Sociologist Herbert Mead developed a theory known as social behaviorism.
It explained why past social experiences help form an individual’s personality. Mead did not believe that personality was developed biologically, but more socially. He stated that the self only developed when people interact with one another.
Without the interaction with other people an individual can’t develop a personality. An example of this is if a child is left in total isolation for a long period of time, it doesn’t mature physically and mentally.
Social experience is crucial, and this includes the exchange of symbols. Only people attach meanings to words and symbols. If you tell a dog to sit and it obeys then you may give it a snack. However, this doesn’t mean it knows why to sit down, but it does so to get food. You can tell a dog to sit for numerous reasons such as wanting to impress your friends, or to calm it down because it is running all over the place. It's still looking for a treat.
People take the roles of other people during development. Infants have very little knowledge so they tend to mimic others. Children often have creative minds and take on roles of other significant people such as parents that have a special importance in their social development.
For example, children will play house in which someone will take the role of a mother while another takes that of a father. As they age, children will learn to take various roles and adjust to their surroundings. As we continue to age we will continue to see changes in our social life.
Also, Mead noted that understanding individual intentions is critical. This will help us to analyze how an individual will respond even before we act. Mead refers to this as taking another individual’s role.
Another important theory related to social behaviorism is the looking-glass self. This is basically like mirroring what we think others think of us. If you believe others view you as being “good looking,” then you will see yourself as being good looking, or if you think people think you are fat, then you will have that image of yourself.
There are a lot of critics of Mead’s theories and some claim that he focus too much on the society in developing an individual’s behavior. The sociologist Erik H. Erikson stated that unlike Freud, who believed personality was pretty much set in stone in the first couple of years of an individual’s life, that personality changes in stages and occurs all the way up to death.
His theory is not all that accurate as well, because people experience changes in different orders and time. Through all of the disagreements, sociologists generally agree on this main idea, that family has the greatest impact on an individual’s socialization abilities.
When a person is an infant they have no control and usually rely on their parents and family members to help nurture them. Through family they learn several communication techniques such as trust, culture, and beliefs. Not all learning comes solely from family; it can come from the environment as well because in a lot of cultures they use the environment to help raise a child. Different social classes tend to raise their children differently.
School also has a large effect on an individual’s personalities. If you think about it, children spend a huge chunk of time each day at school. It’s also interesting to note that children tend to play with people of the same gender, and that boys are more physical and aggressive while girls are more well behaved. Boys also tend to find abstract activities more interesting like video games and girls tend to be more artistic. The same thing follows when they get to college because boys tend to major in physical sciences, and computing while girls usually major in humanities and arts.
School is where children discover peer groups or individuals that have interest similar to theirs. People tend to identify more with their peer groups and can have conversations about things they understand like clothes, music, and style. Peer groups are a way for individuals to escape adult supervision, and people are usually more out spoken in peer groups.
During our adolescent years we tend to identify more with our peer groups. This is also a time in which parents are concerned about who their children hang around because they know that who they hang around influence their behavior deeply. During these years the mass media heavily affects individuals as well. Studies show that television has made people more passive and lessened their creativity.
Someone once said that it's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not. (More on Confidence and Self Trust here)