A Middlesex University resource provided by Andrew Roberts - Click for referencing advice
Extracts from

George Herbert Mead

Mind, Self and Society, from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviourist

Part 1: Social Psychology and Behaviourism

1. Social psychology and behaviourism
2. The behaviouristic significance of attitudes
3. The behaviouristic significance of gestures
4. Rise of parallelism in psychology
5. Parallelism and the ambiguity of "consciousness"
6. The program of behaviourism

Part 2: The Mind

7. Wundt and the concept of the gesture
8. Imitation and the origin of language
9. The vocal gesture and the significant symbol
10. Thought, communication, and the significant symbol
11. Meaning
12. Universality
13. The nature of reflective intelligence
14. Behaviourism, Watsonism, and reflection
15. Behaviourism and psychological parallelism
16. Mind and the symbol
17. The relation of mind to response and environment

Part 3: The Self

18. The self and the organism
19. The background of the genesis of the self
20. Play, the game, and the generalized other
21. The self and the subjective
22. The "I" and the "Me"
23. Social attitudes and the physical world
24. Mind as the individual importation of the social process
25. The "I" and the "me" as phases of the self
26. The realization of the self in the social situation
27. The contributions of the "me" and the "I"
28. The social creativity of the emergent self
29. A contrast of individualistic and social theories of the self

Part 4: Society

30. The basis of human society: man and the insects
31. The basis of human society: man and the vertebrates
32. Organism, community, and environment
33. The social foundations and functions of thought and communication
34. The community and the institution
35. The fusion of the "I" and the me" in social activities
36. Democracy and universality in society
37. Further consideration of religious and economic attitudes
38. The nature of sympathy
39. Conflict and integration
40. The functions of personality and reason in social organisation
41. Obstacles and promises in the development of the ideal society
42. Summary and conclusion

Starts page 1

par. 1.2] If we abandon the conception of a substantive soul endowed with the self of the individual at birth, then we may regard the development of the individual's self, and of his self- consciousness within the field of his experience, as the social psychologist's special interest.

There are, then, certain phases of psychology which are interested in studying the relation of the individual organism to the social group to which it belongs, and these phases constitute social psychology as a branch of general psychology.
par. 1.3] While minds and selves are essentially social products... the (p.2) physiological mechanism underlying experience is ... indispensable -- to their genesis and existence...
par. 1.4] The common psychological standpoint which is represented by behaviourism is found in John B. Watson. The behaviourism which we shall make use of is more adequate than that of which Watson makes use. Behaviourism in this wider sense is simply an approach to the study of the experience of the individual from the point of view of his conduct, particularly, but not exclusively, the conduct as it is observable by others.


par. 1.9] We want to approach language not from the standpoint of inner meanings to be expressed, but in its larger context of cooperation in the group taking place by means of signals and gestures. Meaning appears within that process. Our behaviourism is a social behaviourism

par. 1.10] Social psychology studies the activity or behaviour of the individual as it lies within the social process; the behaviour of an individual can be understood only in terms of the behaviour of the whole social group of which he is a member, since his individual (p.7) acts are involved in larger, social acts which go beyond himself and which implicate the other members of that group.

par. 1.11] We are not, in social psychology, building up the behaviour of the social group in terms of the behaviour of the separate individuals composing it; rather, we are starting out with a given social whole of complex group activity, into which we analyze (as elements) the behaviour of each of the separate individuals composing it. We attempt, that is, to explain the conduct of the individual in terms of the organized conduct of the social group, rather than to account for the organized conduct of the social group in terms of the conduct of the separate individuals belonging to it. For social psychology, the whole (society) is prior to the part (the individual), not the part to the whole; and the part is explained in terms of the whole, not the whole in terms of the part or parts. The social act is not explained by building it up out of stimulus plus response; it must be taken as a dynamic whole - as something going on - no part of which can be considered or understood by itself - a complex organic process implied by each individual stimulus and response involved in it.

Starts page 13

par. 3.1] The behaviourist of the Watsonian type has been prone to carry his principle of conditioning over into the field of language. By a conditioning of reflexes the horse has become associeated with the word "horse." and this in turn releases the set of responses. We use the word, and the response may be that of mounting, buying, selling or trading. We are ready to do all these different things. This statement, however, lacks the recognition that these different processes which the behaviourist says are identified with the word "horse" must be worked into the act itself, or the group of acts, which gather about the horse. They go to make up that object in our experience, and the function of the word is a function which has its place in that organisation; but it is not, however, the whole process.
par. 3.2] Language is part of social behaviour. There are an (p.14) indefinite number of signs or symbols which may serve the purpose of what we term language. We are reading the meaning of the conduct of other people when, perhaps, they are not aware of it. There is something that reveals to us what the purpose is - just the glance of an eye, the attitude of the body which leads to the response. The communication set up in this way between individuals may be very perfect. Conversation in gestures may be carried on which cannot be translated into articulate speech. [See discussion]

This is also true of the lower animals. Dogs approaching each other in hostile attitude carry on such a language of gestures. They walk around each other, growling and snapping, and waiting for the opportunity to attack. Here is a process out of which language might arise, that is, a certain attitude of one individual that calls out a response in the other, which in turn calls out a different approach and a different response, and so on indefinitely. [See Darwin - Wundt]

In fact, as we shall see, language does arise in just such a process as that.

We are too prone... to approach language... from the standpoint of the symbol that is used. We analyze that symbol and find out what is the intent in the mind of the individual in using that symbol...

if we are going to broaden the concept of language in the sense I have (p.15) spoken of, so that it takes in the underlying attitudes, we can see that the so-called intent, the idea we are talking about, is one that is involved in the gesture or attitudes which we are using. The offering of a chair to a person who comes into the room is in itself a courteous act. We do not have to assume that a person says to himself that this person wants a chair. The offering of a chair by a person of good manners is something which is almost instinctive. This is the very attitude of the individual. From the point of view of the observer it is a gesture. Such early stages of social acts precede the symbol proper, and deliberate communication.

par. 3.3] One of the important documents in the history of modern psychology, particularly for the psychology of language, is Darwin's Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Here Darwin carried over his theory of evolution into the field of what we call "conscious experience." What Darwin did was to show that there was a whole series of acts or beginnings of acts [See 7.5 and 7.12] which called out certain responses that do express emotions. If one animal attacks another, or is on the point of attacking, or of taking the bone of another dog, that action calls out violent responses which express the anger of the second dog. There we have a set of attitudes which express the emotional attitude of dogs; and we can carry this analysis into the human expression of emotion.

par. 3.4] The part of our organism that most vividly and readily expresses the emotions is the face, and Darwin studied the face from this point of view. He took, naturally, the actor, the man whose business it is to express the emotions by the movements of the countenance, and studied the muscles themselves; and in studying them he undertook to show what the value of these changes of the face might be in the actual act. We speak of such expressions as those of anger, and note the way in which the blood may suffuse the face at one stage and then leave it at another. Darwin studied the blood flow in fear and in terror. In these emotions one can find changes taking place in the blood flow itself. These changes have their value. They represent, (p.16) of course, changes in the circulation of blood in the acts. These actions are generally actions which are rapid and can only take place if the blood is flowing rapidly. There must be a change in the rhythm of circulation and this generally registers itself in the countenance.

par. 3.5] Many of our acts of hostility exhibit themselves in attitudes of the face similar to animals which attack with their teeth. The attitude, or in a more generalized term, the gesture, has been preserved after the value of the act has disappeared.

The title of Darwin's work indicates his point of approach. He was dealing with these gestures, these attitudes, as expressive of emotions... That attitude has been preserved, on this view, after the value of the act has disappeared. This gesture seems to remain for the purpose of expressing emotions...

One could apply the doctrine of the survival of the fittest here... these gestures or attitudes had lost the value which they had in the original acts, and yet had survived... they had survived because they served... valuable functions.. the expression of the emotions.

[This assumes] that these acts had a reason for existence because they expressed something in the mind of the individual... They assume that language existed for the purpose of conveying certain ideas, certain feelings.

par. 3.6] ... this is a false approach. It is quite impossible to assume that animals do undertake to express their emotions. They certainly do not undertake to express them for the benefit of other animals. The most that can be said is that the "expressions" did set free a certain emotion in the individual, an escape valve, so to speak, an emotional attitude which the animal needed, in some sense, to get rid of. They certainly could not exist in these lower animals as means of expressing emotions; we cannot approach them from the point of view of expressing a content in the mind of the individual. We can, of course, see how, for the actor, they may become definitely a language. An actor, for example, may undertake to express his rage, and he may do it by an expression of the countenance, and so convey to the audience the emotion he intended. However, he is not expressing his own emotion but simply conveying to the audience the evidence of anger, and if he is successful he may do it more effectively, as far as the audience is concerned, than a person who is in reality angered. There we have these gestures serving the purpose of expression of the emotions, but we cannot conceive that they arose as such a language in order to express emotion. Language, then, has to be studied from the point of view of the gestural type of conduct within which it existed without being as such a definite language. And we have to see how the communicative function could have arisen out of that prior sort of conduct.

par. 3.7] The psychology of Darwin assumed that emotion was a psychological state, a state of consciousness, and that this state could not itself be formulated in terms of the attitude or the behaviour of the form. It was assumed that the emotion is there and that certain movements might give evidence of it. The evidence would be received and acted upon by other forms that were fashioned like itself. That is, it presupposed the conscious state over against the biological organism. The conscious state was that which was to be expressed in the gesture or the attitude. It was to be expressed in behaviour and to be recognized in some fashion as existent in the consciousness of the other form through this medium of expression. Such was the general psychological attitude which Darwin accepted.

par. 3.8] Contrary to Darwin, however, we find no evidence for the prior existence of consciousness as something which brings about behaviour on the part of one organism that is of such a sort as to call forth an adjustive response on the part of another organism, without itself being dependent on such behaviour. We are rather forced to conclude that consciousness is an emergent from such behaviour; that so far from being a precondition of the social act, the social act is the precondition of it. The mechanism of the social act can be traced out without introducing into it the conception of consciousness as a separable element within that act; hence the social act, in its more elementary stages or forms, is possible without, or apart from, some form of consciousness.

Starts page 18
The human animal is an attentive animal, and his attention may be given to stimuli that are relatively faint. One can pick out sounds at a distance. Our whole intelligent process seems to lie in the attention which is selective of certain types of stimuli. Other stimuli which are bombarding the system are in some fashion shunted off. ... our attention is an organising process ... Our attention enables us to organise the field in which we are going to act. Here we have the organism as acting and determining its environment. It is not simply a set of passive senses played upon by the stimuli that come from without. The organism goes out and determines what it is going to respond to, and organises that world. One organism picks out one thing and another picks out a different one, since it is going to act in a different way.


Starts page 27

"Consciousness" is a very ambiguous term. One often identifies consciousness with a certain something that is there under certain conditions and is not there under other conditions. One approaches this most naturally by assuming that it is something that happens under certain conditions of the organism, something, then, that can be conceived of as running parallel with certain phenomena in the nervous system, but not parallel with others. There seems to be no consciousness that answers to the motor processes as such; the consciousness we have of our action is that which is sensory in type and which answers to the current which comes from the sensory nerves which are affected by the contraction of the muscles. We are not conscious of the actual motor processes, but we have a sensory process that runs parallel to it. This is the situation out of which parallelistic psychology arises. It implies on the one side an organism which is a going concern, that seemingly can run without consciousness. A person continues to live when he is under a general anesthetic. Consciousness leaves and consciousness (p.28) re-turns, but the organism itself runs on. And the more completely one is able to state the psychological processes in terms of the central nervous system the less important does this consciousness become.

Starts page 42

par. 7.1] The particular field of social science with which we are concerned is one which was opened up through the work of Darwin and the more elaborate presentation of Wundt.

par. 7.2] When we take Wundt's parallelistic statement we get a point of view from which we can approach the problem of social experience. Wundt undertook to show the parallelism between what goes on in the body as represented by processes of the central nervous system, and what goes on in those experiences which the individual recognizes as his own. He had to find that which was common to these two fields-what in the psychical experience could be referred to in physical terms.

par. 7.3] Wundt isolated a very valuable conception of the gesture as that which becomes later a symbol, but which is to be found in its earlier stages as a part of a social act. It is that part of the social act which serves as a stimulus to other forms involved in the same social act.

I have given the illustration of the dog-fight as a method of presenting the gesture. The act of each dog becomes the stimulus to the other dog for his response.

... The very fact that the dog is ready to attack another becomes a stimulus to the other dog to change his own position or his own attitude. He has no sooner done this than the change of attitude in the second dog in turn causes the first dog to change his attitude.

We have here a conversation of gestures. They are not, however, gestures in the sense that they are significant. We do not assume that the dog says to himself,

"If the animal comes from this direction he is going to spring at my throat and I will turn in such a way."

What does take place is an actual change in his own position due to the direction of the approach of the other dog.

par. 7.4] We find a similar situation in boxing and in fencing, as in the feint and the parry that is initiated on the part of the other. And then the first one of the two in turn changes his attack; there may be considerable play back and forth before actually a stroke results. This is the same situation as in the dog-fight. If the individual is successful a great deal of his attack and defense must be not considered, it must take place immediately. He must adjust himself "instinctively" to the attitude of the other individual. He may, of course, think it out. He may deliberately feint in order to open up a place of attack. But a great deal has to be without deliberation.

par. 7.5] In this case we have a situation in which certain parts of the act become a stimulus to the other form to adjust itself to those responses; and that adjustment in turn becomes a stimulus to the first form to change his own act and start on a different one.

There are a series of attitudes, movements, on the part of these forms which belong to the beginnings of acts that are the stimuli for the responses that take place. The beginning of a response becomes the stimulus to the first form to change his attitude, to adopt a different act. The term "gesture" may be identified with these beginnings of social acts which are stimuli for the response of other forms.

Darwin was interested in such gestures because they expressed emotions, and he dealt with them very largely as if this were their sole function. He looked at them as serving the function with reference to the other forms which they served with reference to his own observation. The gestures expressed emotions of the animal to Darwin; he saw in the attitude of the dog the joy with which he accompanied his master in taking a walk. And he left his treatment of the gestures largely in these terms.

par. 7.6] It was easy for Wundt to show that this was not a legitimate point of attack on the problem of these gestures. They did not at bottom serve the function of expression of the emotions: that was not the reason why they were stimuli, but rather because they were parts of complex acts in which different forms were involved. They became the tools through which the other forms responded. When they did give rise to a certain response, they were themselves changed in response to the change which took place in the other form. They are part of the organisation of the social act, and highly important elements in that organisation. To the human observer they are expressions of emotion, and that function of expressing emotion can legitimately become the field of the work of the artist and of the actor. The actor is in the same position as the poet: he is expressing emotions through his own attitude, his tones of voice, through his gestures, just as the poet through his poetry is expressing his emotions and arousing that emotion in others. We get in this way a function which is not found in the social act of these animals, or in a great deal of our own conduct, such as that of the boxer and the fencer. We have this interplay going on with the gestures serving their functions, calling out the responses of the others, these responses becoming themselves stimuli for readjustment, until the final social act itself can be carried out. Another illustration of this is in the relation of parent-form to the infant - the stimulating cry, the answering tone on the part of the parent-form, and the consequent change in the cry of the infant-form. Here we have a set of adjustments of the two forms carrying out a common social act involved in the care of the child. Thus we have, in all these instances, a social process in which one can isolate the gesture which has its function in the social process, and which can become an expression of emotions, or later can become the expression of a meaning, an idea.

par. 7.7] The primitive situation is that of the social act which involves the interaction of different forms, which involves, therefore, the adjustment of the conduct of these different forms to each other, in carrying out the social process. Within that process one can find what we term the gestures, those phases of the act which bring about the adjustment of the response of the other form. These phases of the act carry with them the attitude as the observer recognizes it, and also what we call the inner attitude. The animal may be angry or afraid. There are such emotional attitudes which lie back of these acts, but these are only part of the whole process that is going on. Anger expresses itself in attack; fear expresses itself in flight. We can see, then that the gestures mean these attitudes on the part of the form, that is, they have that meaning for us.

We see that an animal is angry and that he is going to attack. We know that that is in the action of the animal, and is revealed by the attitude of the animal. We cannot say the animal means it in the sense that he has a reflective determination to attack.

A man may strike another before he means it; a man may jump and run away from a loud sound behind his back before he know what he is doing. If he has the idea in his mind, then the gesture not only means this to the observer but it also means the idea which the individual has.

In one case the observer sees that the attitude of the dog means attack, but he does not say that it means a conscious determination to attack on the part of the dog. However, if somebody shakes his fist in your face you assume that he has not only a hostile attitude but that he has some idea behind it. You assume that it means not only a possible attack, but that the individual has an idea in his experience.

par. 7.8] When, now, that gesture means this idea behind it and it arouses that idea in the other individual, then we have a significant symbol. In the case of the dog-fight we have a gesture which calls out appropriate response; in the present case we have a symbol which answers to a meaning in the experience of the first individual and which also calls out that meaning in the second individual. Where the gesture reaches that situation it has become what we call "language." It is now a significant symbol and it signifies a certain meaning.

par. 7.9] The gesture is that phase of the individual act to which adjustment takes place on the part of other individuals in the social process of behaviour. The vocal gesture becomes a significant symbol (unimportant, as such, on the merely affective side of experience) when it has the same effect on the individual making it that it has on the individual to whom it is addressed or who explicitly responds to it, and thus involves a reference to the self of the individual making it. The gesture in general, and the vocal gesture in particular, indicates some object or other within the field of social behaviour, an object of common interest to all the individuals involved in the given social act thus directed toward or upon that object. The function of the gesture is to make adjustment possible among the individuals implicated in any given social act with reference to the object or objects with which that act is concerned; and the significant gesture or significant symbol affords far greater facilities for such adjustment and readjustment than does the non-significant gesture, because it calls out in the individual making it the same attitude toward it (or toward its meaning) that it calls out in the other individuals participating with him in the given social act, and thus makes him conscious of their attitude toward it (as a component of his behaviour) and enables him to adjust his subsequent behaviour to theirs in the light of that attitude. In short, the conscious or significant conversation of gestures is a much more adequate and effective mechanism of mutual adjustment within the social act- involving, as it does, the taking, by each of the individuals carrying it on, of the attitudes of the others toward himself-than is the unconscious or non-significant conversation of gestures.


par. 7.10] When, in any given social act or situation, one individual indicates by a gesture to another individual what this other individual is to do, the first individual is conscious of the meaning of his own gesture - or the meaning of his gesture appears in his own experience-in so far as he takes the attitude of the second individual toward that gesture, and tends to respond to it implicitly in the same way that the second individual responds to it explicitly. Gestures become significant symbols when they implicitly arouse in an individual making them the same responses which they explicitly arouse, or are supposed to arouse, in other individuals, the individuals to whom they are addressed; and in all conversations of gestures within the social process, whether external (between different individuals) or internal (between a given individual and himself), the individual's consciousness of the content and flow of meaning involved depends on his thus taking the attitude of the other toward his own gestures. In this way every gesture comes within a given social group or community to stand for a particular act or response, namely, the act or response which it calls forth explicitly in the individual to whom it is addressed, and implicitly in the individual who makes it; and this particular act or response for which it stands is its meaning as a significant symbol. Only in terms of gestures as significant symbols is the existence of mind or intelligence possible; for only in terms of gestures which are significant symbols can thinking-which is simply an internalized or implicit conversation of the individual with himself by means of such gestures-take place. The internalization in our experience of the external conversations of gestures which we carry on with other individuals in the social process is the essence of thinking; and the gestures thus internalized are significant symbols because they have the same meanings for all individual members of the given society or social group, i.e., they respectively arouse the same attitudes in the individuals making them that they arouse in the individuals responding to them: Otherwise the individual could not internalize them or be conscious of them and their meanings. As we shall see, the same procedure which is responsible for the genesis and existence of mind or consciousness - namely, the taking of the attitude of the other toward one's self, or toward one's own behaviour - also necessarily involves the genesis and existence at the same time of significant symbols, or significant gestures.

par. 7.11] In Wundt's doctrine, the parallelism between the gesture and the emotion or the intellectual attitude of the individual, makes it possible to set up a like parallelism in the other individual. The gesture calls out a gesture in the other form which will arouse or call out the same emotional attitude and the same idea. Where this has taken place the individuals have begun to talk to each other.

What I referred to before was a conversation of gestures which did not involve significant symbols or gestures. The dogs are not talking to each other; there are no ideas in the minds of the dogs; nor do we assume that the dog is trying to convey an idea to the other dog.

But if the gesture, in the case of the human individual, has parallel with it a certain psychical state which is the idea of what the person is going to do, and if this gesture calls out a like gesture in the other individual and calls out a similar idea, then it becomes a significant gesture. It stands for the ideas in the minds of both of them.

par. 7.12] There is some difficulty in carrying out this analysis if we accept Wundt's parallelism. When a person shakes his fist in your face, that is a gesture in the sense in which we use the term, the beginning of an act that calls out a response on your part. Your response may vary: it may depend on the size of the man, it may mean shaking your fist, or it may mean flight. A whole series of different responses are possible. In order that Wundt's theory of the origin of language may be carried out, the gesture which the first individual makes use of must in some sense be reproduced in the experience of the individual in order that it may arouse the same idea in his mind. We must not confuse the beginning of language with its later stages. It is quite true that as soon as we see the attitude of the dog we say that it means an attack, or that when we see a person looking around for a chair that it means he would like to sit down. The gesture is one which means these processes, and that meaning is aroused by what we see. But we are supposed to be at the beginning of these developments of language. If we assume that there is a certain psychical state answering to a physical state how are we going to get to the point where the gesture will arouse the same gesture in the attitude of the other individual?

In the very beginning the other person's gesture means what you are going to do about it. It does not mean what he is thinking about or even his emotion. Supposing his angry attack aroused fear in you, then you are not going to have anger in your mind, but fear. His gesture means fear as far as you are concerned.

That is the primitive situation. Where the big dog attacks the little dog, the little dog puts his tail between his legs and runs away, but the gesture does not call out in the second individual what it did in the first.

The response is generally of a different kind from the stimulus in the social act, a different action is aroused.
par. 7.13] ... Wundt presupposes selves as antecedent to the social process in order to explain communication within that process, whereas, on the contrary, selves must be accounted for in terms of the social process, and in terms of communication; and individuals must be brought into essential relation within that process before communication, or the contact between the minds of different individuals, becomes possible. The body is not a self, as such; it becomes a self only when it has developed a mind within the context of social experience.
... if, as Wundt does, you presuppose the existence of mind at the start, as explaining or making possible the social process of experience, then the origin of minds and the interaction among minds become mysteries. But if, on the other hand, you regard the social process of experience as prior (in a rudimentary form) to the existence of mind and explain the origin of minds in terms of the interaction among individuals within that process, then not only the origin of minds, but also the interaction among minds (which is thus seen to be internal to their very nature and presupposed by their existence or development at all) cease to seem mysterious or miraculous. Mind arises through communication by a
conversation of gestures in a social process or context of experience-not communication through mind...

par. 7.14] ... Wundt preserves a dualism or separation between gesture (or symbol) and idea, between sensory process and psychic content, because his psychophysical parallelism commits him to this dualism ... although he recognizes the need for establishing a functional relationship between them in terms of the process of communication within the social act,

Starts page 51

par. 8.1] Wundt's difficulty has been resolved in the past through the concept of imitation. Of course, if it were true that when a person shakes his fist in your face you just imitate him, you would be doing what he is doing and have the same idea as he has.
par. 8.4] The term "imitation" became of great importance, for a time, in social psychology and in sociology. It was used as a basis for a whole theory of sociology by the French sociologist, Gabriel Tarde.
par. 8.13] We argued that there is no evidence of any general tendency on the part of forms to imitate each other.
par. 8.15] There does..., seem to be a tendency to imitate among men, and in particular to reproduce vocal gestures. We find the latter tendency among birds as well as among men. If you go into a locality where there is a peculiar dialect and remain there for a length of time you find yourself speaking the same dialect, and it may be something which you did not want to do. The simplest way of stating it is to say that you unconsciously imitate. The same thing is also true of various other mannerisms. If you think of a certain person you are very apt to find yourself speaking as the other person spoke. Any mannerism which the individual has is one which you find yourself tending to carry out when the person comes to your mind. That is what we call "imitation," and what is curious is that there is practically no indication of such behaviour on the part of lower forms. You can teach the sparrow to sing as a canary but you have to keep that sparrow constantly listening to a canary. It does not take place readily. The mocking bird does seem to take up the calls of other birds. It seems to be peculiarly endowed in this particular way. But in general the taking over of the processes of others is not natural to lower forms. Imitation seems to belong to the human form, where it has reached some sort of independent conscious existence.

par. 8.16] But "Imitation" gives no solution for the origin of language. We have to come back to some situation out of which we can reach some symbol that will have an identical meaning, and we cannot get it out of a mere instinct of imitation, as such. There is no evidence that the gesture generally tends to call out the same gesture in the other organism.

par. 8.17] Imitation as the mere tendency on the part of an organism to reproduce what it sees or hears other organisms doing is mechanically impossible; one cannot conceive an organism as so constructed that all the sights and sounds which reach it would arouse in the organism tendencies to reproduce what it sees and hears in those fields of experience. Such an assumption is possible only in terms of an older psychology. If one assumed that the mind is made up out of ideas, that the character of our conscious experience is nothing but a set of impressions of objects, and if one adjusts to these impressions, so to speak, a motor tendency, one might conceive of that as being one which would seek to reproduce what was seen and heard. But as soon as you recognize in the organism a set of acts which carry out the processes which are essential to the life of the form, and undertake to put the sensitive or sensory experience into that scheme, the sensitive experience, as stimulus we will say to the response, cannot be a stimulus simply to reproduce what is seen and heard; it is rather a stimulus for the carrying out of the organic process. The animal sees or smells the food and hears the enemy, the parent form sees and hears the infant form-these are all stimuli to the forms to carry through the processes which are essential to the species to which they belong. They are acts which go beyond the organism taken by itself, but they belong to cooperative processes in which groups of animals act together, and they are the fulfilment of the processes which are essential to the life of the forms. One cannot fit into any such scheme as that a-particular impulse of imitation, and if one undertakes to present the mechanism which would make intelligible that process, even the intricacies of the central nervous system would be inadequate. An individual would be in such a situation as one of Gulliver's figures who undertook to save his breath by not talking, and so carried a bagful of all the objects about which he would want to talk. One would have to carry about an enormous bagful, so to speak, of such possible actions if they were to be represented in the central nervous system. Imitation, however, cannot be taken as a primitive response.

Starts page 68

par.10.1] We have contended that there is no particular faculty of imitation in the sense that the sound or the sight of another's response is itself a stimulus to carry out the same reaction, but rather that if there is already present in the individual an action like the action of another, then there is a situation which makes imitation possible. What is necessary now to carry through that imitation is that the conduct and the gesture of the individual which calls out a response in the other should also tend to call out the same response in himself.

par.10.7] ... A symbol does tend to call out in the individual a group of reactions such as it calls out in the other, but there is something further that is involved in its being a significant symbol: this response within one's self to such a word as (p. 72) " chair," or "dog," is one which is a stimulus to the individual as well as a response. This is what, of course, is involved in what we term the meaning of a thing, or its significance.
One can start to dress for dinner, as they tell of the absent-minded college professor, and find himself in his pajamas in bed. A certain process of undressing was started and carried out mechanically; he did not recognize the meaning of what he was doing. He intended to go to dinner and found he had gone to bed. The meaning involved in his action was not present.
par.10.8] When we speak of the meaning of what we are doing we are making the response itself that we are on the point of carrying out a stimulus to our action. It becomes a stimulus to a later stage of action which is to take place from the point of view of this particular response. In the case of the boxer the blow that he is starting to direct toward his opponent is to call out a certain response which will open up the guard of his opponent so that he can strike. The meaning is a stimulus for the preparation (p.73) of the real blow he expects to deliver. The response which he calls out in himself (the guarding reaction) is the stimulus to him to strike where an opening is given. This action which he has initiated already in himself thus becomes a stimulus for his later response. He knows what his opponent is going to do, since the guarding movement is one which is already aroused, and becomes a stimulus to strike where the opening is given. The meaning would not have been present in his conduct unless it became a stimulus to strike where the favorable opening appears.

10.9] Such is the difference between intelligent conduct on the part of animals and what we call a reflective individual. We say the animal does not think. He does not put himself in a position for which he is responsible; he does not put himself in the place of the other person and say, in effect,

"He will act in such a way and I will act in this way."
If the individual can act in this way, and the attitude which he calls out in himself can become a stimulus to him for another act, we have meaningful conduct. Where the response of the other person is called out and becomes a stimulus to control his action, then he has the meaning of the other person's act in his own experience. That is the general mechanism of what we term "thought," for in order that thought may exist there must be symbols, vocal gestures generally, which arouse in the individual himself the response which he is calling out in the other, and such that from the point of view of that response he is able to direct his later conduct.

Starts page 90
The psychology of
attention ousted the psychology of association. An indefinite number of associations were found which lie in our experience with reference to anything that comes before us, but associational psychology never explained why one association rather than another was the dominant one. It laid down rules that if a certain association had been intense, recent, and frequent it would be dominant, but often there are in fact situations in which what seems to be the weakest element in the situation occupies the mind. It was not until the psychologist took up the analysis of attention that he was able to deal with such situations, and to realize that voluntary attention is dependent upon indication of some character in the field of stimulation. Such indication makes possible the isolation and recombination of responses.
We cannot tell an elephant that he is to take hold of the other elephant's tail; the stimulus will not indicate the same thing to the elephant as to ourselves. We can create a situation which is a stimulus to the elephant but we cannot get the elephant to indicate to itself what this stimulus is so that he has the response to it in his own system.

[Perhaps a partial flick forward of the trunk might become a gesture by which elephants told one another to take hold of the next elephant's tail? Then our elephants would gain reflection as they considered whether they wanted to do so and, perhaps, considered alternatives?]

The gesture provides a process by means of which one does arouse in himself the reaction that might be aroused in another, and this is not a part of his immediate reaction in so far as his immediate physical environment is concerned. When we tell a person to do something the response we have is not the doing of the actual thing, but the beginning of it. Communication gives to us those elements of response which can be held in the mental field. We do not carry them out, but they are there constituting the meanings of these objects which we indicate. Language is a process of indicating certain stimuli and changing the response to them in the system of behaviour. Language as a social process has made it possible for us to pick out responses and hold them in the organism of the individual, so that they are there in relation to that which we indicate.

The actual gesture is, within limits, arbitrary. Whether one points with his finger, or points with the glance of the eye, or motion of the head, or the attitude of the body, or by means of a vocal gesture in one language or another, is indifferent, provided it does call out the response that belongs to that thing which is indicated.

That is the essential part of language. The gesture must be one that calls out the response in the individual, or tends to call out the response in the individual, which its utilization will bring out in another's response. Such is the material with which the mind works.
I have been trying to point out what this process of communication does in the way of providing us with the material that exists in our mind. It does this by furnishing those gestures which in affecting us as they affect others call out the attitude which the other takes, and that we take in so far as we assume his role.

Starts page 100

I have been discussing the possibility of bringing the concept or idea into the range of behaviouristic treatment, endeavoring in this way to relieve behaviourism as presented by Watson of what seems to be an inadequacy.

In carrying back the thinking process to the talking process, Watson seems to identify thought simply with the word, with the symbol, with the vocal gesture. He does this by means of the transference of a reflex from one stimulus to another - conditioned reflex is the technical term for the process.

The psychologist isolates a set of reflexes which answer to certain specific stimuli, and then allows these reflexes expression under different conditions so that the stimulus itself is accompanied by other stimuli. He finds that these reflexes can then be brought about by the new stimulus even in the absence of that which has been previously the necessary stimulus.

The typical illustration is that of a child becoming afraid of a white rat because it was presented to him several times at the moment at which a loud sound was made behind him. The loud noise occasions fright. The presence of the white rat conditions this reaction of fright so that the child becomes afraid of the white rat. The fear reactions are then called out by the white rat even when no sound is made.

The conditioned reflex of the objective psychologists is also used by Watson to explain the process of thinking. On this view we utilize vocal gestures in connection with things, and thereby condition our reflexes to the things in terms of the vocal process. If we have a tendency to sit down when the chair is there, we condition this reflex by the word "chair".

Originally the chair is a stimulus that sets free this act of sitting, and by being conditioned the child may come to the point of setting free the act by the use of the word. No particular limit can be set up to such a process. The language process is peculiarly adapted to such a conditioning of reflexes.

We have an indefinite number of responses to objects about us. If we can condition these responses by the vocal gesture so that whenever a certain reaction is carried out we at the same time utilize certain phonetic elements, then we can reach the point at which the response will be called out whenever this vocal gesture arises.

Thinking would then be nothing but the use of these various vocal elements together with the responses which they call out. Psychologists would not need to look for anything more elaborate in the thinking process than the mere conditioning of reflexes by vocal gestures.

From the point of view of the analysis of the experience involved this account seems very inadequate.

For certain types of experience it may perhaps be sufficient. A trained body of troops exhibits a set of conditioned reflexes. A certain formation is brought about by means of certain orders. Its success lies in an automatic response when these orders are given. There, of course, one has action without thought. If the soldier thinks under the circumstances he very likely will not act; his action is dependent in a certain sense on the absence of thought.

There must be elaborate thinking done... by the officers higher up. [Watson's theory] does not do justice to the thinking that has to be done higher up... [It] fails to bring into account what is peculiar to planning. Something very definite goes on there which cannot be stated in terms of conditioned reflexes.
We use [the simple stimulus-response] mechanism to explain the elaborate instincts of certain organisms [lower animals]. One set of responses follows another; the completion of one step brings
the form into contact with certain stimuli which set another free, and so on. Great elaborations of this process are found, especially in the ants.

... thought which belongs to the human community is presumably absent in these communities.

The wasp that stores the paralyzed spider as food for larvae that it never will see and with which it never has come into contact, is not acting in terms of conscious foresight.

The human community that stores away food in cold storage, and ... later makes use of it, is doing in a certain sense the same thing that the wasp is doing, but the important distinction is that the action is now consciously purposive. The individual arranging for the cold storage is actually presenting to himself a situation that is going to arise, and determining his methods of preservation with reference to future uses.

... is it possible to recast our statement of behaviouristic psychology that it can do more justice to what we ordinarily term a consciousness of what we are doing? I have been suggesting that we could at least give a picture in the central nervous system of what answers to an idea. That seems to be what is left out of Watson's statement. He simply attaches a set of responses to certain stimuli and shows that the mechanism of the organism is able to change those stimuli, substitute one stimulus for another stimulus; but the ideas that accomplish such a process are not accounted for simply by this substitution.

In the illustration I gave of offering a chair and asking a person to sit down, the asking may take the place of the particular perception of the chair. One may be occupied entirely with something else, and then the stimulus is not the stimulus operative in the original reflex; one might come in and sit down without paying attention to the chair.

But such substitution does not give to us the picture of the mechanism which in some sense answers to the chair, or the idea of what the person is asking him to do. What I suggested was that we have such a mechanism in the central nervous system that answers to these elaborate reactions, and that the stimuli which call these out may set up a process there which is not fully carried out.

We do not actually sit down when a person asks us to, yet the process is in some sense initiated; we are ready to sit down but we do not. We prepare for a certain process by thinking about it, mapping out a campaign of conduct, and then we are ready to carry out the different steps. The motor impulses which are already there have stirred up those different paths, and the reactions may take place more readily and more securely.

We can conceive of reactions arising with their different responses to these objects, to what, in other words, we call the meanings of these objects. The meaning of a chair is sitting down in it, the meaning of the hammer is to drive a nail-and these responses can be innervated even though not carried out. The innervation of these processes in the central nervous system is perhaps necessary for what we call meaning.

Starts page 117


The odor of the victim engages the attention of the beast of prey, and by attention to that odor he does satisfy his hunger and insure his future. What is the difference between such a situation and the conduct of the man who acts, as we say, rationally? The fundamental difference is that the latter individual in some way indicates this character, whatever it may be, to another person and to himself; and the symbolization of it by means of this indicative gesture is what constitutes the mechanism that gives the implements, at least, for intelligent conduct. Thus, one points to a certain footprint, and says that it means bear. Now to identify that sort of a trace by means of some symbol so that it can be utilized by the different members of the group, but particularly by the individual himself later, is the characteristic thing about human intelligence. To be able to identify "this as leading to that," and to get some sort of a gesture, vocal or otherwise, which can be used to indicate the implication to others and to himself so as to make possible the control of conduct with reference to it, is the distinctive thing in human intelligence which is not found in animal intelligence.

What such symbols do is to pick out particular characteristics of the situation so that the response to them can be present in the experience of the individual. We may say they are present in ideal form, as in a tendency to run away, in a sinking of the stomach when we come on the fresh footprints of a bear. The indication that this is a bear calls out the response of avoiding the bear, or if one is on a bear hunt, it indicates the further progress of the hunt. One gets the response into experience before that response is overtly carried out through indicating and emphasizing the stimulus that instigates it. When this symbol is utilized for the thing itself one is, in Watson's terms, conditioning a reflex. The sight of the bear would lead one to run away, the footprint conditioned that reflex, and the word "bear" spoken by one's self or a friend can also condition the reflex, so (p.121) that the sign comes to stand for the thing so far as action is concerned.

What I have been trying to bring out is the difference between the foregoing type of conduct and the type which I have illustrated by the experiment on the baby with the white rat and the noise behind its head. In the latter situation there is a conditioning of the reflex in which there is no holding apart of the different elements. But when there is a conditioning of the reflex which involves the word "bear," or the sight of the footprint, there is in the experience of the individual the separation of the stimulus and the response. Here the symbol means bear, and that in turn means getting out of the way, or furthering the hunt. Under those circumstances the person who stumbles on the footprints of the bear is not afraid of the footprints-he is afraid of the bear. The footprint means a bear. The child is afraid of the rat, so that the response of fear is to the sight of the white rat; the man is not afraid of the footprint, but of the bear. The footprint and the symbol which refers to the bear in some sense may be said to condition or set off the response, but the bear and not the sign is the object of the fear. The isolation of the symbol, as such, enables one to hold on to these given characters and to isolate them in their relationship to the object, and consequently in their relation to the response. It is that, I think, which characterizes our human intelligence to a peculiar degree. We have a set of symbols by means of which we indicate certain characters, and in indicating those characters hold them apart from their immediate environment, and keep simply one relationship clear. We isolate the footprint of the bear and keep only that relationship to the animal that made it. We are reacting to that, nothing else. One holds on to it as an indication of the bear and of the value that object has in experience as something to be avoided or to be hunted. The ability to isolate these important characters in their relationship to the object and to the response which belongs to the object is, I think, what we generally mean when we speak of a human being thinking a thing out, or having a mind. Such ability makes (p.122) the world-wide difference between the conditioning of reflexes in the case of the white rat and the human process of thinking by means of symbols.[2]

Footnote 2: The meanings of things or objects are actual inherent properties or qualities of them, the locus of any given meaning is in the thing which, as we say, "has it." We refer to the meaning of a thing when we make use of the symbol. Symbols stand for the meanings of those things or objects which have meanings; they are given portions of experience which point to, indicate, or represent other portions of experience not directly present or given at the time when, and in the situation in which, any one of them is thus present (or is immediately experienced). The symbol is thus more than a mere substitute stimulus -- more than a mere stimulus for a conditioned response or reflex. For the conditioned reflex-the response to a mere substitute stimulus -- does not or need not involve consciousness; whereas the response to a symbol does and must involve consciousness. Conditioned reflexes plus consciousness of the attitudes and meanings they involve are what constitute language, and hence lay the basis, or comprise the mechanism for, thought and intelligent conduct. language is the means whereby individuals can indicate to one another what their responses to objects will be, and hence what the meanings of objects are; it is not a mere system of conditioned reflexes. Rational conduct always involves a reflexive reference to self, that is, an indication to the individual of the significances which his actions or gestures have for other individuals. And the experiential or behavioristic basis for such conduct-the neuro- physiological mechanism of thinking-is to be found, as we have seen, in the central nervous system.


in the case of the lower animals... we do not find in any animal behaviour that we can work out in detail any symbol, any method of communication, anything that will answer to these different responses so that they can all be held there in the experience of the individual. It is that which differentiates the action of the reflectively intelligent being from the conduct of the lower forms; and the mechanism that makes that possible is language. We have to recognize that language is a part of conduct. Mind involves, however, a relationship to the characters of things. Those characters are in the things, (125) and while the stimuli call out the response which is in one sense present in the organism, the responses are to things out there. The whole process is not a mental product and you cannot put it inside of the brain. Mentality is that relationship of the organism to the situation which is mediated by sets of symbols.

Starts page 135
par. 18.1] the language process is essential for the development of the self. The self has a character which is different from that of the physiological organism proper. The self is something which has a development; it is not initially there, at birth, but arises in the process of social experience and activity, that is, develops in the given individual as a result of his relations to that process as a whole and to other individuals within that process. The intelligence of the lower forms of animal life, like a great deal of human intelligence, does not involve a self.
One must... distinguish between the experience that immediately takes place and our own organisation of it into the experience of the self.
We do so intimately identify our experiences... with the self that it takes a moment... to realize that pain and pleasure can be there without being the experience of the self.

Similarly, we normally organise our memories upon the string of our self. If we date things we always date them from the point of view of our past experiences. We frequently have memories that we cannot date, that we cannot place. A picture comes before us suddenly and we are at a loss to explain when that experience originally took place. We remember perfectly distinctly the picture, but we do not have it definitely placed, and until we can place it in terms of our past experience we are not satisfied.
par. 18.2] We can distinguish very definitely between the self and the body. The body can be there and can operate in a very intelligent fashion without there being a self involved in the experience.

The self has the characteristic that it is an object to itself, and that characteristic distinguishes it from other objects and from the body.

It is perfectly true that the eye can see the foot, but it does not see the body as a whole. We cannot see our backs; we can feel certain portions of them, if we are agile, but we cannot get an experience of our whole body...

... the bodily experiences are for us organised about a self. The foot and hand belong to the self.
The parts of the body are quite distinguishable from the self. We can lose parts of the body without any serious invasion of the self...

par. 18.3] It is the characteristic of the self as an object to itself that I want to bring out. This characteristic is represented in the word "self," which is a reflexive, and indicates that which can be both subject and object.
take a look at yourself!

This type of object is essentially different from other objects, and in the past it has been distinguished as conscious, a term which Indicates an experience with, an experience of, one's self. It was assumed that consciousness in some way carried this capacity of being an object to itself.

Mead is distinguishing between being conscious (which all animals are) and being conscious of self, or self-conscious, which he argues is the characteristic of being human

In giving a behaviouristic statement of consciousness we have to look for some sort of experience in which the physical organism can become an object to itself.(1)

[pages 145- ]
par. 19.3] We sometimes speak as if a person could build up an entire argument in his mind, and then put it into words to convey it to someone else. Actually, our thinking always takes place by means of some sort of symbols. It is possible that one could have the meaning of "chair" in his experience without there being a symbol, but we would not be thinking about it in that case. We may sit down in a chair without thinking about what we are doing, that is, the approach to the chair is presumably already aroused in our experience, so that the meaning is there. But if one is thinking about the chair he must have some sort of a symbol for it. It may be the form of the chair, it may be the attitude that somebody else takes in sitting down, but it is more apt to be some language symbol that arouses this response. In a thought process there has to be some sort of a symbol that can refer to this meaning, that is, tend to call out this response, and also serve this purpose for other persons as well. It would not be a thought process if that were not the case.

par. 19.9] Another set of background factors in the genesis of the self is represented in the activities of play and the game.

par. 19.11] ... playing with an imaginary companion is only a peculiarly interesting phase of ordinary play. Play in this sense, especially the stage which precedes the organised games, is a play at something. A child plays at being a mother, at being a teacher, at being a policeman; that is, it is taking different roles, as we say. We have something that suggests this in what we call the play of animals: a cat will play with her kittens, and dogs play with each other... But we do not have in such a situation the dogs taking a definite role in the sense that a child deliberately takes the role of another... When a child does assume a role he has in himself the stimuli which call out that particular response or group of responses. ... Children get together to "play Indian." This means that the child has a certain set of stimuli which call out in itself the responses that they would call out in others, and which answer to an Indian. In the play period the child utilizes his own responses to these stimuli which he makes use of in building a self. The response which he has a tendency to make to these stimuli organises them. He plays that he is, for instance, offering himself something, and he buys it; he gives a letter to himself and takes it away; he addresses himself as a parent, as a teacher; he arrests himself as a policeman. He has a set of stimuli which call out in himself the sort of responses they call out in others. He takes this group of responses and organises them into a certain whole. Such is the simplest form of being another to one's self. It involves a temporal situation. The child says something in one character and responds in another character, and then his responding in another character is a stimulus to himself in the first character, and so the conversation goes on. A certain organised structure arises in him and in his other which replies to it, and these carry on the conversation of gestures between themselves. [See discussion]


par. 19.12] When we contrast play with the situation in an organized game, we note the essential difference that the child who plays in a game must be ready to take the attitude of everyone else involved in that game, and that these different roles must have a definite relationship to each other.

... in a game where a number of individuals are involved, ... the child taking one role must be ready to take the role of everyone else... at some moments he has to have three or four individuals present in his own attitude, such as the one who is going to throw the ball, the one who is going to catch it, and so on. These responses must be, in some degree, present in his own make-up. In the game, then, there is a set of responses of such others so organized that the attitude of one calls out the appropriate attitudes of the other.

This organization is put in the form of the rules of the game. Children take a great interest in rules.

Starts page 152

par. 20.1] We were speaking of the social conditions under which the self arises as an object. In addition to language we found two illustrations, one in play and the other in the game,

[pages 186- ]

par. 24.1] I have been presenting the self and the mind in terms of a social process, as the importation of the conversation of gestures into the conduct of the individual organism, so that the individual organism takes these organized attitudes of the others called out by its own attitude, in the form of its gestures, and in reacting to that response calls out other organized attitudes in the others in the community to which the individual belongs. This process can be characterized in a certain sense in terms of the "I" and the "me," the "me" being that group of organized attitudes to which the individual responds as an "I."

par. 24.2] What I want particularly to emphasize is the temporal and logical preexistence of the social process to the self-conscious individual that arises in it. The conversation of gestures is a part of the social process which is going on. It is not something that the individual alone makes possible. What the development of language, especially the significant symbol, has rendered possible is just the taking over of this external social situation into the conduct of the individual himself. There follows from this the enormous development which belongs to human society, the possibility of the prevision of what is going to take place in the response of other individuals, and a preliminary adjustment to this by the individual. These, in turn, produce a different social situation which is again reflected in what I have termed the "me," so that the individual himself takes a different attitude.
par. 24.6] There has to be a life-process going on in order to have the differentiated cells; in the same way there has to be a social process going on in order that there may be individuals. It is just as true in society as it is in the physiological situation that there could not be the individual if there was not the process of which he is a part. Given such a social process, there is the possibility of human intelligence when this social process, in terms of the conversation of gestures, is taken over into the conduct of the individual-and then there arises, of course, a different type of individual in terms of the responses now possible. There might conceivably be an individual who simply plays as the child does, without getting into a social game; but the human individual is possible because there is a social process in which it can function responsibly. The attitudes are parts of the social reaction; the cries would not maintain themselves as vocal gestures unless they did call out certain responses in the others; the attitude itself could only exist as such in this interplay of gestures.

par. 24.7] The mind is simply the interplay of such gestures in the form of significant symbols. We must remember that the gesture is there only in its relationship to the response, to the attitude. One would not have words unless there were such responses. Language would never have arisen as a set of bare arbitrary terms which were attached to certain stimuli. Words have arisen out of a social interrelationship. One of Gulliver's tales was of a community in which a machine was created into which the letters of the alphabet could be mechanically fed in an endless number of combinations, and then the members of the community gathered around to see how the letters arranged after each rotation, on the theory that they might come in the form of an Iliad or one of Shakespeare's plays, or some other great work. The assumption back of this would be that symbols are entirely independent of what we term their meaning. The assumption is baseless: there cannot be symbols unless there are responses. There would not be a call for assistance if there was not a tendency to respond to the cry of distress. It is such significant symbols, in the sense of a sub-set of social stimuli initiating a cooperative response, that do in a certain sense constitute our mind, provided that not only the symbol but also the responses are in our own nature. What the human being has succeeded in doing is in organizing the response to a certain symbol which is a part of the social act, so that he takes the attitude of the other person who cooperates with him. It is that which gives him a mind.

Starts page 260

par. 34.1] There are what I have termed "generalized social attitudes" which make an organized self possible. In the community there are certain ways of acting under situations which are essentially identical, and these ways of acting on the part of anyone are those which we excite in others when we take certain steps. If we assert our rights, we are calling for a definite response just because they are rights that are universal - a response which everyone should, and perhaps will, give. Now that response is present in our own nature; in some degree we are ready to take that same attitude toward somebody else if he makes the appeal. When we call out that response in others, we can take the attitude of the other and then adjust our own conduct to it. There are, then, whole series of such common responses in the community in which we live, and such responses are what we term "institutions." The institution represents a common response on the part of all members of the community to a particular situation. This common response is one which, of course, varies with the character of the individual. In the case of theft the response of the sheriff is different from that of the attorney-general, from that of the judge and the jurors, and so forth; and yet they all are responses which maintain property, which involve the recognition of the property right in others. There is a common response in varied forms. And these variations, as illustrated in the different officials, have an organization which gives unity to the variety of the responses. One appeals to the policeman for assistance, one expects the state's attorney to act, expects the court and its various functionaries to carry out the process of the trial of the criminal. One does take the attitude of all of these different officials as involved in the very maintenance of property; all of them as an organized process are in some sense found in our own natures. When we arouse such attitudes, we are taking the attitude of what I have termed a " generalized other." Such organized sets of response are related to each other; if one calls out one such set of responses, he is implicitly calling out others as well.

par. 34.2] Thus the institutions of society are organized forms of group or social activity - forms so organized that the individual members of society can act adequately and socially by taking the attitudes of others toward these activities. Oppressive, stereotyped, and ultra-conservative social institutions - like the church - which by their more or less rigid and inflexible unprogressiveness crush or blot out individuality, or discourage any distinctive or original expressions of thought and behaviour in the individual selves or personalities implicated in and subjected to them, are undesirable but not necessary outcomes of the general social process of experience and behaviour. There is no necessary or inevitable reason why social institutions should be oppressive or rigidly conservative, or why they should not rather be, as many are, flexible and progressive, fostering individuality rather than discouraging it. In any case, without social institutions of some sort, without the organized social attitudes and activities by which social institutions are constituted, there could be no fully mature individual selves or personalities at all; for the individuals involved in the general social life-process of which social institutions are organized manifestations can develop and possess fully mature selves or personalities only in so far as each one of them reflects or prehends in his individual experience these organized social attitudes and activities which social institutions embody or represent. Social institutions, like individual selves, are developments within, or particular and formalized manifestations of, the social life-process at its human evolutionary level. As such they are not necessarily subversive of individuality in the individual members; and they do not necessarily represent or uphold narrow definitions of certain fixed and specific patterns of acting which in any given circumstances should characterize the behaviour of all intelligent and socially responsible individuals (in opposition to such unintelligent and socially irresponsible individuals as morons and imbeciles), as members of the given community or social group. On the contrary, they need to define the social, or socially responsible, patterns of individual conduct in only a very broad and general sense, affording plenty of scope for originality, flexibility, and variety of such conduct; and as the main formalized functional aspects or phases of the whole organized structure of the social life-process at its human level they properly partake of the dynamic and progressive character of that process.

par. 34.3] There are a great number of institutionalized responses which are, we often say, arbitrary, such as the manners of a particular community. Manners in their best sense, of course, cannot be distinguished from morals, and are nothing but the expression of the courtesy of an individual toward people about him. They ought to express the natural courtesy of everyone to everyone else. There should be such an expression, but of course a great many habits for the expression of courtesy are quite arbitrary. The ways to greet people are different in different communities; what is appropriate in one may be an offense in another. The question arises whether a certain manner which expresses a courteous attitude may be what we term "conventional." In answer to this we propose to distinguish between manners and conventions. Conventions are isolated social responses which would not come into, or go to make up, the nature of the community in its essential character as this expresses itself in the social reactions. A source of confusion would lie in identifying manners and morals with conventions, since the former are not arbitrary in the sense that conventions are. Thus conservatives identify what is a pure convention with the essence of a social situation; nothing must be changed. But the very distinction to which I have referred is one which implies that these various institutions, as social responses to situations in which individuals are carrying out social acts, are organically related to each other in a way which conventions are not.

par. 34.4] Such interrelation is one of the points which is brought out, for example, in the economic interpretation of history. It was first presented more or less as a party doctrine by the Marxian socialists, implying a particular economic interpretation. It has now passed over into the historian's technique with a recognition that if he can get hold of the real economic situation, which is, of course, more accessible than most social expressions, he can work out from that to the other expressions and institutions of the community. Medieval economic institutions enable one to interpret the other institutions of the period. One can get at the economic situation directly and, following that out, can find what the other institutions were, or must have been. Institutions, manners, or words, present in a certain sense the life-habits of the community as such; and when all individual acts toward others in, say, economic terms, he is calling out not simply a single response but a whole group of related responses.

par. 34.5] The same situation prevails in a physiological organism. If the balance of a person who is standing is disturbed, this calls for a readjustment which is possible only in so far as the affected parts of the nervous system lead to certain definite and interconnected responses. The different parts of the reaction can be isolated, but the organism has to act as a whole. Now it is true that an individual living in society lives in a certain sort of organism which reacts toward him as a whole) and he calls out by his action this more or less organized response. There is perhaps under his attention only some very minor fraction of this organized response-he considers, say, only the passage of a certain amount of money. But that exchange could not take place without the entire economic organization, and that in turn involves all the other phases of the group life. The individual can go any time from one phase to the others, since he has in his own nature the type of response which his action calls for. In taking any institutionalized attitude he organizes in some degree the whole social process, in proportion as he is a complete self.

par. 34.6] The getting of this social response into the individual constitutes the process of education which takes over the cultural media of the community in a more or less abstract way. Education is definitely the process of taking over a certain organized set of responses to one's own stimulation; and until one can respond to himself as the community responds to him, he does not genuinely belong to the community. He may belong to a small community, as the small boy belongs to a gang rather than to the city in which he lives. We all belong to small cliques, and we may remain simply inside of them. The "organized other" present in ourselves is then a community of a narrow diameter. We are struggling now to get a certain amount of international-mindedness. We are realizing ourselves as members of a larger community. The vivid nationalism of the present period should, in the end, call out an international attitude of the larger community. The situation is analogous to that of the boy and the gang; the boy gets a larger self in proportion as he enters into this larger community. In general, the self has answered definitely to that organization of the social response which constitutes the community as such; the degree to which the self is developed depends upon the community, upon the degree to which the individual calls out that institutionalized group of responses in himself. The criminal as such is the individual who lives in a very small group, and then makes depredations upon the larger community of which he is not a member. He is taking the property that belongs to others, but he himself does not belong to the community that recognizes and preserves the rights of property.

ABC Referencing includes general advice on referencing internet sources as well as printed sources.
Do you understand key words and numbers?

Citation suggestion


My referencing suggestion for this page is a bibliography entry as follows (just write it down):

Mead, G.H. 1934 Mind, Self and Society, From the Standpoint of a Social Behaviourist. Edited with an introduction by Charles W. Morris
Paragraph numbers from the web extracts at

With references in the text to

(Mead, G.H. 1934 par. -)
For example:
(Mead, G.H. 1934 par. 18.1)

Study links outside this site
Picture introduction to this site
Andrew Roberts' web Study Guide
Top of Page Take a Break - Read a Poem
Click coloured words to go where you want

Andrew Roberts likes to hear from users:
To contact him, please use the Communication Form

home page for social
science home page to Andrew Roberts'
web site the ABC Study Guide home page
Student reviews Index


3.2 - 7.2 - 7.13 - 13 - 18.2
See dictionary

conditioned reflex 14 - 14b - 16

conditioning: 3.1

conversation in gestures


emergent consciousness

created by attention

form: 3.7 - 3.8 - 7.3 - 7.5 - 7.6 - 7.7 - 7.11 - 7.13 - 8.13 - 8.15 - 8.17 - 14 - 16 - 18.1 - 19.3
See dictionary


meaning: 1.9 - 3.2 - 7.6-7.10 - 7.12 - 8.16 - 10.7-10.9 - 13 - 14 - 16 - 19.3 - 24.7 -

organism: 1.2 - 3.4 - 3.7 - 3.8 - 4 - 5 - 8.16 - 8.17 - 13 - 14 - 16 - 18 - 18.1 - 18.3f1 - 24.1 - 34.5 -

parallel: 5 - 7.2 - 7.11 - 7.12 - 7.14
See dictionary


reality: 16

role: 13 - 19 -

self: self and organism

significant gestures that are not signifcant 7.3 - becomes significant symbol - also 7.9 - something further that is involved 10.7

social whole: 1.10

white rat 14 - 16 -