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Looking Glass Self

Charles Horton Cooley (1864–1929), a symbolic interactionist who taught at the University of Michigan, concluded that the self is part of how society makes us human. He said that our sense of self develops from interaction with others. To de- scribe the process by which this unique aspect of "humanness" develops, Cooley (1902) coined the term looking glass self. He summarized this idea in the following couplet:

Each to each a looking-glass
Reflects the other that doth pass.
The looking-glass self contains three elements:

1. We imagine how we appear to those around us. For example, we may think that others perceive us as witty or dull.

2.We interpret others' reactions. We come to conclusions about how others evaluate us. Do they like us for being witty? Do they dislike us for being dull?

3. We develop a self-concept. How we interpret others' reactions to us frames our feelings and ideas about ourselves. A favorable reflection in this social mirror leads to a positive self-concept; a negative reflection leads to a negative self-concept.