Goffman's Dramaturgical Model of Interaction

Topics: Sociology, Communication, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Pages: 6 (1820 words) Published: March 2, 2012
In consideration of Goffman’s Dramaturgical Model of Interaction explore its contribution to our understanding of social interaction. In order to help you explain this you should illustrate your work with practical examples from everyday life.

Word count: 1588

Humans by nature, as suggested by Aronson, are a highly socialable species and care a lot about what others think of them. This has lead to the existence of a belief in public appearance or the sub-conscious development of self presentation. This is the foundation for Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts” (William Shakespeare). This essay hopes to explain social interaction, the development of social perception and how this has lead to Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis.

In order to fully understand the concept behind Goffman’s theory we must first look at interpersonal communication. Burton and Dimbleby define this as “any form of communication (both verbal and nonverbal) between two or more people face to face.” Forgas (1985) goes on to say that interpersonal communication relies to a certain extent on the shared social knowledge between the sender and receiver, that is messages usually only make sense within a given well-defined social environment. This helps to reinforce Goffman’s argument that human interaction is dependent on external factors such as time, place and audience. He draws the theatrical metaphor from the way in which humans interact with each other based on cultural values, expectations and societal norms. The idea behind dramaturgy is acknowledgement through deception, we as actors show what we think is expected from us and can easily manipulate the audience into false acceptance. We show ourselves as how we want to be viewed, a prime example of this is in a job interview, we act on what we think will get us the job; we bend the truth to make us the perfect employee when in reality we may be completely inappropriate.

Social perception begins with the acknowledgement of self. It is a personal style and identity built up from intimate thoughts, attitudes, experiences and responses to situations. “The self is a private matter only known, and not fully, by oneself through intrapersonal communication. But it is also a public construct, a result of public performances and interactions with others.” (Burton and Dimbleby 2006). The self is the basis for the roles performed and without the acknowledgment and development of it, masks cannot be formed and confidence in ones performance is minimal. If control of communication is undermined it is nearly impossible to present a desired persona and to have the performance believed.

“It is probably no mere historical accident that the word person, in its first meaning is a mask. It is rather a recognition of the fact that everyone is always and everywhere, more or less consciously, playing a role...” (Robert Ezra Parks) The masks we wear and the roles we play are us seeking “to define the situation” (Burton and Dimbleby 2006) and control peoples responses to us. In western society the way in which people dress, style their hair and present themselves all give off carefully sculpted and planned signals and intended meanings. Bankers wear suits to show professionalism, the higher quality the suit; the better they are at what they do. Surgeons wear physical masks for hygiene reasons but they also hide the person and give off the associated image of professionalism that helps reinforce trust between a doctor and patient therefore the costume reinforces the performance. Masks are a further advancement in Goffman’s dramaturgical metaphor to illustrate the different roles required of us throughout life and the many relationships that are encountered.

Actors present themselves through attitudes, beliefs and individual personalities. The roles performed may have...
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