Essay on the Internalised Objects

According to Piaget, the child goes through some six stages before he is able to understand that there are external objects with an existence, of their own. It is only during the. 6th stage (15th to 19th month) that the child “constructs” the objects in the mind so that he can imagine their existence even when they are not present.

At this stage only the child reveals its ability to have “internalised ob­jects” in relation to the external objects as they are perceived by adults. Till the 15th month the child only tries to learn in a gradual manner that there are such things as external objects.

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What then is an internalised object? It refers to the objects that the child ‘constructs’ in his own mind so that he can, imagine it even in its absence. On the physiological level, it may be understood as a group of cell assemblies in the brain. Psychologically, it has two aspects: (?) the cognitive aspect and (ii) the motivational aspect—H.M. Johnson.

(i) The Congnitive Aspect:

The cognitive aspect actually refers to the development of cognitive abilities which is one of the most important achievements of socialisation. The cognitive abilities refer to – the intellectual capacities such as reasoning, remembering, perceiving, calculating and believing.

Our knowledge of this process is based largely on the work of Jean Piaget. He emphasises the internal processes of the mind as it matures through interaction with the social environment. He sees the individual as actively trying to make sense of the world rather than being passively condi­tioned by it.

He is of the opinion that the cognitive abilities are developed slowly and gradually by children. The cognitive aspect refers to a ‘cognitive map’ of external objects. It refers to the cogni­tion that the object itself is ‘external’ and has an objective existence, and is not a product of imagina­tion.

Like any ordinary map, the cognitive map indicates that the internalised object is a symbol of something else. For example, the map of India ‘represents’ or ‘symbolises’ various rivers, cities, mountains, forests, etc. By looking at the map of a city one can infantine a number of buildings, places, parks, entertainment centers, etc.

In the same manner, the internalised objects would help the person to make ‘predictions’ with some accuracy. It would help him to predict what would happen if he goes around the object, speaks to it, touches it, manipulates it, and so on.

(ii) The motivational aspect:

The internalised object has a motivational aspect also. It is not emotionally a natural concept. The internalised object as a system of cell assemblies, carries a great motivational energy, a set of positive and negative charges.

This energy has some direction of flow. It may motivate the persons to ‘approach’ or ‘avoid’ the external object, or change it, or to influence in some way or the other. It means, the internalised object is not just the ‘cognitive map’ but it is charged with ‘meaning’ in “the emotional life of the personality” with whom it is related.

For ex­ample, the person thinks of Mr. Sham whom he admires, loves and whose approval he always seeks to have. But his ‘cognitive map’ of Sham reveals to him that his particular behaviour is disapproved by Sham.

Now some amount of motivational energy is directed towards changing Sham’s attitude. As a result, the person’s ‘internalised object’ gets changed a little for it includes a “region” which indicates Sham’s approval of him and his behaviour.

Internalised objects are built up gradually in the course of interaction with the environment. This is especially so when the internalised objects are “social objects”, that is, persons.

The internalised objects are built by direct or indirect experience or interaction; that is, directly when the ‘social object’ such as Sham is present; and indirectly when Sham is not physically present but one hears of him or reads about him, or gets sources of information about him.

From the sociological point of view, the two main internalised objects are: (i) self, and (ii) social roles.

(i) The Self and its Origin:

The heart of the process of socialisation is the emergence and the gradual development of “self. The infant at birth has no self-consciousness. No child is born with a ‘self as such. The child has no consciousness of itself or of others at birth. But the child gradually makes an attempt to build up internalised objects corresponding to other people, things and finally a concept of himself as an object.

In this way, as Johnson has stated, “the ‘self might be regarded as the internalised object representing one’s own personality “. The notion of ‘self’ begins to arise as the child learns some­thing of the world of sensations about him.

Thus, the ‘self’ as an internalised object, includes one’s own conception of one’s abilities and characteristics, and an evaluation of both. The person due to this evaluation develops certain feelings of pride, shame, and self-respect.

The construction of the self and the construction of other internalised objects go on together. Because, if one cannot distin­guish one’s own being as a separate entity, one cannot distinguish other beings or other things as separate entities.

The term ‘self’ is often used to mean ‘self-image’. Some writers like G. Murphy are of the view that the ‘self implies a person’s conception of himself as a totality. But one’s conception of oneself one gets only through others. Hence many writers like Cooley, G. H. Mead, and others have stated that self arises only in interaction with the social and non-social environment.

The self devel­ops out of child’s communicative contact with others. The child learns that others are distinct beings and that he too has individuality distinct from others. Acquaintance with his name and use of pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘Myself’, etc., help the process of self-discovery.

Little children’s an­swers to such questions as “what is your name?” and “whose boy are you?” etc., would emphasise the idea of self in relation to others. Social psychologists like C.H. Cooley and G.H. Mead have established their own theories, relating to the origin and development of ‘self’ which we shall dis­cuss a little later.

(ii) Social Roles:

From the stand point of sociology, as Johnson opines “social roles are among the most impor­tant objects that are internalised in the course of socialisation.” An internalised role is a little differ­ent from the role itself. Internalised roles are similar to all the other internalised objects. A role is a part of personality and is composed of norms.

An internalised role is invested with some personal meaning. The nature of role is “partly determined by the place it has in the personality and partly by the place among other interalised roles, persons and things.” Motivation behind the roles in a par­ticular personality is also not the same among similar roles in other personalities.

For example, the role of merchant in a particular society is part of the culture of that society. But the role object internalised by any particular merchant is influenced by the culture of his group and also his experi­ence. Similarly, many may be the residents of the same village but the village object internalised by each inhabitant is unique in the sense he has his own personal meaning of that.