Sociology Index


Looking-Glass Self was developed by Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929) to describe the social nature of the self and the link between society and individual. In Looking Glass Self formulation social interaction is like a mirror, it allows us to see ourselves as others see us.

Looking-Glass Self was an early formulation of symbolic interactionism but less influential than that of George Herbert Mead. The social self is simply any idea, or system of ideas, drawn from the communicative life, that the mind cherishes as its own. Self-feeling has its chief scope within the general life, not outside of it.

A self-idea of this sort seems to have three principal element: the imagination of our appearance to the other person; the imagination of his judgment of that appearance, and some sort of self-feeling, such as pride or mortification. The comparison with a looking-glass hardly suggests the second element, the imagined judgment, which is quite essential. The thing that moves us to pride or shame is not the mere mechanical reflection of ourselves, but an imputed sentiment, the imagined effect of this reflection upon another's mind.

This is evident from the fact that the character and freight of that other, in whose mind we see ourselves, makes all the difference with our feeling. We are ashamed to seem evasive in the presence of a straightforward man, cowardly in the presence of a brave one, gross in the eyes of a refined one, and so on.

The Looking-Glass Self - Charles Horton Cooley, Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Scribner's, 1902.

Marginalized through the Looking Glass Self. The development of Stereotypes and Labeling
Emad Rahim. Abstract: The looking-glass self, a concept created by Charles Cooley supported the theory that individuals learn to see themselves based on how society views them. The looking-glass self presented the idea that all of us take on characteristics that are predominately influenced by what we believe society perceives of us to be. This article will explore terminology and concepts essential for understanding the notion of the looking glass self with comparison to that of how social stereotypes and labelling can influence behaviours, attitudes and beliefs of marginalised groups of people as described by Adams, Bell and Griffin (2007).