Socialization is the lifelong process by which people develop their human potential and learn culture. There are at least four big questions presented in this chapter. First, to what degree is socialization necessary for human development? In other words, is human development more a product of NATURE or NURTURE? A second question presented is HOW do we develop? Is our PERSONALITY basically determined at birth – or do we go through STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT and grow into the person we are today – and when do we stop developing our personalities? Do we stop developing after puberty (as Freud suggests) or do we develop throughout our lifetimes until death (as Erikson proposes). While every experience we have affects us to some degree, a third issue in this chapter is finding out which social experiences or “AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION” have special importance in the socialization process. Finally, if we are social creatures dependant upon society – how free are we within society? Society shapes the way we think, act, and feel – so are we individuals or simply Muppets controlled by the backstage forces of society (I’ve jokingly put “Muppets” as an answer choice in some of your quizzes – now you know why).
Human beings cannot be human beings without society. Social isolation – both in humans and in primates – causes irreparable damage if done for a long enough time. Socialization, therefore, is necessary for personality and cognitive development. Sigmund Freud thought of the mind as divided up into three parts: the ID, EGO, and SUPEREGO. The ID (which is our subconscious mind) represents our primitive mind – rooted in biology – which operates on the “pleasure principle” which is basically doing whatever you want without worrying about the consequences. Of course, one can’t live in society just relying on your pleasure-seeking drives (maybe you can on Wall Street – but that’s another discussion). The EGO is our conscious self – which continually battles the ID in an effort to balance our pleasure seeking drives with the demands of society. The SUPEREGO is the internalization of our cultural values and norms. Freud thought that in a well-adjusted individual, the ego successfully manages the conflicts between our selfish drives and the demands of society. If these conflicts are not resolved in childhood, Freud theorized that they may surface as personality disorders later on in life. Freud said that people often REPRESS selfish impulses. People often find a compromise between their selfish ID-driven impulses and what society demands of them in a process called SUBLIMATION. SUBLIMATION is a process by which people redirect selfish impulses into socially acceptable behavior. For example, competitive sports are an outlet for aggressive impulses and marriage is a socially acceptable way to deal with sexual impulses.
Although there are many modern-day critics of Freud’s work, many of his basic ideas continue to influence social scientists to this day.
Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who looked at cognitive development. He theorized that children went through cognitive stages of development – that they were incapable of perceiving the world in certain ways until they had developed passed these stages. Piaget called he first stage the SENSORIMOTOR STAGE. In this stage, people only experience the world through their five senses and “knowing” consists of whatever these five senses tell the child. This stage lasts for about the first two years of life. The second stage is the PREOPERATIONAL STAGE which starts at about age two and ends at about age six. At this stage, children can use language and other symbols, but still lack abstract concepts. Next is the CONCRETE OPERATIONAL STAGE which is between the ages of about seven to eleven. In this stage, children begin to see causal connections – they begin to see how and why things happen. The final stage is the FORMAL OPERATIONAL STAGE which begins (for some, but not all) at