Cooley and the Looking-Glass Self
According to the sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929), the looking-glass s.elfreCers to the way in which a person's sense of self is derived from the perceptions of others. Our looking-glass self is not who we actually are or what people actually think about us; rather, it is based on our perception of how other people think of us (Cooley, 1998/l902). Cooley asserted that we base our perception of who we are on how we think other people see us and on whether this opinion seems good or bad to us.
the looking- glass self is a self-concept cerived from a three-step process:
1. We imagine how our personality and appearance will look to other people. We may imagine that we are attractive or unattractive, heavy or slim. friendly or unfriendly, and so on.
2. We imagine how other people judge the appearance and personality that we think we present. Th is step involves our perception of how we think they are judging us. We may be correct or incorrect!
3. We develop a self-concept. If we think the evaluation of others is favorable, our self-concept is enhanced. If we think the evaluation is unfavorable, our self concept is diminished. (Cooley. 1998/1 902) According to Cooley, we use our interactions with others as a mirror for our own thoughts and actions; our sense of self depends on how we interpret what others do and say.
Consequently, our sense of self is not permanently fixed; it is always developing as we interact with others In the larger society. For Cooley, self and society are merely two sides of the same coin: "Self and society go together. as phases of a common whole. ram aware of the social groups In which I Live as immediately and authentically as 1 am aware of myself" (Cooley. 1963/1909: 8-9).
Accordingly. the self develops only through contact with others, just as social institutions and societies do not exist independently of the interaction of acting individuals (Schubert. 1998). By developing tile idea of the looking-glass self, Cooley made us aware of the mutual interrelationship between the individual and society namely, that society shapes people and people shape society.