I posted earlier about thinking being a silent conversation one has with oneself, and this is an inherently social way of viewing the process of thinking. It is inherently social because it is viewing thinking as a process of silent interaction.
There is another, less obvious way in which this view of thinking is radically social. It is in the make up of the participants in the silent conversation that consitutes thinking.
Who is talking to whom in this silent conversation I am having with myself? Who is doing the talking, and who are they talking to? Please bear with me and see if I can answer this question, drawing on George Herbert Mead and Ralph Stacey.
The answer is that different aspects of the self are talking to each other. "I" am talking to "me." The aspect doing the talking is "I" as the subject, doer or initiator of action.
The aspect being spoken to is "me" as the object, the recipient of the action.
The "I" as the subject doing the talking is the individual in the present moment responding to the "me."
Mead pointed out that as humans we have the capacity to take on the attitude of the other person. In other words, you can perform an imaginative feat in which you experience what it would be like to be in the other person’s place. Mead said that it is because we can imagine ourselves in the other person’s shoes that we have human consciousness.
You imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes based on your experience of many social interactions over time – the results you received from these interactions and what they meant to you. These imaginings are therefore socially based because of the social experience you have had. For example, I moved around a lot when I was growing up and so would often have to leave my friends behind and make new ones. If you were brought up by different parents or in a different culture you would have different experiences and so your view of what the other person would be making of you would be different.
Humans also have a tendency to generalise.
The "me" taking part in the silent conversation of thinking is a generalisation that represents your generalised view of what society thinks of you. Society in this case is that group of people whom you identify with.
In a process that utilises both our human tendency to generalise and also our capacity to take on the attitude of the other, we imagine what others think of us. Our imagining of what others think of us is the "me" that is participating in our silent conversation.
This conversation between "I" and "me" is never resolved. It is a conversation in which "I" am constantly responding, in the present moment, to "me." In other words I am constantly responding to the generalised view that I think others have of me.
There, simple eh?