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Presentation of self

Of course, it is impossible to look inside a person’s head and study what role they are playing. All we can observe is behavior, or role performance. Role performance is how a person expresses his or her role. Sociologist Erving Goffman presented the idea that a person is like an actor on a stage. Calling his theory dramaturgy, Goffman believed that we use “impression management” to present ourselves to others as we hope to be perceived. Each situation is a new scene, and individuals perform different roles depending on who is present (Goffman 1959). Think about the way you behave around your coworkers versus the way you behave around your grandparents versus the way you behave with a blind date. Even if you’re not consciously trying to alter your personality, your grandparents, coworkers, and date probably see different sides of you.

As in a play, the setting matters as well. If you have a group of friends over to your house for dinner, you are playing the role of a host. It is agreed upon that you will provide food and seating and probably be stuck with a lot of the cleanup at the end of the night. Similarly, your friends are playing the roles of guests, and they are expected to respect your property and any rules you may set forth (“Don’t leave the door open or the cat will get out.”). In any scene, there needs to be a shared reality between players. In this case, if you view yourself as a guest and others view you as a host, there are likely to be problems.

Impression management is a critical component of symbolic interactionism. For example, a judge in a courtroom has many “props” to create an impression of fairness, gravity, and control—like her robe and gavel. Those entering the courtroom are expected to adhere to the scene being set. Just imagine the “impression” that can be made by how a person dresses. This is the reason that attorneys frequently select the hairstyle and apparel for witnesses and defendants in courtroom proceedings.

A photo of a statue of Janus
Janus, another possible "prop", depicted with two heads, exemplifies war and peace. (Photo courtesy of Fubar Obfusco/Wikimedia Commons)

Goffman’s dramaturgy ideas expand on the ideas of Charles Cooley and the looking-glass self    . According to Cooley, we base our image on what we think other people see (Cooley 1902). We imagine how we must appear to others, then react to this speculation. We don certain clothes, prepare our hair in a particular manner, wear makeup, use cologne, and the like—all with the notion that our presentation of ourselves is going to affect how others perceive us. We expect a certain reaction, and, if lucky, we get the one we desire and feel good about it. But more than that, Cooley believed that our sense of self is based upon this idea: we imagine how we look to others, draw conclusions based upon their reactions to us, and then we develop our personal sense of self. In other words, people’s reactions to us are like a mirror in which we are reflected.

Summary

Society is based on the social construction of reality. How we define society influences how society actually is. Likewise, how we see other people influences their actions as well as our actions toward them. We all take on various roles throughout our lives, and our social interactions depend on what types of roles we assume, who we assume them with, and the scene where interaction takes place.

Short answer

Draw a large circle, and then “slice” the circle into pieces like a pie, labeling each piece with a role or status that you occupy. Add as many statuses, ascribed and achieved, that you have. Don’t forget things like dog owner, gardener, traveler, student, runner, employee. How many statuses do you have? In which ones are there role conflicts?

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Think of a self-fulfilling prophecy that you’ve experienced. Based on this experience, do you agree with the Thomas theorem? Use examples from current events to support your answer as well.

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Further research

TV Tropes is a website where users identify concepts that are commonly used in literature, film, and other media. Although its tone is for the most part humorous, the site provides a good jumping-off point for research. Browse the list of examples under the entry of “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Pay careful attention to the real-life examples. Are there ones that surprised you or that you don’t agree with? (External Link)

References

Berger, P. L., and T. Luckmann. 1966. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge . Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

Cooley, Charles H. 1902. Human Nature and the Social Order . New York: Scribner's.

Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self In Everyday Life . New York: Doubleday.

Merton, Robert K. 1957. “The Role-Set: Problems in Sociological Theory.” British Journal of Sociology 8(2):110–113.

Thomas, W.I., and D.S. Thomas. 1928. The Child in America: Behavior Problems and Programs . New York: Knopf.

Questions & Answers

which founded sociology?
Gabriel Reply
who founded sociology
Gifty Reply
I can say Abdulrahman Ibn Khaldum
Emmurana
is sociology a science?
Cyrus
Yes
Polli
how so? @Polli Pol
Cyrus
Auguste Comte
Gabriel
It's because sociology has the same characteristics as that of a science. For instance in sociology:-- testing is possible. In science also testing is also possible. That also makes it a science. Objectivity is possible in both sociology and science. both, use of research methods is possible
Polli
Both are imperical Both are methodological Prediction is possible All of that makes sociology a science. However it is important to note that sociology is not a natural science but a social science. Also Objectivity is not high as in science Also a research cannot predict human behavior
Polli
Yes. Auguste Comte and Durkheim support that sociology is a science
Polli
However Marx Weber, disagrees with the view
Polli
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deborah Reply
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Gifty
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Hrittika Reply
Changes with transforms social institutions
Saurabh
Which*
Saurabh
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Shubham
change denotes any alternation or modification that takes place in any situation or any object change is dynamic process of society remains completely static.
Aman
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malama Reply
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sumitra
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Sunita
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Sunita
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Sunita
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Sunita
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alois
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Margaret
types of cultures and it definations
Umar Reply
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Glenn Reply
our communications translated into untouched greets
Cavs
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Abel Reply
teaching
LAKEM
human resources manager
Shiikaa
can you think of people in your own life who support or defy the premise that access to technology leads to greater opportunities? how have you noticed technology use and opportunity to be linked,or does your experience contradicts this idea?
Swiftix Reply
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Cavs
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Cavs
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Ritu Reply
role of culture in socialization
Malak Reply
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YAKUBU Reply
sociology is the study of human behavior
Hashim
sociology is the scientific study of man and society
USMAN
sociology is the study of people behaviours who are interaction in different cultures and groups
Cavs
ethno methodology
USMAN
ethnomethodology and symbolic interaction are good inquiry but it's micro level studying, it's overlook grand theories.
Cavs
cultural diffusion
USMAN
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Abir
mean scientific study about society
Ambrish
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AREN Reply
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Shraddha Reply
Social transformation is a somewhat ambiguous term that has two broad definitions. One definition of social transformation is the process by which an individual alters the socially ascribed social status of their parents into a socially achieved status for themselves.
Taniza
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Sarah Reply
hi sarah
puneet
hi Sarah
Ambrish
consumers shifted from need based purchasing to want based purchasing
sumitra
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Ritu

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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