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University of Toronto St. George
Robert Brym

SOC101Y1 9/12/2012 9:01:00 AM Download lecture slides at : Suicide (book)  -Suicide is the most anti social act possible.  you kill society through yourself  rate of suicide is a function, not of state of mind but of social state  -Woman suffer from twice the rate of eurospenia but men are 3 times more likely to commit suicide rate is highest in non-protestants  -lack of correlation through phsyc. Distress and suicide people are embedded in social relationships but the nature of the social relations causes one in social distress may incline one to commit suicide or not,  -Social solidarity according to Durkheim: a group‘s level of social solidarity is determined by the frequency, which its members interact, and the degree to which they share beliefs, values and morals. Suicide rates are lowest at intermediate levels of social solidarity and highest at low and high levels of social solidarity.  Differentiates in diff social groups. Ex protestant groups are individualized and they are more likely to commit suicide  -Shared morality and social values lowers suicide risk  Read about the diff kinds of social solidarity  Egoistic suicide and anomic suicide --- altruistic suicide (for the good of others) (ex. To protect someone you die)  As social solidarity increases so does the suicide rate, as it decreases so does suicide.  Suicide rate is low when there is intermediate social solidarity  Durkheim sees how forms of disorder can be dealt worth through policy makers  To lower suicide and crime in this society would be to create free daycare, it would help to create solidarity and discipline.  Policies that would help deal with issues of interest  Discipline aimed to support human welfare  Explanations of how people behave in social science we test our theories, systematically, not like in science when it‘s ― x happened because of y‖  Figure – integral nature – god controls nature, which influences the human being etc.  In all of sharespeare plays something is out of order cause people to act the certain way, (Romeo and Juliet = star-crossed lovers)  3 revolutions took place before the sociological imagination th - Scientific (16 ) evidence to substantiate theories -Democratic revolution (18th) human action can change society th - Industrial revolution (19 ) gave sociologists their subject matter (caused great poverty, diminished worked rights) CULTURE 9/12/2012 9:01:00 AM  Culture o what we invent to problem solve o Hero‘s aeolopile – steam engine o Eventually became part of our culture when there was a need for it  Ex. Superstition doesn‘t become part of our culture until it becomes a practice o The atanasoff- Berry digital computer, 1939, insignificant until there was a need for it during world war 2 o We are blind to our own culture because we rarely think about it  Ethnocentrism- involves judging other cultures exclusively by the standards of ones own. It impairs our viewing of other cultures  Culture Relativism- the belief that all elements of all cultures should be respected as equally valid o Human dignity, equality, justice transcends through all cultures but where should the line be drawn? o Cliterectomy, should the line be drawn  Pink Floyd‘s ―another brick in the wall‖ o Portrays culture as a mechanism that constrains us (education as thought control which makes children just another brick inn the wall) o Culture is ―two faced‖ it also sets us free  Rationalization o Is the application of the most efficient means to achieve given goals and the often-unintended negative consequences of doing so.  Bureaucracy o is a large impersonal organization composed of many clearly defined positions arranged in hierarchy. It has a permanent salaried staff of qualified experts and written goals, rules and procedure. Staff members strive to achieve goals efficiently o ex. University of Toronto is a bureaucracy  Consumerism o Is a lifestyle that involves defining one‘s self in terms of the goods we purchase o Pressure of what kind of car does a person drive translates to what kind of person we believe the person is o We dress a certain way to tell people who we are, what groups we are members of or not members of o We advertise if were single or not, where we‘ve been , what kind of money we have  Advertising o Ex. Gap commercial  Selling.. sex, confidence, youth, being cool  ―it‘s not the steak it‘s the sizzle‖ o increases consumer debt, makes us work harder, creates stress/ depression o consumerism draws attention away from social issues, ex. Hip hop  negative consequences of consumerism o avril vs. brit style o shifts of style culture etc. Tradition focus Main Question Fashion Interpertation Functionalism Values -How do the -Ex. Audbury institutions of Hepburn society contribute -Popular until the to the social 60‘s stability? -Fashion cycles help to preservering the class system by allowing people of different rank to evaluate distinguish themselves Conflict Inequality -How do privileged -Fashion cycles groups maintain exist so the advantages and fashion industry subordinate groups can earn profits; seek to increase fashion distracts theirs, often consumers from causing social social problems change in the but the resulting process? equillbrium is precautious -Ex. Colour Mafia -Ex. Devil wears prada clip about the blue sweater -Ex. Legally Blonde, ― whoever said orange is the new pink is .. Symbolic Meaning How do individuals Because fashion interactionist communticate to cycles allow make their social people to settings communicate meaningful? their identity, which is always in Flux - the fashion industry feeds off what creates our identity Patriachy- Which social Fashion cycle Feminism system of structures and often ―imprision‖ male interaction women and domination processes maintain diminish them by male dominance turning them into and female sexual objects; subordination but they can also empower them. Ex. Lady gaga‘s video phone, her closes reinforce patriarchy. Some say it started with the spice girls 9/12/2012 9:01:00 AM Social Interaction (Lecture #3, SOC101Y, 26 Sep 12, R Brym) Feminist Theory, Emotions, and the Building Blocks of Social Interaction A few years ago, a researcher and his assistants eavesdropped on 1200 conversations of people laughing in public places, such as shopping malls (Provine, 2000). When they heard someone laughing, they recorded who laughed (the speaker, the listener, or both) and the gender of the speaker and the listener. To simplify things, they eavesdropped only on two-person groups. They found that women laugh more than men do in everyday conversations. The biggest discrepancy in laughing occurs when the speaker is a woman and the listener is a man. In such cases, women laugh more than twice as often as men do. However, even when a man speaks and a woman listens, the woman is more likely to laugh than the man is. Research also shows that men are more likely than women are to engage in long monologues and interrupt when others are talking (Tannen, 1994a, 1994b). Men are less likely to ask for help or directions because doing so would imply a reduction in their authority. Much male–female conflict results from these differences. A stereotypical case is the lost male driver and the helpful female passenger. The female passenger, seeing that the male driver is lost, suggests that they stop and ask for directions. The male driver does not want to ask for directions because he thinks that would make him look incompetent. If both parties remain firm in their positions, an argument is bound to result. Social interaction involves communication among people acting and reacting to one another, either face-to-face or via computer. Feminist sociologists are especially sensitive to gender differences in social interaction like those just described. They see that gender often structures interaction patterns. Consider laughter. If we define status as a recognized social position, it is generally true that people with higher status (in this case, men) get more laughs, while people with lower status (in this case, women) laugh more. That is perhaps why class clowns are nearly always boys. Similarly, a sociological study of laughter among staff members in a psychiatric hospital discovered what the researcher called ―downward humour‖ (Coser, 1960). At a series of staff meetings, the psychiatrists averaged 7.5 witticisms, the residents averaged 5.5, and the paramedics averaged a mere 0.7. The higher the status of a staff member, the more laughs they got. Moreover, the psychiatrists most often made the residents the target of their humour while the residents and the paramedics targeted the patients or themselves. Laughter in everyday life, it turns out, is not as spontaneous as you may think. It is often a signal of who has higher or lower status. Social structure influences who laughs more. Social statuses are just one of three building blocks that structure all social interactions. The others are roles and norms. A role is a set of expected behaviours. Whereas people occupy a status, they perform a role. Students may learn to expect that when things get dull, the class clown will brighten their day. The class clown will rise to the occasion, knowing that his fellow students expect him to do so. A norm is a generally accepted way of doing things. Classroom norms are imposed by instructors, who routinely punish class clowns for distracting their classmates from the task at hand. 1 Emotion Management Some scholars think that laughter and other emotions are like the common cold. In both cases, an external disturbance causes a reaction that people presumably experience involuntarily. For example, the external disturbance could be a grizzly bear attack that causes us to experience fear, or exposure to a virus that causes us to catch cold. In either case, we can‘t control our body‘s patterned response. Emotions, like colds, just happen to us (Thoits, 1989: 319). It is not surprising that feminists were among the first sociologists to note the flaw in the view that emotional responses are typically involuntary (Hochschild, 1979, 1983). Seeing how often women, as status subordinates, must control their emotions, they generalized the idea. Emotions don‘t just happen to us, they argued. We manage them. If a grizzly bear attacks you in the woods, you can run as fast as possible or calm yourself, lie down, play dead, and silently pray for the best. You are more likely to survive the grizzly bear attack if you control your emotions and follow the second strategy. You will also temper your fear with a new emotion: hope (see Figure 1). FIGURE 1 How We Get Emotional external stimulus For example, a grizzly bear attacks. physiological response and initial emotion Your pulse rate increases etc.; you experience fear. cultural script You have learned that lying still and playing dead increases the chance the grizzly bear will lose interest in you. modified emotional response Still fearful,
 you act according to the cultural script, which gives you hope. When people manage their emotions, they usually follow certain cultural ―scripts,‖ like the culturally transmitted knowledge that lying down and playing dead gives you a better chance of surviving a grizzly bear attack. That is, individuals usually know the culturally designated emotional response to a particular external stimulus and try to respond appropriately. If they 2 don‘t succeed in achieving the culturally appropriate emotional response, they are likely to feel guilt, disappointment, or (as in the case of the grizzly bear attack) something much worse. Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild is a leading figure in the study of emotion management. In fact, she coined the term. She argues that emotion management involves people obeying ―feeling rules‖ and responding appropriately to the situations in which they find themselves (Hochschild, 1979, 1983). So, for example, people talk about the ―right‖ to feel angry and they acknowledge that they ―should‖ have mourned a relative‘s death more deeply. People have conventional expectations not only about what they should feel but also about how much they should feel, how long they should feel it, and with whom they should share those feelings. For example, we are expected to mourn the end of a love relationship. Canadians today regard shedding tears as completely natural in such a case, though if you shot yourself—a fad among some European Romantics in the early nineteenth century—then the average Canadian would consider you deranged. If you go on a date minutes after you break up with your long-time love, most people will regard you as callous. Norms and rules govern our emotional life. Emotion Labour Hochschild distinguishes emotion management (which everyone does in their everyday life) from emotion labour (which many people do as part of their job and for which they are paid). We‘ve all seen teachers discipline students who routinely hand in assignments late, pass notes, chatter during class, talk back, and act as class clowns. Those teachers do emotion labour. Similarly, sales clerks, nurses, and flight attendants must be experts in emotion labour. They spend a considerable part of their workday dealing with other people‘s misbehaviour, anger, rudeness, and unreasonable demands. They spend another part of their workday in what is essentially promotional and public relations work on behalf of the organizations that employ them. (―We hope you enjoyed your flight on Air Canada and that we can serve you again the next time your travel.‖) In all these tasks, they carefully manage their own emotions while trying to render their clientele happy and orderly. Hochschild estimates that in the United States, nearly half the jobs women do and one-fifth of the jobs men do involve substantial amounts of emotion labour. More women than men do emotion labour because they are typically better socialized to undertake caring and nurturing roles. Note too that as the focus of the economy shifts from the production of goods to the production of services, the market for emotion labour grows. More and more people are selected, trained, and paid for their skill in emotion labour. Consequently, business organizations increasingly govern the expression of feelings at work, which becomes less spontaneous and authentic over time. This process affects women more than it does men because women do more emotion labour than men do. Emotions in Historical Perspective Social structure impinges on emotional experiences in many ways. As we have seen, status hierarchies influence patterns of laughter. Cultural scripts and the expectations of others influence the way we manage our emotions in our personal lives. The growth of the economy‘s service sector requires more emotion labour, turns it into a commodity, and decreases the ability of people to experience emotions spontaneously and authentically. In these and other ways, the commonsense view of emotions as unique, spontaneous, uncontrollable, authentic, natural, and perhaps even rooted exclusively in our biological makeup proves to be misguided. 3 We can glean additional evidence of the impact of society on our emotional life from socio-historical studies. It turns out that feeling rules take different forms under different social conditions, which vary historically. Three examples from the social history of emotions help illustrate the point: Grief. Among other factors, the crude death rate (the annual number of deaths per 1000 people in a population) helps determine our experience of grief (Lofland, 1985). In Europe as late as 1600, life expectancy was only 35 years. Many infants died at birth or in their first year of life. Infectious diseases decimated populations. The medical profession was in its infancy. The risk of losing family members, especially babies, was thus much greater than today. One result of this situation was that people invested less emotionally in their children than we typically do. Their grief response to the death of children was shorter and less intense than ours is; the mourning period was briefer and people became less distraught. As health conditions improved and the infant mortality rate fell over the years, emotional investment in children increased. It intensified especially in the nineteenth century when women starting having fewer babies on average as a result of industrialization. As emotional investment in children increased, grief response to children‘s deaths intensified and lasted longer. Anger. Industrialization and the growth of competitive markets in nineteenth-century North America and Europe turned the family into an emotional haven from a world increasingly perceived as heartless. In keeping with the enhanced emotional function of the family, anger control, particularly by women, became increasingly important for the establishment of a harmonious household. The early twentieth century witnessed mounting labour unrest and the growth of the service sector. Avoiding anger thus became an important labour relations goal. This trend influenced family life too. Child-rearing advice manuals increasingly stressed the importance of teaching children how to control their anger (Stearns and Stearns, 1985, 1986). Disgust. Manners in Europe in the Middle Ages were disgusting by our standards. Even the most refined aristocrats spat in public and belched shamelessly during banquets. Members of high society did not think twice about scratching themselves in places we regard as private and passing gas at the dinner table, where they ate with their hands and speared food with knives. What was acceptable then causes revulsion now because feeling rules have changed. Specifically, manners began to change with the emergence of the modern political state, especially after 1700. The modern political state raised armies and collected taxes, imposed languages and required loyalty. All this coordination of effort necessitated more self-control on the part of the citizenry. Changes in standards of public conduct— signalled by the introduction of the fork, the nightdress, the handkerchief, the spittoon, and the chamber pot— accompanied the rise of the modern state. Good manners also served to define who had power and who lacked it. For example, there is nothing inherently well-mannered about a father sitting at the head of the table carving the turkey and children waiting to speak until they are spoken to. These rules about the difference between good manners and improper behaviour were created to signify the distribution of power in the family by age and gender (Elias, 1994 [1939]; Scott, 1998). 4 We thus see that although emotions form an important part of all social interactions, they are neither universal nor constant. They have histories and deep sociological underpinnings in statuses, roles, and norms. This observation flies in the face of common sense. We typically think of our interactions as outcomes of our emotional states. We commonly believe that we interact differently with people depending on whether they love us, make us angry, or make us laugh. We usually think our emotions are evoked involuntarily and result in uncontrollable action. However, emotions are not as unique, involuntary, and uncontrollable as people often believe. Underlying the turbulence of emotional life is a measure of order and predictability governed by sociological principles that vary historically. Just as building blocks need cement to hold them together, so norms, roles, and statuses require a sort of ―social cement‖ to prevent them from falling apart and to turn them into a durable social structure. What is the nature of the cement that holds the building blocks of social life together? Asked differently, exactly how is social interaction maintained? This is the most fundamental sociological question one can ask, for it is really a question about how social structures, and society as a whole, are possible. Conflict Theories of Social Interaction Competing for Attention Have you ever been in a conversation where you couldn‘t get a word in edgewise? If you are like most people, this situation is bound to happen occasionally. The longer this kind of one-sided conversation persists, the more neglected you feel. You may make increasingly forceful attempts to turn the conversation your way. However, if you fail, you may decide to end the interaction altogether. If this experience repeats itself—if the person you are talking to persistently monopolizes conversations—you are likely to want to avoid getting into conversations with him or her in the future. Maintaining interaction (and maintaining a relationship) requires that both parties‘ need for attention is met. (For an example of what can happen when this need is not met, see this online video clip.) Most people do not consistently try to monopolize conversations. If they did, there wouldn‘t be much talk in the world. In fact, turn-taking is one of the basic norms that govern conversations; people literally take turns talking to make conversation possible. Nonetheless, a remarkably large part of all conversations involves a subtle competition for attention. Consider the following snippet of dinner conversation: John: ―I‘m feeling really starved.‖
 Mary: ―Oh, I just ate.‖
 John: ―Well, I‘m feeling really starved.‖ Mary: ―When was the last time you ate?‖ Charles Derber recorded this conversation (Derber, 1979: 24). John starts by saying how hungry he is. The attention is on him. Mary replies that she is not hungry, and the attention shifts to her. John insists he is hungry, shifting attention back to him. Mary finally allows the conversation to focus on John by asking him when he last ate. John thus ―wins‖ the competition for attention. Derber recorded 1500 conversations in family homes, workplaces, restaurants, classrooms, dormitories, and therapy groups. He concluded that North Americans usually try to 5 turn conversations toward themselves. They usually do so in ways that go unnoticed. Nonetheless, says Derber, the typical conversation is a covert competition for attention. In Derber‘s words, there exists a set of extremely common conversational practices which show an unresponsiveness to others‘ topics and involve turning them into one‘s own. Because of norms prohibiting blatantly egocentric behaviour, these practices are often exquisitely subtle.... Although conversationalists are free to introduce topics about themselves, they are expected to maintain an appearance of genuine interest in [topics] about others in a conversation. A delicate face-saving system requires that people refrain from openly disregarding others‘ concerns and keep expressions of disinterest from becoming visible. (1979: 23) You can observe the competition for attention yourself. Record a couple of minutes of conversation in your dorm, home, or workplace. Then play back the recording. Evaluate each statement in the conversation. Does the statement try to change who is the subject of the conversation? Or does it say something about the other conversationalists or ask them about what they said? How does not responding or merely saying ―uh-huh‖ in response operate to shift attention? Are other conversational techniques especially effective in shifting attention? Who ―wins‖ the conversation? What is the winner‘s gender, race, and class position? Is the winner popular or unpopular? Do you think a connection exists between the person‘s status in the group and his or her ability to win? You might even want to record yourself in conversation. Where do you fit in? Derber‘s analysis is influenced by conflict theory, which holds that social interaction involves competition over valued resources. Such resources include attention, approval, prestige, information, money, and so on (Blau, 1964; Coleman, 1990; Hechter, 1987; Homans, 1961). According to conflict theorists, competitive interaction involves people seeking to gain the most— socially, emotionally, and economically—while paying the least. Variants of the Conflict Theory of Interaction The idea that social interaction involves trade in attention and other valued resources is the central insight of exchange theory, one variant of the conflict theory of interaction (Blau, 1964; Homans, 1961). Exchange theorists argue that all social relationships involve a literal give and take. From this point of view, when people interact, they exchange valued resources (including attention, pleasure, approval, prestige, information, and money) or punishments. With payoffs, relationships endure and can give rise to various organizational forms. Without payoffs, relationships end. Paradoxically, relationships can also endure because punishments are exchanged. The classic case involves ―tit-for-tat‖ violence, where one party to a conflict engages in violence, another party retaliates, the first party seeks revenge, and so on. A second variant of this approach is rational choice theory (Coleman, 1990; Hechter, 1987). Rational choice theory focuses less on the resources exchanged than on the way interacting people weigh the benefits and costs of interaction. According to rational choice theory, interacting people always try to maximize benefits and minimize costs. Businesspeople want to keep their expenses to a minimum so they can keep their profits as high as possible. Similarly, everyone wants to gain the most from their interactions—socially, emotionally, and economically—while paying the least. 6 From this point of view, the chance of a relationship enduring increases if it provides the interacting parties with payoffs. Ultimately, then, payoffs make social order possible. On the other hand, unequal payoffs mean trouble. The greater the inequality of payoffs to interacting parties, the greater the chance that conflict will erupt and lead to a breakdown in the interaction. Thus, conflict never lies far below the surface of competitive social interactions marked by substantial inequality (Bourdieu, 1977 [1972]; Collins, 1982). Power and Social Interaction Many conflict theorists of social interaction emphasize that when people interact, their statuses are often arranged in a hierarchy. People on top enjoy more power than those on the bottom— that is, they are ―in a position to carry out [their] own will despite resistance‖ (Weber, 1947: 152). In face- to-face communication, the degree of inequality strongly affects the character of social interaction between the interacting parties (Bourdieu, 1977 [1972]; Collins, 1982; Kemper, 1978, 1987; Molm, 1997). To get a better grasp on the role of power in social interaction, consider two extreme cases and the case that lies at the midpoint between the extremes (Table 1). Domination represents one extreme type of interaction. In social interaction based on domination, nearly all power is concentrated in the hands of people of similar status, whereas people of different status enjoy almost no power. Guards versus inmates in a concentration camp, and landowners versus slaves on plantations in the American South before the Civil War were engaged in social interaction based on domination. In extreme cases of domination, subordinates live in a state of near-constant fear. TABLE 1
 Main Modes of Interaction The other extreme involves interaction based on cooperation. Here, power is more or less equally distributed between people of different status. Cooperative interaction is based on feelings of trust. Marriages are happier when spouses share housework and child care equitably. Perceived inequity breeds resentment and dissatisfaction. It harms intimacy. It increases the chance that people will have extramarital affairs and will divorce. In contrast, a high level of trust between spouses is associated with marital stability and enduring love (Wood, 1999). Between the two extremes of interaction based on domination and interaction based on cooperation is interaction based on competition. In this mode of interaction, power is unequally distributed but the degree of inequality is less than in systems of domination. If trust is the prototypical emotion of relationships based on cooperation, and fear is the characteristic emotion of subordinates involved in relationships based on domination, envy is an important emotion in competitive interaction. Mode of Interaction Cooperatio Domination Competitio n n Level of inequality High Low Medium Characteristic Fear Trust emotion Envy Efficiency Low Medium High 7 Significantly, the mode of interaction in an organization strongly influences its efficiency or productivity, that is, its ability to achieve its goals at the least possible cost. Thus, African- American slaves on plantations in the pre- Civil War South, and Jews in Nazi concentration camps, were usually regarded as slow and inept workers by their masters (Collins, 1982: 66–69). This characterization was not just a matter of prejudice. Slavery is inefficient because, in the final analysis, fear of coercion is the only motivation for slaves to work. Yet as psychologists have known for more than half a century, punishment is a far less effective motivator than is reward (Skinner, 1953). Slaves hate the tedious and often back-breaking labour, they get little in exchange for it, and therefore they typically work with less than maximum effort. In a competitive mode of interaction, subordinates receive more benefits, including prestige and money. Prestige and money are stronger motivators than the threat of coercion is. Thus, if bosses pay workers reasonably well and treat them with respect, they will work more efficiently than slaves will, even if they do not particularly enjoy their work or identify with the goals of the company. Knowing they can make more money by working harder and that their efforts are appreciated, workers will often put in extra effort (Collins, 1982: 63–65). As sociologist Randall Collins and others have shown, however, the most efficient workers are those who enjoy their work and identify with their employer (Collins, 1982: 60–85; Lowe, 2000). Giving workers a bigger say in decision making, encouraging worker creativity, and ensuring that salaries and perks are not too highly skewed in favour of those on top all help to create high worker morale and foster a more cooperative work environment. Company picnics, baseball games, and, in Japan, the singing of company songs before the workday begins, all help workers feel they are in harmony with their employer and are playing on the same team. Similarly, although sales meetings and other conferences have an instrumental purpose (the discussion of sales strategies, new products, and so on), they also offer opportunities for friendly social interaction that increases workers‘ identification with their employer. When workers identify strongly with their employers, they will be willing to undergo self-sacrifice, take the initiative, and give their best creative effort, even without the prospect of increased material gain. Symbolic Interaction Is social interaction always a competitive and conflict-prone struggle over valued resources, as conflict theorists suggest? A moment‘s reflection suggests otherwise. People frequently act in ways they consider fair or just, even if that does not maximize their personal gain (Gamson, Fireman, and Rytina, 1982). Some people even engage in altruistic or heroic acts from which they gain nothing and risk much. The plain fact is that social life is richer than conflict theorists would have us believe. Selfishness and conflict are not the only bases of social interaction. When people behave fairly or altruistically, they are interacting with others based on norms they have learned. These norms say they should act justly and help people in need, even if it costs a lot to do so. How then do people learn norms (as well as roles and statuses)? The first step involves what George Herbert Mead called ―taking the role of the other,‖ that is, seeing yourself from the point of view of the people with whom you interact. According to Mead, we interpret other people‘s words and nonverbal signals in order to understand how they see us, and we adjust our behaviour to fit their expectations about how we ought to behave. During such symbolic interaction, we learn norms and adopt roles and statuses. Such social learning is different from studying a user manual or a textbook. It involves constantly negotiating and modifying the norms, roles, and statuses that we meet as we interact with others, shaping them to suit our preferences. People learn norms, roles, and statuses actively 8 and creatively, not passively and mechanically (Berger and Luckmann, 1966; Blumer, 1969; Strauss, 1993). Let us explore this theme by considering the ingenious ways in which people manage the impressions they give to others during social interaction. Goffman‘s Dramaturgical Analysis One of the most popular variants of symbolic interactionism is dramaturgical analysis. As first developed by Erving Goffman (1959), dramaturgical analysis takes literally Shakespeare‘s line from As You Like It: ―All the world‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.‖ From Goffman‘s point of view, people are constantly engaging in role- playing. This fact is most evident when we are ―front stage‖ in public settings. Just as being front stage in a play requires the use of props, set gestures, and memorized lines, so does acting in public space. A server in a restaurant, for example, must dress in a uniform, smile, and recite fixed lines (―How are you? My name is Sam and I‘m your server today. May I get you a drink before you order your meal?‖). When the server goes ―backstage,‖ he or she can relax from the front-stage performance and discuss it with fellow actors (―Those kids at table six are driving me nuts!‖). Thus, we often distinguish between our public roles and our ―true‖ selves. Note, however, that even backstage we engage in role-playing and impression management; it‘s just that we are less likely to be aware of it. For instance, in the kitchen, a server may try to present herself in the best possible light to impress another server so that she can eventually ask him out for a date. Thus, the implication of dramaturgical analysis is that there is no single self, just the ensemble of roles we play in various social contexts. Servers in restaurants play many roles off the job. They play on basketball teams, sing in church choirs, and hang out with friends at shopping malls. Each role is governed by norms about what kinds of clothes to wear, what kind of conversation to engage in, and so on. Everyone plays on many front stages in everyday life. They do not always do so enthusiastically. If a role is stressful, people may engage in role distancing. Role distancing involves giving the impression of just ―going through the motions‖ but lacking serious commitment to a role. Thus, when people think a role they are playing is embarrassing or beneath them, they typically want to give their peers the impression that the role is not their ―true‖ self. My parents force me to sing in the church choir; I‘m working at McDonald‘s just to earn a few extra dollars, but I‘m going back to college next semester; this old car I‘m driving is just a loaner. These are the kinds of rationalizations individuals offer when distancing themselves from a role. Onstage, people typically try to place themselves in the best possible light; they engage in ―impression management.‖ For example, when students enter medical school they quickly adopt a new medical vocabulary and wear a white lab coat to set themselves apart from patients. They try to model their behaviour after the doctors who have authority over them. When dealing with patients, they may hide their ignorance under medical jargon to maintain their authority. They may ask questions they know the answer to so that they can impress their teachers. According to one third-year student, ―The best way of impressing [advisers] with your competence is asking questions you know the answer to. Because if they ever put it back on you, ‗Well what do you think?‘ then you can tell them what you think and you‘d give a very intelligent answer because you knew it. You didn‘t ask it to find out information. You ask it to impress people.‖ Medical students don‘t take a course in how to act like a doctor, but they learn their new role in the course of impression management (Haas and Shaffir, 1987). Let us now inquire briefly into the way people use words and nonverbal signals to communicate in face-to-face interaction. Having a conversation is actually a wonder of intricate 9 complexity; even today‘s most advanced super-computer cannot conduct a natural-sounding conversation with a person (Kurzweil, 1999: 61, 91). Ethnomethodology Goffman‘s view of social interaction seems cynical. He portrays people as inauthentic, or constantly playing roles but never really being themselves. His mindset is not much different from that of Holden Caulfield, the antihero of J. D. Salinger‘s The Catcher in the Rye. To Holden Caulfield, all adults seem ―phony,‖ ―hypocritical,‖ and ―fake,‖ constantly pretending to be people they are not. However discomforting Goffman‘s cynicism may be, we should not overlook his valuable sociological point: The stability of social life depends on our adherence to norms, roles, and statuses. If that adherence broke down, social life would become chaotic. Take something as simple as walking down a busy street. Hordes of pedestrians rush toward you yet rarely collide with you. Collision is avoided because of a norm that nobody actually teaches and few people are aware of but almost everyone follows. If someone blocks your way, you move to the right. When you move to the right and the person walking toward you moves to the right (which is your left), you avoid bumping into each other. Similarly, consider the norm of ―civil inattention.‖ When we pass people in public, we may establish momentary eye contact out of friendliness but we usually look away quickly. According to Goffman, such a gesture is a ―ritual‖ of respect, a patterned and expected action that affirms our respect for strangers. Just imagine what would happen if you fixed your stare at a stranger for a few seconds longer than the norm. Rather than being seen as respectful, your intention might be viewed as rude, intrusive, or hostile. Thus, we would not even be able to walk down a street in peace were it not for the existence of certain unstated norms. These and many other norms, some explicit and some not, make an orderly social life possible (Goffman, 1963, 1971). By emphasizing how we construct social reality in the course of interaction, symbolic interactionists downplay the importance of norms and understandings that precede any given interaction. Ethnomethodology tries to correct this shortcoming. Ethnomethodology is the study of the methods ordinary people use, often unconsciously, to make sense of what others do and say. Ethnomethodologists stress that everyday interactions could not take place without preexisting shared norms and understandings. The norm of moving to the right to avoid bumping into an oncoming pedestrian and the norm of civil inattention are both examples of preexisting shared norms and understandings. To illustrate the importance of preexisting shared norms and understandings, Harold Garfinkel conducted a series of experiments. In one such experiment he asked one of his students to interpret a casual greeting in an unexpected way (Garfinkel, 1967: 44): Acquaintance: [waving cheerily] How are you?
 Student: How am I in regard to what? My health, my finances, my schoolwork, my peace of mind, my ...?
 Acquaintance: [red in the face and suddenly out of control] Look! I was just trying to be polite. Frankly, I don‘t give a damn how you are. As this example shows, social interaction requires tacit agreement between the actors about what is normal and expected. Without shared norms and understandings, no sustained 10 interaction can occur. People are likely to get upset and end an interaction when someone violates the assumptions underlying the stability and meaning of daily life. Assuming the existence of shared norms and understandings, let us now inquire briefly into the way people communicate in face-to-face interaction. This issue may seem trivial. However, as you will soon see, having a conversation is actually a wonder of intricate complexity. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Fifty years ago an article appeared in the British newspaper News Chronicle, trumpeting the invention of an electronic translating device at the University of London. According to the article, ―[a]s fast as [a user] could type the words in, say, French, the equivalent in Hungarian or Russian would issue forth on the tape‖ (quoted in Silberman, 2000: 225). The report was an exaggeration, to put it mildly. It soon became a standing joke that if you ask a computer to translate ―The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak‖ into Russian, the output would read, ―The vodka is good, but the steak is lousy.‖ Today, we are closer to high-quality machine translation than we were in the 1950s. However, a practical Universal Translator exists only on Star Trek. The Social Context of Language Why can people translate better than computers can? Because computer programs find it difficult to make sense of the social and cultural context in which language is used. The same words can mean different things in different settings, so computers, lacking contextual cues, routinely botch translations. That is why machine translation works best when applications are restricted to a single social context—say, weather forecasting or oil exploration. In such cases, specialized vocabularies and meanings specific to the context of interest are built into the program. Ambiguity is reduced and computers can ―understand‖ the meaning of words well enough to translate them with reasonable accuracy. Similarly, humans must be able to reduce ambiguity and make sense of words to become good translators. They do so by learning the nuances of meaning in different cultural and social contexts over an extended time. Nonverbal cues assist them in this task. Facial Expressions, Gestures, and Body Language A few years ago, Cosmopolitan magazine featured an article advising female readers on ―how to reduce otherwise evolved men to drooling, panting fools.‖ Basing his analysis on the work of several psychologists, the author of the article first urges readers to ―delete the old-school seductress image (smoky eyes, red lips, brazen stare) from your consciousness.‖ Then, he writes, you must ―upload a new inner temptress who‘s equal parts good girl and wild child.‖ The article recommends invading a man‘s personal space and entering his ―intimate zone‖ by finding an excuse to touch him. Picking a piece of lint off his jacket ought to do the trick. Then you can tell him how much you like his cologne (Willardt, 2000). If things progress, another article in the same issue of Cosmopolitan explains how you can read his body language to tell whether he‘s lying (Dutton, 2000). Whatever we may think of the soundness of Cosmopolitan‘s advice or the images of women and men it tries to reinforce, this example drives home the point that social interaction typically involves a complex mix of verbal and nonverbal messages. The face alone is capable of more than a thousand distinct expressions, reflecting the whole range of human emotion. Arm 11 movements, hand gestures, posture, and other aspects of body language send many more messages to a person‘s audience (Wood, 1999). Despite the wide variety of facial expressions in the human repertoire, most researchers believed until recently that the facial expressions of six emotions are similar across cultures. These six emotions are happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, and surprise (Ekman, 1978). However, since the mid- 1990s, some researchers have questioned whether a universally recognized set of facial expressions reflects basic human emotions. Among other things, critics have argued that ―facial expressions are not the readout of emotions but displays that serve social motives and are mostly determined by the presence of an audience‖ (Fernandez-Dols, Sanchez, Carrera, and Ruiz- Belda, 1997: 163). From this point of view, a smile will reflect pleasure if it serves a person‘s interest to present a smiling face to his or her audience. Conversely, a person may be motivated to conceal anxiety by smiling or to conceal pleasure by suppressing a smile. At times, different cultural expectations can lead to colossal misunderstanding. Until recently, it was considered rude among educated Japanese to say no. Disagreement was instead conveyed by discreetly changing the subject and smiling politely. Consequently, it was common for visiting North Americans to think that their Japanese hosts were saying yes because of the politeness, the smile, and the absence of a no, when in fact they were saying no. Similarly, no gestures or body postures mean the same thing in all societies and all cultures. In our society, people point with an outstretched hand and an extended finger. However, people raised in other cultures tip their head or use their chin or eyes to point out something. We nod our heads yes and shake no, but others nod no and shake yes. Similarly, no gestures or body postures mean the same thing in all societies and all cultures. In our society, people point with an outstretched hand and an extended finger. However, people raised in other cultures tip their head or use their chin or eyes to point out something. We nod our heads ―yes‖ and shake ―no,‖ but others nod ―no‖ and shake ―yes‖ (see Figure 2). FIGURE 2 The ―Fig‖ Finally, we must note that in all societies people communicate by manipulating the space that separates them from others (Hall, 1959, 1966). This point is well illustrated in our Like many hand gestures, the ―fig‖ means different things in different times and places. We probably know it as a sign that adults make when they play with children and pretend ―I‘ve got your nose.‖ But in ancient Rome, the fig was meant to convey good luck, in India it represents a threat, and in Russia, Turkey, and South Korea it means ―screw you.‖ It means ―T‖ in the American Sign Language alphabet, but it had to be modified in the
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