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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

what is the origin and development of sociology?
namiak Reply
can any one will differentiate between social movement and pressure group?
Nasiru Reply
what is the origin and development of sociology?
namiak
Do you believe that Americans may be somewhat more ethnocentric than people in the other Western industrial nations? If so, why might this be the case? If not, why is this widely believed?
Elizabeth Reply
first of all the nation have the belive an faith in their ritualistic religion people go in different temple but they don't knew the culture and the ritual of all religions so human make the braches of religion and human follows it also with this Americans also follow their own god and goodness ...
unknown
Yes, because Americans are more inclined to their culture and want to superimpose theirs to the entire world. They always show their supremacy.
Hemendra
why do people deviate from socital norms
cornelius Reply
people deviate from scital norms because their reputation matter that is why they do not involve themself in big issue of society to solve the problem. They see what is going on they are aslo intrested to knew but they not say anything on that time its a human nature which is selfishness kind...
unknown
whar is the correct ans ?
unknown
what*
unknown
what is the difference between sociology, physiology and
Evelyn Reply
what is sociology
Jobee Reply
Sociology is the study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction and culture of everyday life. 
Aamirah
Sociology is simply the study of culture and society
Kooko
sociology is a social science that studies human behavior
Nelly
sociology stands socious. sociology is the study of social awareness to knew the knowlege of social culture and social issue .sociology aways follow the instruction of social behavior in the society . it have some rule and regulation
unknown
sociology is the study of culture and individual behavior of a particular society or community
galiwango
yes August comte is a father of sociology
Salahu Reply
May You give me "Deviance and Conformity" For assignment
Mankai Reply
what is deviance
Abdullahi
Deviance means deviate behaviour (to safe him or her from any social issue of society)and conformity for assignment means conform for work (HE OR SHE is willing to do that work with full of conformation )
unknown
definition of culture
Ameh Reply
culture is habit of a society, pattern of social interaction and life style
fadi
Culture is the totality ways of peoples life.
Nwoye
what do you make of Karl max's contribution to sociology?
Kategaya Reply
Classic Marxist theory has been criticised for being economically deterministic. Marx argued that 'economic laws' determined not only the shape of society but also the direction of history itself. ... The Communist Revolutions in Eastern Europe did not lead to greater equality and freedom
Yusuf Reply
exactly
Muhammed
sociology ke father kaun hai
Akash
i think auguste comte
fadi
auguste comte
Kinnu
Help me discuss the criticism against Marx's ideal society.
Chika Reply
Hi ı am new here, we can discuss topics if you want😊
Buket
s
fadi
the criticizm of society is calld various of peopel to society ant society to people
Prince
what is a monogamous family?
Mazeena Reply
what is sociology
Suliman Reply
sociology is the scientific study of human society and social behavior.
Lizzy
what is sociology as a science?
Lizzy Reply
human behavior is a science as it has to do with human adaption to its environment
naomi
is the study of a group of scientist nature and their interactions and their common spices.
Dwomoh
is the scientific study of Human behaviour
Alice
sacop
Suliman
hope I am welcomed
Desmos
yes
Lizzy

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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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