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SOCA01H3 (480)
Chapter 5

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Sheldon Ungar

Chapter 5: Social Interaction FEMINIST THEORY, EMOTIONS, AND THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF SOCIAL INTERACTION - research shows that men are more likely than women are to engage in long monologues and interrupt when others are talking - 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 - social interaction - Involves people communicating face to face or via computer and acting and reacting in relation to other people. It is structured around norms, roles, and statuses. - feminist sociologists are especially sensitive to gender differences in social interaction - they see that gender often structures interaction patterns - status - Refers to a recognized social position an individual can occupy. - 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 - roles - Are sets of expected behaviours. - norms - Are generally accepted ways of doing things. Emotion Management - sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild is a leading figure in the study of emotion management - emotion management - Involves people obeying “feeling rules” and responding appropriately to the situations in which they find themselves. - 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 - norms and rules govern our emotional life Emotion Labour - Hochschild distinguishes emotion management from emotion labour - emotion labour - Emotion management that many people do as part of their job and for which they are paid. - more women than men do emotion labour because they are typically better socialized to undertake caring and nurturing roles Emotion in Historical Perspective - social structure impinges on emotional experiences in many ways - cultural structures and the expectations of others influence the way we manage our emotions in our personal lives - 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 helps determine our experience of grief - infectious diseases decimated populations - the risk of losing family members, especially babies, was thus much greater than it is today - one result of this situation was that people invested less emotionally in children than we typically do - their grief response to the death 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 - 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 - avoiding anger thus became an important labour relations goal - this trend influenced family life too - disgust - manners in Europe in the Middle Ages were disgusting by our standards - good manners also served to define who had power and who lacked it - 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 - 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 - we usually think our emotions are evoked involuntarily and result in uncontrollable action - underlying the turbulence of emotional life is a measure of order and predictability governed by sociological principles that vary historically CONFLICT THEORIES OF SOCIAL INTERACTION Competing for Attention - turn-taking is one of the basic norms that govern conversions; people take turns talking to make conversation possible - the typical conversation is a covert competition for attention - 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 - 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 - exchange theory - Holds that social interaction involves trade in valued resources. - 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 or punishments - 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 - rational choice theory - Focuses 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. - everyone wants to gain the most from their interactions – socially, emotionally, and economically – while paying the least - 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 Power and Social Interaction - many conflict theorists of social interaction emphasize that when people interact, their s
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