Social Behaviorism

Posted by Ali Reda | Posted in | Posted on 10/04/2013

The essence of Mead's social behaviorism is the emergence of mind is contingent upon interaction between the human organism and its social environment; it is through participation in the social act of communication that individuals realize their potential for significantly symbolic behavior, that is, thought. Mind, in Mead’s terms, is the individualized focus of the communicational process. It is linguistic behavior on the part of the individual. There is, then, no “mind or thought without language;” and language (the content of mind) “is only a development and product of social interaction” (Mind, Self and Society 191-192). Action is very important to his social theory and, according to Mead, actions also occur within a communicative process. The initial phase of an act constitutes a gesture. A gesture is a preparatory movement that enables other individuals to become aware of the intentions of the given organism. A significant symbol is a kind of gesture that only humans can make. Gestures become significant symbols when they arouse in the individual who is making them the same kind of response they are supposed to elicit from those to whom the gestures are addressed. Only when we have significant symbols can we truly have communication. As gestures are taken in by the individual organism, the individual organism also takes in the collective attitudes of others, in the form of gestures, and reacts accordingly with other organized attitudes. This process is characterized by Mead as the "I" and the "Me". The "Me" is the social self and the "I" is the response to the "Me." In other words, the "I" is the response of an individual to the attitudes of others, while the "me" is the organized set of attitudes of others which an individual assumes. Mead grounded human perception in an "action-nexus". We perceive the world in terms of the “means of living”. To perceive food, is to perceive eating. To perceive a house, is to perceive shelter. That is to say, perception is in terms of action.

Mead the social psychologist argued in tune with Durkheim that the individual is a product of an ongoing, preexisting society.

Throughout his career, Durkheim was concerned primarily with analyzing how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in the modern era, when things such as shared religious and ethnic background could no longer be assumed; to that end he wrote much about the effect of laws, religion, education and similar forces on society and social integration. Durkheim was interested in answering "how is a society created" and "what holds a society together". For him, sociology was the science of institutions if this term is understood in its broader meaning as "beliefs and modes of behavior instituted by the collectivity". Collective consciousness is of key importance to the society, its requisite function without which the society cannot survive. Collective consciousness produces the society and holds it together, and at the same time individuals produce collective consciousness through their interactions.
The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society forms a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or common consciousness.

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