Discuss the concepts of the “looking glass self” presented by Cooley or “role taking” developed by Mead, as described in Sociology: The Architecture of Everyday Life by David Newman. Give...

Discuss the concepts of the “looking glass self” presented by Cooley or “role taking” developed by Mead, as described in Sociology: The Architecture of Everyday Life by David Newman. Give one or more examples of how the theory might work in relation to gender socialization within families.

Expert Answers
teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! First, I will discuss the two concepts:

1) The Looking Glass Self by Cooley

This theory relates to how we view ourselves based on the perceptions and judgments of others. There are three elements to the looking glass:

a) We imagine how we appear to others.

b) We imagine how others judge this appearance.

c) We develop our self-image based on this perception others have of us.

2) Role-Taking by Mead

This is basically about taking on the role of someone else in order to understand their experiences and struggles. Role taking allows one to appreciate the emotions, moods, and perspectives of others. It is supposed to develop empathy for the other person.

Both the looking glass theory and role-taking allow us to use our interactions with each other to develop a healthy identity and to develop empathy for others.

How do either work in relation to gender socialization within families?


Many parents instinctively display gender characteristics familiar to them from their own childhood. Although some parents may try to change the way they relate to their own children, it may not always be easy to repudiate reinforced habits.

For example, it is well known that most boys and men don't like to cook. Traditional cultures may also reinforce the notion that cooking is woman's work. However, there may be occasions during which both boys and men need this very necessary skill for the sake of survival. Depending on occupation or line of work, knowing how to cook may prove an effective aid against food poisoning and/or indigestion. Soldiers, lumber workers, and oil-field workers often fall into categories of workers who may need to know how to cook nourishing meals.

If handled properly, role-taking makes it possible for boys to learn how to cook without fear of societal embarrassment, especially among their peers. For example, a boy might be entrusted with helping to prepare the evening meal once a week. He might be assigned food preparation chores in addition to clean-up duties. Allowing him to experience the emotions of effectively preparing a healthy and nourishing meal for those he loves is an example of role-taking. He is taking on the role of someone else, most likely his mother, and in the process comes to learn that specific skills are necessary to produce adequately cooked food. He also comes to understand that real cooking takes time, effort, and preparation. In the future, he may be more ready to empathize with his mother's need for his help in the kitchen, especially during busy days.

Showing the boy examples of occupations where a man may need to know how to cook is also another step in facilitating the teaching of the role-taking concept to the boy. According to Mead, the three stages of role-taking which allow an individual to develop empathy and understanding of others are:

1) The imitation stage—this is the babyhood stage. Babies are not yet aware of how to relate to others. However, they are good at imitating the mannerisms and expressions of those closest to them.

2) The play stage—this is the stage when children become aware of patterns of behavior exhibited by others.

3) The game stage—this is the stage which should continue throughout life, where the individual learns to empathize with others, to develop, and to become comfortable with his/her own identity.

Therefore, the game stage will hopefully see our fictional boy identify gender attitudes toward food preparation, understand why cooking is important, learn to reconcile his masculine identity with non-traditional skills, and appreciate the efforts which go into producing a delightful meal, both for those he loves, for himself, and possibly for colleagues in specialized masculine fields.

Hope this helps. Thanks for the question!