The dramatic model of Erving Goffman

In a theatrical performance, the characters interact on a specific stage with certain roles in order to represent a scenario. But the representation of roles it is not something that is limited to the theatrical or cinematographic field.

In our daily lives, we also often play different roles depending on the circumstances in which we live, the people with whom we interact and the expectations we have of our performance. In this way, certain theoretical perspectives consider that the human being acts in his contact with the others as if he were making a play. This is precisely what he offers the dramaturgical model of Erving Goffman, Focused on face-to-face social contact.

    In Goffman’s dramaturgical approach

    Erving Goffman’s approach or dramatic model is a way of interpreting social interaction in which the idea is proposed that any interaction is an action or a role represented towards the other or possible observers. Social interactions and our social structure are nothing more than the representation of roles that we have internalized so that they end up being part of our own identity.

    In any social situation that people exercise, some sort of role is played, which has changed depending on the interactive contexts. The person shows a specific type of information about himself depending on the situation and the intention, which will elicit different responses depending on how he is interpreted by his neighbor. As in the theater, in every interaction there are pre-established behavioral limits, A scenario to play in front of others.

    The basic idea of ​​this model is that the human being tries to control the impression that he generates in others interaction in order to bring this impression closer to his ideal self. Each contact is represented by a diagram of acts from which he can express his point of view on reality and interaction at the same time as he seeks to modify the evaluation of others.

    The dramatic model of Erving Goffman it starts from a conception of symbolic interactionism, In which the mind and the situation influence the realization of the behavior and the construction of the psyche from the construction and transmission of shared meanings referring to the symbols used in the interactive context.

      The scene

      Social interaction takes place in a given context or setting, which the author calls the establishment. In other words, it is the scenario in which the interaction takes place, in which impressions must be exchanged. It consists of the personal facade or internalized role and the public facade or image that we showed to the public when we represented it.

      In this scenario physical location and actors and roles converge everyone to set up the scene in which the actors will express themselves and be played.

      The actors and their interaction

      For there to be social interaction, one of the key components is the existence of someone to carry them out. These people, who interact, are the so-called actors.

      In an interaction, the different actors are in a situation of co-presence, i.e. mutual interaction, in which these people play specific roles and exchange impressions that will be used to understand the performance and act accordingly. The two subjects are both transmitters and receiversThey are both an actor and an audience.

      Moreover, during the interaction, impressions are transmitted both intentionally and consciously and involuntarily through contextual elements that are beyond the control and intentionality of the actor. Both types of elements will be captured and interpreted by the other, acting accordingly. Knowledge of this fact allows that contextual elements are used strategically to give different interpretations than they would have at another time or situation.

      The actor must try to manage the impressions he arouses in the audience so that they are interpreted as he sees fit, without falling into contradiction.

        The role or role

        Roles play a key role in the interaction between people, indicating the type of behavior they are expected to adopt in a given situation. They mainly indicate the position that each must take, as well as its status or the meaning that the culture gives to the role in question.

        These roles involve a process by which an influence is established from one person to another, Generate one performance by the other. Roles are an integral part of our bond with our peers and may vary depending on the scenario or contextual setting. Moreover, they are also related to the identity or concept of the Self.

          Identity according to the dramaturgical model

          The concept of the Self or the Self it is an element which for Goffman’s model supposes the product of the manipulation of the impressions of others so that these develop a determined and favorable image of the individual. Identity is a construction that human beings make of themselves for others from the roles they perform.

          So, people create a mainstream facade for their performance. This main role that we have played throughout our life, the integration of most of the roles, this is what we consider ourselves. It assumes that people are actually offering an appearance of themselves to others, trying to approach an ideal Self.

          Identity, the Self, it’s just the set of masks that we put on, What we express and project to others. We are what others interpret us from our interactions.

            Interpretation of social situations: meaning frames

            Another concept of Goffman’s dramaturgical model is that of the frame or frame, which is understood as the schema or perspective from which the social phenomenon is understood and allows the subject to organize his knowledge and experiences.

            These frames or frames they are largely donated by culture to which we belong and from which we acquire ways of interpreting our social world and the symbolisms that are part of it, as well as the situations in which we live, so that we can adjust our interaction with the environment.

            Knowing what is happening in a given situation requires these frameworks, which will be used as elements both to understand the reality of the interaction and to contribute to its realization by the individual. These frames can be primary, which they are used to understand natural or social events, But sometimes require secondary frames to give an act a purpose other than the original or to consciously manipulate the other’s perception of a particular action (respectively, modifications or fabrications).

            Bibliographical references:

            • Chihu, A. and López, A. (2000). Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical approach. UNAM, Mexico.
            • Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of oneself in everyday life. Doubleday anchor. New York.
            • Rivas, M. and López, M. (2012). Social and organizational psychology. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 11. CEDE. Madrid.

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