the individual and society; how do social exp. Create identity? How do different hierarchies work hand in hand to oppress some and privilege others Who is treated as ‘other’? How do the marginalized find power Relative positions of men and women, meanings of gender What does race mean? How is it organized Agency Matrix of Domination Dispersed Patriarchy White supremacy; racial dictatorship Social Psychology Comb-ination of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. Sexuality; social boundaries; mainstream Gender Racial hierarchy Social Self Inter-sectional Queer Feminist Theory Racial Conflict
  32. 32. Conclusions <ul><li>The Self is the product of social interactions </li></ul><ul><li>The self is presented through careful rituals that begin each day </li></ul><ul><li>The self includes both front stage and back stage versions—but both versions are social </li></ul><ul><li>The front stage version of the self includes a variety of social roles </li></ul><ul><li>The social self is not a fiction—it’s real </li></ul>