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shadling21's avatar

What would happen if a child was raised without mirrors or reflective surfaces?

Asked by shadling21 (6501points) November 25th, 2008

How would that child’s self-image form? How would one separate self from other?

I don’t know much about psychology, just thought I’d throw this out there.

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19 Answers

richardhenry's avatar

Hey, that’s shiny. Who’s that? Is that… OH MY GOD, HE’S COPYING ME. WHAT THE HELL. DUDE, LEAVE ME ALONE. Is this… why is he wearing my clothe… PORTAL. I HAVE FOUND A PORTAL TO ANOTHER WORLD.

bodyhead's avatar

Then he’s blind. Is this a riddle?

Les's avatar

@body: How would a child raised without the ability to see his own reflection be blind? I don’t get it.

To answer the question, I don’t know. I think he would have a hard time understanding the concept of a reflection. It is a really hard thing to grasp if you’ve never been exposed to it. Now, if the child ever came in contact with a mirror, then I think the situation richard mentioned above is most likely his response. But if the child grew old without ever coming in contact with a reflection of himself, then that would really be something to study. I don’t think it would be possible to understand what you would look like. I mean, you could feel where your nose was and where your eyes were, but you’d never know exactly what they looked like. It would be weird. You’d probably imagine yourself as a conglomeration of all the people you come in contact with (I can’t imagine not being exposed to any other images of a human being. That would be an entirely different story).

Interesting question, though.

richardhenry's avatar

I’m trying to find something that talks about this, but I can’t. There’s plenty of people in third world countries that have never had mirrors, and they still maintain a sense of self. It would be strange, not really knowing what you look like; but I don’t think it would significantly change you.

Where are all the psychologists when you need them?

EmpressPixie's avatar

The first mirror experience would go something like this: move, gasp, move, touch nose, touch mirror’s nose, figure it out.

RH: They still have reflective surfaces—pools of water or shiny metals or other things that occur naturally.

bodyhead's avatar

I’m just saying a blind child isn’t raised with reflective surfaces. Blind kids wouldn’t recognize their reflection but they turn out all right.

I’m not trying to be rude. Some of my best friends are blind kids.

EmpressPixie's avatar

I’m with bodyhead—unless you had some truly bizarre sight issue (and it would almost have to be psychological in origin), unless you are blind you aren’t going to be raised without access to SOME sort of reflective SOMETHING. Well, unless you are raised in a windowless room. And then there are other issues interfering with your psychological status.

asmonet's avatar

You know, for a really long time, no one had mirrors. There’s still water and reflective surfaces in the world, and like bodyhead said, blind kids.

shadling21's avatar

@rh- Lol! Awesome!

@body- I thought about that. However, the difference between a blind child’s situation and my hypothetical one is that the blind child has no visual perception of anything. I’m asking specifically about the child who can see those figures around him or her, can see parts of his or her body, but doesn’t have the chance to see where his or her body ends and the “other” begins. Basically, what effect would this distortion have on the mirror stage as theorized by Lacan?

@Les- That’s along the lines of what I was thinking.

Would the kid possess some kind of other understanding that most humans (who’ve grown up with mirrors) don’t? Does that affect our ego, our narcissism?

I realize that my hypothetical situation isn’t very realistic. Of course, it’s difficult to cut out all reflective objects from a person’s childhood. I’m just wondering what would happen… A “thought experiment”, if you will.

shadling21's avatar

Oh, and to clarify, I’m not saying that anything would be wrong with these children. Just different.

I just started reading some psychoanalysis, and it’s giving me more questions than answers.

bodyhead's avatar

So you’re saying, how do vampire children identify with their own self image?

dalepetrie's avatar

If there were no reflective surfaces, I’d assume he/she would get in a few hellish car crashes once they obtained a driver’s license.

Knotmyday's avatar

There would be a lot of messy hair… Makeup would be difficult to apply…and as dale alluded, a lot of neck-craning in the car.

ontheroad's avatar

And don’t forget about bugs in the teeth. You can’t drive a car very fast without a windshield.

shadling21's avatar

Hahaha! Oh, stop. When will these extensions end?
I suppose my hypothesis was more than slightly silly…

augustlan's avatar

Interesting, though!

bodyhead's avatar


A person of average intelligence would have no problem identifying with self as long as they are an educated person.

A person living in the woods or somewhere where formalized education is not as prevalent would have a slightly harder time with it. They would still be able to to have a self identity but they probably wouldn’t be able to pick themselves out of a line up of people.

ralfe's avatar

This question was perhaps not asked very well. One does not need the physical property of reflection to be able to form a concept of self.

I would suggest reading the work of Brian Fay. He deals a lot with the construction of self. He tells a very interesting story of an eye floating around in space, and what happens to the eye when it encounters another eye, and its own reflection.

According to Fay, we dynamically construct ourselves through the use of reflexive pronouns. For example, everytime we use the words “I”, “me” etc.. Thus, he argues that the self cannot exist without others. When we can understand others, we are then able to understand ourself as an other… but an other relative to what?

This is perhaps a complicated idea; “the self as an other to the self”. It is explained by Fay as the self splitting to form a ‘homonculus’ which is then able to look at the self within the self. Sort of like looking at a mirror, but the mirror has been internalised. Also, it is important to note that the internalised ‘mirror’ is not dependant on an understanding of reflective surfaces, but rather, it is dependant on interactions with other people.

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