The development of individual’s self is social. Social development theory underlines the main importance and role of social interaction in cognition development. According to Vygotsky (1980), for children, use of tools during their preverbal period and mastering their surroundings and behavior with the help of speech further result in greater importance in their development. For example, during this processes children are able to deal with practical tasks. As a result, the cognitive and communicative functions of language confer on children important advantages by distinguishing them from animals. There are also higher mental functions where perception and memory play important role in their development. Every mental function in cultural development of children firstly occur in social level and then appear on the individual level. On the other hand, children learn through social interaction with the help of tutor such as parent or teacher. During this events, the internalized information further used to guide their own performance. In information usage process, children are able to be more competent and be independent in different tasks. For children, learning process includes to gather information from adults, ask questions and give answers and internalize names of objects from the environment. Therefore, from the first day of child’s life, learning and development has in tight connections. Besides, child’s established mental functions can be named as actual developmental level. The mental development, therefore actual developmental level, may differ from child to child according to their problem solving behavior and mental abilities in different tasks. However, zone of proximal development implies a concept where it understands the distinctions between the things child can achieve independently and child can achieve with the help of guidance. By means of the zone of proximal development, children are able to deal with learning processes and develop higher mental functions. As a result, when child is interacted with the environment, learning allows to internalize information and other developmental process and child becomes independently developed individual (Vygotsky, 1980). However, although theory of Vygotsky appropriate to all culture and abilities, Vygotsky engages with social groups as being a whole and equal. On the other hand, since differences and inequalities exist for each individual, Vygotsky’s theory fails when the differences and inequalities are considered for distinct individuals. Another criticism might be done about the zone of proximal development which did not actually reflect accurate picture of child’s learning style. Other motivational factors and child’s ability level may influence development. Also zone of proximal development cannot exactly explains how the development occurs albeit it has small details.
Goffman’s social stigma theory explains the stigma as an attribute or behavior where individuals are undesirably classified by others. According to Goffman (2009), three forms of social stigma occurs via physical or social disability, ethnic group or nationality and deviations in personal character. Goffman focuses on social relationships that transforms into social stigma. During stigma process, stigmatized individuals behave like actors where they conceal social information belonging to themselves to decrease stigmatizations. The terms such as spoiled identity and socially discredited used by Goffman explain the judgement from society where individuals have potential guilt to stigma-bearer. Stigma is the process related to social construction identity. As a consequence of stigmatized condition, individuals pass from normal to socially discredited situations. However, Goffman generally identify stigmatized individuals in his book as victim rather than focusing on the negative behaviors of stigmatisers. Therefore, problems related to stigmatization is seen due to stigmatized individuals rather than stigmatisers. However, this situation did not give mechanistic solutions to prevent stigma.
On the other hand, stigma can be form in racism. Fanon (2008) explains psychology of racism in his book about black man in a white world. He explains the intelligence of black man is to learn the white men’ language. Since society is influenced by human behavior, superior features of white men confer on them strong advantages onto black men. As a result, black men becomes to be white and want to reach equality with white man. Also, speaking white men’ language is strong mastery of cultural tool for black men, where black men find themselves strong and equal to white men, when they had ability to speak their language well. However, when Fanon was explaining the superiority of white men with their intelligence, color skin and language ability onto black man, he already creates a category and discrimination. Although, white men, inside create a discrimination to black man, there is created negative perceptions onto black men where the assumptions and blames are inhuman. Apart from that, Fanon actually explains inner struggles of black men with their identity.
Self is a social construct and individual’s response to social world. As Vygotsky proposed, use of tools and speech as well as learning play important role in the developments of individuals. For example, learning abilities and gathering higher mental functions result in independently developed individuals. However, when self is socially constructed, in an interacting environment, there might stigma attributes arise through some social groups. When big picture is considered, during stigmatized individuals face with society, they also face with the psychological problems. As a result, they had to behave differently to reduce stigma.
Racism can be considered another stigma. Especially society judge individuals and creates superiority according to others (in this case white- black men relationships). Goffman and Fanon explains the basic and psychological processes of individuals by explaining their current role in society. Apart from that, Vygotsky analyzes how development of individual’s self occurs. In all cases, although some limitations explained about the theories in previous paragraphs, these theorists try to analyze self, individuals and their connection with society by explanations. I believe that, development of self has tight connection with the occurrences of society and stigma problem. Further challenge in social psychology might focus on preventing stigma and other social constructs.
Fanon, F. (2008). Black skin, white masks. Grove press.
Goffman, E. (2009). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Simon and Schuster.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1980). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes.
Harvard university press.