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Play Stage

D. Angus Vail

Subject Social Psychology » Socialization

People Mead, George Herbert

Key-Topics self

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The play stage is one of the three central components of George Herbert Mead's seminal discussion of the social foundation and development of the self. According to Mead, the self has a social genesis which becomes evident if one examines the ways that people develop a sense for their own being as something separate from, but also interdependent with, other people. In essence, the self is situated in the individual's capacity to take account of him/herself. By examining children's styles of play, followed by the games they play, one can see how they develop a capacity to take into account not just the role of a singular other person, but also eventually the roles of many people simultaneously. It is only once a person has reached this stage of development that she or he is said to have developed a complete self. Mead (1962 [1934]: 150, 152–4) first addressed the stage of development he called the play stage. Mead's discussion of the play stage begins with his assertion that children at this stage play at specific roles rather than enacting complex relationships. Thus, a child at this stage plays at roles of a significant person such as a police officer or nurse or parent. In playing at these roles, children mold their behavior to the set of roles that they tend to associate with the target of their play. Thus, in playing at being a parent, they may send a bad Barbie or GI ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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