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Dramaturgy and Impression Management


One of the more entertaining and definitely relatable concepts to memorize in sociology is dramaturgy. And so, we're looking at that along with impression management, and we are here in 8C of the master outline. And thinking about this, so 8C, right, is social interactions as a whole. We're looking at portions of that.

Let's just take a little break to apply some theory. Okay so, this question as to, how do humans interact? I mean, on some level, of course, we have to interact to survive. But what draws us towards each other? There are different ways of thinking about this based on which theory you're looking through.

So, a conflict theorist would say, we try to get physical needs met, we form alliances, we defend against others. Maybe we're trying to restore some kind of fairness and justice from people who seized our resources. Functionalist would say, well, societies can't function without solidarity. And interactions are what build the solidarity.

So, solidarity let's us achieve both simple and complex tasks, and that happens through the division of labor. Symbolic interactionists, as their name displays, they argue that interaction is what makes us human. This is the essence of social life, there is no human outside of interaction. If we were raised in isolation, we would not have the characteristics that are typically thought of as human social behavior at all.

Not surprisingly, symbolic interaction is sort of the masters of studying social interactions. If you remember, they tend to be micro level. And Erving Goffman was one of these such micro levels symbolic interactionists, extremely famous, known for tons of concepts. I'm only gonna go over a couple of them in this lesson.

He was interested in the momentary aspects of people's daily lives. So, in particular, when people are talking with one another, what's going on in their head? What are they making sense of? What are they trying to convey? What are their motives?

Three concepts we're looking at, dramaturgy, impression management, and face work. So, dramaturgy is basically the idea is people can be thought of as actors on a social stage. We're always playing roles. We create atmospheres, we have props, we create drama.

And we're giving theatrical performances in every area of life, pretty much all the time. And so, that's whether we're at work, in public, at home. And a key concept in dramaturgy is that there's a distinction between the front stage and back stage settings in which our behavior plays out. So, in some settings we are more concerned with how we come across and are more poised.

So, let's look a little bit at the front stage, back stage in more detail. Front stage regions, this particular photo is looking at fine dining environment, in particular, the staff. Although we could say that probably most of the patrons are also acting at some level of formality and poise due to the setting. However, a front stage setting does not have to be formal.

So, for instance you might be at a super casual party, but you're trying to make a really positive impression on somebody, your level of composure is likely to be very high, at least at the beginning of the party. So, front stages don't have to be formal and what constitutes the front stage really is just putting in efforts in terms of how we come across. Back stages, or back regions are where we let down our guard.

We act more natural, less poised, maybe we're relaxing. When we're alone we're often back stage. I've seen that in the MCAT a lot where they have some sort of question, a lot, maybe three times about somebody being in the back stage and all times, the reference was to somebody being alone. So, that's easy, that's a giveaway.

If a person's alone, they are most likely backstage in terms of their behavior. And what's backstage for one person, might be front stage for others. So, going out to lunch with co-workers might be really relaxing for one person, might be high anxiety, self-consciousness for another. Impression management then refers to the actions we take to influence how others perceive us, and we can do this in a variety of ways.

We do this by when we control our expressions, so that's our facial as well as our gestures. We use props to communicate our identities, an expensive watch, skateboard, yoga mat, tattered book, latest gadget, etc. We plan ahead or rehearse. We set the stage.

If somebody's coming over and we wanna make a good impression, we really think about what they might look at, what they might come into contact with, probably a lot of people clean their homes. And if all that wasn't enough, we often hide the fact that we do plan ahead. So, if somebody puts in hours to create a great meal and makes it seem like it was really easy and, actually, it just something that she whipped together.

I'll say it's a she. Face work is the last concept we're gonna cover here and let's start by just by looking at these statements. Okay, so if you heard the following in casual conversation. First of all, that politician certainly has a good line. What does that mean?

That's kind of slang. Well, it means a good sales pitch. It means a good way of phrasing a particular position or plea. And maybe you believe the politician, maybe you don't. But there's an awareness that there's been some times that's put into this statement the politician's giving.

How about my sister saved face by remembering my birthday at the last minute. Well, that means she redeemed herself. And face work then consists of line and face. It's kind of weird the way that Gothman described it. Cuz he described them as nouns often without articles.

But anyway, so line is a spoken or tacit statement about your identity that others are willing to believe, unless you blunder. Maybe it's I am an art buff, or I am health conscious. And, generally, we don't think people are lying unless their actions fail to substantiate their claims about themselves. Face refers to the positive social position or status that you enjoy due to your good line.

So, if you started telling everybody you were the advisor to the United Nations, you would gain face. But probably, they might not believe you so you might not have that face for very long, because I know most of you are quite young, under the age of 30. But say you're my age or 10 or 20 years older. People would probably believe you, just for awhile anyway.

However, if your actions did not prove this statement about yourself, then you would lose face, more face than you originally had. So, putting these together, face work consists of the actions that you take in order to both gain and maintain face. What's a good example of this? Let's say my line is, I am a world traveler.

I might not say this even, but my props show it. I try to make this known, right? Face, well, the positive social value is others might think I'm experienced, adventurous, knowledgeable. And so, then what's the face work? Well, this is the effort.

I might show photos of where I've been, greet friends in a variety of languages, decorate my home in really interesting worldly ways or just give tips on plane tickets or hostels. So here's the sample question and this is very common MCAT format with the Roman numerals. Despite having a splitting headache, a sought-after pharmacist spends his first day at a new job, responding quickly, thoroughly, and chatting happily with people he encounters.

Okay so, are his actions examples of front stage behavior, line, face work, or some combination of the above? Front, we know it has to be at least two of these based on our options. And front stage behavior I think this is pretty obvious, right? This is very much poised behavior. This is not relaxing.

These are new people. He's on the spot. What about a line? Well, a line, I mean that's a statement about who you are. But we don't have anything here to show us that he was actually making a verbal statement, that his actions were conveying his line.

The line is an idea, the line is an idea about your identity. The actual actions he took that day, those were behaviors to back up the line that he probably had all ready taken upon days ago, weeks ago, years ago. Okay, so front stage behavior has to be in the answer, so we can cross out B. We're saying that a line cannot be in the answer, so that means we have to cross out these.

That leaves us with C. Face work is the other relevant term here, and that makes sense, right? Cuz those are the actions you take to maintain face.

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