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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

help me breakdown the theories
Liz Reply
please explain these theories of social change (Sociocultural evolution theory, cyclical theory, functionalist perspective theory and the Conflict theory)
Phiwa Reply
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Jeremy Reply
How do i answer this essay question : Analyze the assertion that crime and deviance are mere social construction
Memory Reply
crime and deviance are functional in society... keeping in mind not all deviance is criminal but all crime is deviance... case in point Rosa Parks and sitting on the bus... her deviant act was not deemed as a crime but it went against social norms and that deviant act brought about change
Andre
another example would be littering... think about when that became a statutory norm (law) in your country... before it was against the law it was a social norm not to litter, your garbage must be thrown in a bin and those who did otherwise were meet by ordinary social sanctions such as a frown...
Andre
littering as become a global problem and it was deemed necessary to make littering against the law so that the environment could not be polluted, and communities would be safer. drains would not be clogged up, rats and other pests won't find refuge, etc...
Andre
Thanks
Memory
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Raza
Crime and deviance are mere social construction in that society decides what a criminal behavior is and accord punishment according to the severity of the crime. Imagine! what is regarded as crime in country A may not be termed as a crime in country B.
Olu
sociological imagination
Jonathan Reply
whatdoyoumeanbysociology
Manav Reply
sociology is the study of human behaviour in society. And human beings actions, reaction, participation in societies.
Syed
How sociologists study human behavior
Mohamed
poverty is a result of economic factors discuss
Brian Reply
Guys what is Sociological imagination?
Omark Reply
Sociological imagination postulated by C. Wright Mills is the ability for an individual or institution to situate personal troubles within an informed social framework. Successive Sociology scholars after CWM have employed the world to mean the kind of insight offered by Sociology and its relevance
Marvis
In everyday life. In a different light, Sociological imagination could be described as the understanding tnat social outcomes are shaped by social contexts, interactions, action and actors
Marvis
perspective in sociology
ali Reply
Can you tell me what is perspective in sociology?
Alina
way of looking at different social realities and proposing definitions of them
Hanief
Sociological perspective is the basic insight of sociology that human behavior is shaped by the social interaction that takes place within those groups..
Omark
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Ubaida
Sociology emerged because of negative aspects of French Revolution: an era of emerging intellectuals and reason........
Rafiq
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Glory
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Aliyu Reply
sociology of education is the study of how public institutions and individual experiences affect the education and it's outcomes
Iqra
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sani
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Iqra
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Trending
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no
Iqra
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rameez
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Muxiru
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Iqra
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rameez
n thank you for responding jazakallah Khair!
rameez
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rameez
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Iqra
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Khushboo
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rameez
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Khushboo
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rameez
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Arxoo
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Arxoo
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MUBARAK
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Hanief
can anybody explain to me the concept of social facts by Durkheim
Zubair
what is functionalism in anthropology
Elijah Reply
hi
Salamatu
hi
Lisa
What is functionalism in anthropology? Answer: A theoretical orientation in anthropology, developed by Bronislaw Malinowski. Functionalism is similar to Radcliffe-Brown's structural functionalism, in that it is holistic and posits that all cultural "traits" are functionally interrelated and for
Lisa
In adelphic polyandry forms of marriage, the children belongs to whome?
Haami Reply
the mother know his father
Usama
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Haami
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ist child to elder brother 2nd child to younger.....
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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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