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I don’t usually get excited over lengthy essays. But when my Sociology teacher assigned a six-page response to Herbert Mead’s theory of self, I was elated. Mead’s theory, in short, describes how we humans act as mirrors. Our own self-perceptions aren’t enough, so we hang around others until their perceptions are reflected back to us.
Is this not ridiculously conceited? I thought, upon first learning the theory. We exploit one another for additional images of ourselves?
But then I thought some more. Sure, from a sociological perspective, you could say humans are selfish and egocentric by nature. But does a sociologist’s desire to learn about those things—to discover and then to rectify them—not counteract that nature? Ultimately, it seemed to me that humans were good, curious creatures with incomprehensibly complex social behaviors and moral compasses. And by the end of that class, I wanted nothing more than to further comprehend them.
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