Sociology Index


George Herbert Mead's concept of the Generalized Other is that in their behavior and social interaction individuals react to the expectations of others, orienting themselves to the norms and values of their community or group. The term Generalized Other was used by George Herbert Mead (1863-1931) to refer to an individual's recognition that other members of their society hold specific values and expectations about behavior.

Mead' s concept of the Generalized Other gives an account of the social origin of self-consciousness while retaining the transforming function of the personal. Contextualized in Mead's theory of intersubjectivity, the Generalized Other is a special case of role-taking in which the individual responds to social gestures, and takes up and adjusts common attitudes.

By role-taking people adjust and adapt in exchanges based on social gesture-response action sequences. Self-consciousness is developed through action in the social domain that is completed in personal reflection. The Personal and the Social, George Herbert Mead's Theory of the Generalized Other, traces the development of the Generalized Other concept in Mead's published and unpublished work, locating it within the framework of intersubjectivity and role-taking. A theoretically and historically embedded interpretation of the Generalized Other reveals that both the personal and the social evolve and each is open to activities that bring about change.

Grounded in Mead's refusal to reduce the part played by the social or the personal in the development of the self, the Generalized Other is a concept of continuing usefulness to development psychologists. - Agnes E. Dodds, Jeanette A. Lawrence, Univ.of Melbourne, Jaan Valsiner, Univ.of North Carolina.

Attribution and Symbolic Interaction: An Impasse at the Generalized Other 
George V. Zito, Jerry Jacobs, Syracuse University, Human Relations, Vol. 32, No. 7, (1979)
Attribution theory and symbolic interactionism have developed independently of each another, although both are concerned with the processes employed by ordinary people to make sense of their everyday world. It was inevitable that developments in the one should at last collide with certain well-established tenets of the other. Recent developments in attribution theory respecting differential attributions by Ego of the causes of his own and Alter's behaviors seem to collide with Mead's notion of the Generalized Other. The authors seek to define the current impasse, which they see as further confounding the problem of intersubjectivity.

An International 'Generalized Other': The Social Negotiation of Moral Authority at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda - DR. MAYA STEINITZ, NY University
Abstract: Specifically, the article advances the argument that the ICCs seek to personify the Generalized Other; that they claim to embody the universal authority and morality of the international community. The generalized other is an organized and generalized attitude with reference to which individuals define their conduct. The Generalized Other and institutions help socialize people in different parts of society to have the same responses, interests, and moral beliefs and conceptions of selves needed for understanding and synchronizing with others. It is through interactions - immediate and mediated - with Generalized Others that the self arises and is negotiated; that stigmatization of individuals and groups occur; that social concepts are defined; and that psychological citizenship manifests. Therefore, the interplay between inclusion and exclusion, hegemony and diversity in institutions that have the potential not only to communicate for, but also to embody and personify the international Generalized Other, as well as the very existence of such social institutions, is of great social significance. 
In describing the negotiation of each dimension the article explores the philosophical notion that law qua law claims legitimate and supreme authority and the sociological notion that courts, including international criminal courts, are among the most significant institutions to perform, dramaturgically speaking, such claims by explaining that, more specifically, courts try to fashion themselves as the embodiment of a truly universal Generalized Other proclaiming the universal morality of the international community.

Pronouns, Proximity, and the Generalized Other - Guy, Rebecca F.; Allen, Donald E. 
Experiment supporting the crux of Mead's discussion describing the development and projection of the social self. Use of pronominal references seems to be an indicator of the dimensions of the interaction process. -

The Generalized Other and Me: Working Women's Language and the Academy. - Belanoff, Pat 
Discusses the teacher's obligation to help students utilize language which sounds and feels like their own, while helping them to master a language which opens up a larger, wider, deeper world for them and their teachers.

Women as generalized other and self theory: A strategy for empirical research 
Journal Sex Roles, Subject Behavioral Science, Issue Volume 8, Number 3 / February, 1982
Forrest A. Deseran, William W. Falk, Louisiana State University, USA 
Abstract Following the argument that women as generalized other (Mead, 1934) could be empirically explored in much the same manner as self concepts, a variant of Kuhn's (1960) twenty statements test was applied to an examination of perceptions of women in general and of the relationship between self concepts and conceptions of women.