Presentation of Self

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Transcript Presentation of Self

Symbolic Interactionism
Cooley: Looking-glass self and social self
Thomas: the definition of the situation
Mead: play, game and the generalized other
References for Erving Goffman
Cooley: Looking-Glass Self
• A social self might be called the reflected or looking-glass
self: each to each a looking-glass, reflects the other that
doth pass.
• As we see our face, figure, and dress in the glass, and are
interested in them because they are ours, and pleased or
otherwise with them according as they do or do not
answer to what we should like them to be; so in
imagination we perceive in another’s mind some thought
of our appearance, manners, aims, deeds, character,
friends, and so on, and are variously affected by it.
Three Principal Elements of Self-Idea
• The imagination of our appearance to the other
• The imagination of his judgment of that
appearance and some sort of self-feeling, such as
pride or mortification
Thomas: Definition of the Situation
• The higher animals, and above all man, have the power of refusing
to obey a stimulation which they followed at an earlier time.
Response to the earlier stimulation may have had painful
consequences and so the rule or habit in this situation is changed.
We call this ability the power of inhibition, and it is dependent on
the fact that the nervous system carries memories or records of past
experiences. At this point the determination of action no longer
comes exclusively from outside sources but is located within the
organism itself.
• Preliminary to any self-determined act of behavior there is always a
stage of examination and deliberation which we may call the
definition of the situation. And actually not only concrete acts are
dependent on the definition of the situation, but gradually a whole
life-polity and the personality of the individual himself follow from a
series of such definitions.
Mead: Play, the Game,
and the Generalized other
• The fundamental difference between the game and play is that in
the latter the child must have the attitude of all the others involved
in that game. The attitudes of the other players which the
participant assumes organize into a sort of unit, and it is that
organization which controls the response of the individual. The
illustration used was of a person playing baseball. Each one of his
own acts is determined by his assumption of the action of the others
who are playing the game. What he does is controlled by his being
everyone else on that team, at least in so far as those attitudes affect
his own particular response. We get then an “other” which is an
organization of the attitudes of those involved in the same process.
Play, the Game,
and the Generalized other
• The organized community or social group which gives to
the individual his unity of self may be called “the
generalized other.” The attitude of the generalized other
is the attitude of the whole community. Thus, for
example, in the case of such a social group as a ball team,
the team is the generalized other in so far as it enters-as
an organized process or social activity-into the
experience of any one of the individual members of it
“I” and “me”
• The “I” is the response of the organism to the
attitudes of the others; the “me” is the organized
set of attitudes of others which one himself
assumes. The attitudes of the others constitute
the organized “me”, and then one reacts toward
that as an “I”.
• The self is the ability to take oneself as an object. Again,
the self arises within the social process. The general
mechanism of the self is the ability of people to put
themselves in the place of others, to act as others act
and to see themselves as others see them. Mead traces
the genesis of the self through the play and game stages
of childhood. Especially important in the latter stage is
the emergence of the generalized other. The ability to
view oneself from the point of view of the community is
essential to the emergence of the self as well as of
organized group activities. The self also has two phasesthe “ I “, which is the unpredictable and creative aspect
of the self, and the “ me “, which is the organized set of
attitudes of others assumed by the actor. Social control
is manifest through the “me”, while the “I” is the source
of innovation in society
The Priority of the Social
• We are not, in social psychology, building up the behavior of the
social group in terms of the behavior of separate individuals
composing it; rather, we are starting out with a given social whole
of complex group activity, into which we analyze (as elements ) the
behavior of each of the separate individuals composing it. We
attempt, that is, to explain the conduct of the social group, rather
than to account for the organized conduct of the social group in
terms of the conduct of the separate individuals belonging to it. For
social psychology, the whole (society) is prior to the part (the
individual), not the part to the whole; and the part is explained in
terms of the whole, not the whole in terms of the part or parts.
Symbolic Interactionism:
Basic Principles
• 1. Human being, unlike lower animals, are endowed with the capacity for
2. The capacity for thought is shaped by social interaction.
3. In social interaction, people learn the meanings and the symbols that
allow them to exercise their distinctively human capacity for thought.
4. Meanings and symbols allow to carry on distinctively human action and
5. People are able to modify or alter the meanings and symbols that they use
in action and interaction on the basis of their interpretation of the situation
6. People are able to make these modifications and alterations because, in
part, of their ability to interact with themselves, which allows them to
examine possible course of action, assess their relative advantages and
disadvantages, and then choose one.
7. The intertwined patterns of action and interaction make up groups and
Three Premises of Symbolic Interactionism
• Symbolic interactionism rests in the last analysis on three simple
premises. The first premise is that human beings act toward things
on the basis of the meanings that the things have for them. Such
things include everything that the human being may note in his
world-physical objects, such as trees or chairs, other human beings,
such as a mother or a store clerk; categories of human beings, such
as friends or enemies; institutions, as a school or a government;
guiding ideas, such as individual independence or honesty; activities
of others, such as their commands or requests; and such situations
as an individual encounters in his daily life. The second premise is
that the meaning of such thing is derived from, or arise out of, the
social interaction that one has with one’s fellows. The third premise
is that these meanings are handled in , and modified through, an
interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things
he encounters
Herbert Blumer
Nature of social interaction
• Symbolic interactionism does not merely give a ceremonious nod to social
interaction. It recognizes social interaction to be of vital importance in its
own right. This importance lies in the fact that social interaction is a process
that forms human conduct instead of being merely a means or a setting for
the expression or release of human conduct. Put simply, human beings in
interacting with one another have to take account of what each other is
doing or is about to do; they are forced to direct their own conduct or
handle their situations in terms of what they take into account. Thus, the
activities of others enter as positive factors in the formation of their own
conduct; in the face of the actions of others one may abandon an intention
or purpose, revise it , check or suspend it , intensify it, or replace it. The
actions of others enter to set what one plans to do, may oppose or prevent
such plans, may require a revision of such plans, and may demand a very
different set of such plans. One has to fit one’s own line of activity in some
manner to the actions of others. The actions of others have to be taken into
account and cannot be regarded as merely an arena for the expression of
what one is disposed to do or sets out to do.
Nature of objects
• Objects (in the sense of their meaning) must be seen as social
creation-as being formed in and arising out of the process of
definition and interpretation as this process takes place in the
interaction of people. The meaning of anything and everything has
to be formed, learned, and transmitted through a process of
indication-a process that is necessarily a social process. Human
group life on the level of symbolic interaction is a vast process in
which people are forming, sustaining, and transforming the objects
of their world as they come to give meaning to objects. Objects have
no fixed status except as their meaning is sustained through
indications and definitions that people make of the objects. Nothing
is more apparent than that objects in all categories can undergo
change in their meaning.
The human being
as an acting organism
• Symbolic interactionism recognizes that human beings must have a
makeup that fits the nature of social interaction. The human being is
seen as an organism that not only responds to others on the nonsymbolic but as one that makes indications to others and interprets
their indications. He can do this, as Mead has shown so
emphatically, only by virtue of possessing a “self”. Nothing esoteric
is meant by this expression. It means merely that a human being
can be an object of his own action. Thus, he can recognize himself,
for instance, as being a man, young in age, a student, in debt, trying
to become a doctor, coming from an undistinguished family and so
forth. In all such instances he is an object to himself; and he acts
toward himself and guides himself in his actions toward others on
the basis of the kind of object he is to himself
An acting organism
• Instead of being merely an organism that responds to the play of
factors on or through it, the human being is seen as an organism
that has to deal with what it notes. It meets what it so notes by
engaging in a process of self-indication in which it makes an object
of what it notes, gives it a meaning, and uses the meaning as the
basis for directing its action. Its behavior with regard to what it
notes is not a response called forth by the presentation of what it
notes but instead is an action that arises out of the interpretation
made through the process of self-indication. In this sense, the
human being who is engaging in self-interaction is not a mere
responding organism but an acting organism-an organism that has
to mold a line of action on the basis of what it takes into account
instead of merely releasing a response to the play of some factor on
its organization.
Nature of human action
• The capacity of the human being to make indications to
himself gives a distinctive character to human action. It
means that the human individual confronts a world that
he must interpret in order to act instead of an
environment to which he responds because of his
organization. He has to cope with the situations in which
he is called on to act, ascertaining the meaning of the
actions of others and mapping out his own line of action
in the light of such interpretation. He has to construct
and guide his action instead of merely releasing it in
response to factors playing on him or operating through
him. He may do a miserable job in constructing his
action, but he has to construct it.
Symbolic Interactionism:
Basic Principles
• Capacity for thought
Individuals in human society were not seen as units that are
motivated by external or internal forces beyond their control, or
within the confines of a more or less fixed structure. Rather, they
were viewed as reflective or interacting units which comprise the
societal entity
• Thinking and interaction
People possess only a general capacity for thought. This capacity
must be shaped and refined in the process of social interaction,
Thinking shapes the interaction process. In most interaction, actors
must take account of others and decide if and how to fit their
activities to thers
Symbolic Interactionism:
Basic Principles
• Learning meanings and symbols
People learn symbols as well as meanings in social interaction.
Whereas people respond to signs unthinkingly, they respond to
symbols in a thoughtful manner. Symbols are social objects used to
represent whatever people agree they shall represent.
symbols are crucial in allowing people to act in distinctively human
way. Because of the symbol, the human being “ does not respond
passively to a reality that imposes itself but actively creates and recreates the world acted in”
What are symbols? Language is the most important and a vast
system of symbols
References and Topics
for Class Presentation
• Reference: Erving Goffman on Dramaturgy
• Topic: Criticisms on Symbolic Interactionism
Reference for Goffman’s Dramaturgical
Perspective and Books
• Goffman's greatest contribution to social
theory is his formulation of symbolic
interaction as dramaturgical perspective
in his 1956 book The Presentation of Self
in Everyday Life, For Goffman, society is
not homogeneous. We must act
differently in different settings. The
context we have to judge is not society at
large, but the specific context. Goffman
suggests that life is a sort of theater, but
we also need a parking lot and a cloak
room: there is a wider context lying
beyond the face-to-face symbolic
interaction. "Throughout Presentation of
Self, Goffman seems to perceive the
individual as nothing more than a cog
responsible for the maintenance of the
social world by playing his or her part. In
fact, he refers to the self as a 'peg' upon
which 'something of a collaborative
manufacture will be hung for a time.
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
• This was Goffman’s first and most famous book. It was also the first book to
treat face-to-face interaction as a subject to study in the sociological aspect. This
book received the American Sociological Association’s MacIver award in 1961.
Goffman treated this book as a kind of report in which he frames out the
theatrical performance that applies to face-to-face interactions. He believed that
when an individual comes in contact with other people, that individual will
attempt to control or guide the impression that others might make of him by
changing or fixing his or her setting, appearance and manner. At the same time,
the person that the individual is interacting with is trying to form and obtain
information about the individual. Goffman also believed that all participants in
social interactions are engaged in certain practices to avoid being embarrassed
or embarrassing others. This led to Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis. Goffman
saw a connection between the kinds of acts that people put on in their daily life
and theatrical performances. In social interaction, like in theatrical performance
there is a front region where the “actors” (individuals) are on stage in front of
the audiences. This is where positive aspect of the idea of self and desired
impressions are highlighted. There is a back region or stage which can also be
considered as a hidden or private place where the individual can be themselves
and get rid of their role or identity in society
Interaction Ritual
• This book is a collection of six of Goffman’s essays; the first four essays
were published around the 1950s, the fifth is published in 1964, and the
last essay was to finish the collection. His six essays are “On Facework”, “Embarrassment and Social Organization”, “The Nature of
Deference and Demeanor”, “Alienation from Interaction”, Mental
Symptoms and Public Order” and “Where the Action Is”. Goffman's first
essay, “On Face-work, focused on the concept of face, which is the
positive image of self that individuals have when interacting with
others. Goffman believed that face “as a sociological construct of
interaction, is neither inherent in nor permanent aspect of the person”.
Once an individual gives out a positive self image of themselves to
others they then feel a need to keep or live up to that set image. When
individuals are inconsistent with how they project themselves in society,
they risk being embarrassed or discredited, therefore the individual
remains consistently guarded, making sure that they do not show
themselves in an unfavorable way to others.
Frame Analysis
• This book was Goffman's way of trying to explain how conceptual frames structure the
individual’s perception of the society; therefore, this book is about organization of
experiences rather than organization of society. Frames organize the experiences and guide
action for the individual and/or for everyone. Frame analysis, then, is the study of
organization of social experiences. One example that Goffman used to help people better
understand the concept is associating the frame with the concept of a picture frame. He
used the picture frame concept to illustrate how people use the frame (which represents
structure) to hold together their picture (which represents the context) of what they are
experiencing in their life. The most basic frames are called primary frameworks. These
frameworks take an experience or an aspect of a scene of an individual that would
originally be meaningless and make it to become meaningful. One type of primary
framework is natural frameworks, which identifies situations that happened in the natural
world, and is completely physical with no human influences. The other type of framework
is social framework, which explains events and connects it to humans. An example of
natural framework would be the weather and an example of social framework would be
people the meteorologist who reports people with the weather forecast. Goffman
concentrates more on the frameworks and tries to “ construct a general statement
regarding the structure, or form, of experiences individuals have at any moment of their
social life”
• Yu Hai: Western Social Theory:
- No.16. Cooley: The Social Self
- No.17. Thomas: The Four Wishes and the Definition of
the Situation
- No.18. Mead: The Self and Society
- No.19. Goffman: On Face-Work
- No.20. Goffman: The Presentation of Self
- No.21. Blumer: Sociological Implications of the thought
of George Herbert Mead