books, man, person @ Pixabay

Charles Horton Cooley is one of the most influential sociologists in history. His theory on groups, which he called “the looking-glass self,” has been used to define many different types of social interaction. One type that he identified as a family group.

people, human, group @ Pixabay

In Cooley’s theory, the symbols in a person’s environment are like mirrors that reflect back to them an idea of who they are. This is why we see so many different types of people when we walk down the street–everyone has picked up their own mirror and placed it where they can see it best.

The family group is one such instance; this social interaction gives us a sense of belonging by providing both physical protection and emotional support, two things that humans need for healthy development.

In other words: “a family is society writ small.” The first step to understanding Charles Horton Cooley’s “looking-glass self” dichotomy between looking outwards into society or inward at oneself was recognizing.


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