The Theme of Looking Glass Self Theory in a Total Institution

Categories: Sociological Theories
About this essay

Looking Glass-self is an article that has been improved from George Herbert’s ideas on how people develop their self images by Charles Cooley in 1983. Cooley improves Herbert’s ideas and borrows a phrase “looking glass” from Alice who was based in Wonderland (In this context, glass is used to mean mirror). He uses the mirror to emphasize and clearly show that people are a true reflection of the individuals they live and interact with in the society. Other people’s responses develop ones personality by following their reactions and responses.

Development Process

According to Cooley, ones development leads to their personality and the development is guided closely by the people around them. He suggests that no one is born with their own sense of ‘I’, but differentiates themselves as they develop depending on the people that they interact and socialize with along the way. These people that one interacts with and cultivate their personality range from family members, parents and friends.

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He affirms that people’s self-concepts are directly tagged on other people’s responses towards them.

Cooley further puts more emphasis on young members of the society. He states in the study that use of children to determine the dynamics of self formation would be preferred to use of adults. This is due to the complexity and dynamism in adult lives. Children on the other hand are less sophisticated and they rarely block flow of information. Their information is also frank as they rarely conceal any of the information that they are needed to offer out of their innocence.

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In every interaction with children, the children can be carefully observed to provide a proper response of people in the society. Children often watch the reaction of other people towards their actions before they make the next move to the activity that follows. Children will rarely go on with the next activity without putting into consideration the reaction of the people around through the use of their body language. They always look for their desired reaction to encourage them to continue to the stage that follows. Cooley notes that children will therefore develop into different selves with every situation depending on the people around them. Change in surroundings would lead to change in personality of the child. However, this changes as the child advances in age and as those significant people who change them diversify, the children settle for a solid personality that they get accustomed to as they approach maturity.


The use of a mirror in his work is weightier that it is displayed. It follows some complex and more in- depth route to understand that the reflection in question refers to the personal behavior and perception towards different situations in life. It should be understood that mirror is used as an idiom and not literary used to show physical reflection or appearance. Further, it is important to note that other people might not always completely mirror our mannerisms but they give us an elaborate understanding of who we are and how much we should value ourselves He concludes that no matter the methods used to learn who we are, or the language we use to analyse these methods of self description, it is vital that other people become an integral part of this assessment. They should determine to a significant level how we should perceive ourselves, in cases such as pride or shame.

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The Theme of Looking Glass Self Theory in a Total Institution. (2023, May 24). Retrieved from

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