Charles Horton Cooley (born Aug. 17, 1864, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U. S. died May 8, 1929, Ann Arbor) was an American sociologist and the son of Thomas M. Cooley. He studied and went on to teach economics and sociology at the University of Michigan, and he was a founding member and the eighth president of the American Sociological Association. He is perhaps most well known for his concept of the looking glass self, which is the concept that a person’s self grows out of society’s interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others.
Cooley is noted for his displeasure at the divisions within Sociology over methodology. He preferred an empirical, observational approach. While he appreciated the use of statistics, he preferred case studies: often using his own children as the subjects on his observation.
Cooley’s last major work, Social Process (1918), emphasized the non-rational, tentative nature of social organization and the significance of social competition.He interpreted modern difficulties as the clash of primary group values (love, ambition, loyalty) and institutional values (impersonal ideologies such as progress or Protestantism). As societies try to cope with their difficulties, they adjust these two kinds of values to one another as best they can. He also referred to the term the looking glass self. The Looking-glass self is created through the imagination of how one’s self might be understood by another individual.This would later be termed “Empathic Introspection. ” This theory applied not only to the individual but to the macro-level economic issues of society and to those macro-sociological conditions which are created over time.
The concept of the “looking glass self” is undoubtedly his most famous, and is known and accepted by most psychologists and sociologists today. It expanded William James’s idea of self to include the capacity of reflection on its own behavior.Other people’s views build, change and maintain our self-image; thus, there is an interaction between how we see ourselves and how others see us.
According to Cooley (1902), in his work “Human Nature and the Social Order”, his “looking-glass self” involved three steps. “A self-idea of this sort seems to have three principal elements: 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. “