Chapter 22: Social Interaction
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Figure 22.1. The dynamics of unspoken conversation. (Image courtesy of Yusaini Usulludin/Flickr)

Learning Objectives

22.1. Micro-Level Interaction

Describe the social dimensions of emotional life.Understand the sociological principle of “reality as a social construct.”Describe the influence of social duties on individual identities and also status.Use Goffman’s dramaturgical perspective to describe the social dynamics of self-presentation.

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 Introduction to Social Interaction

Face-to-challenge interaction of also the easiest kind is a far even more socially detailed operation than we mostly recognize. It is rife via unidentified rituals, tacit understandings, surprise symbolic extransforms, impression administration techniques, and calculated strategic maneuverings.

The Canadian sociologist Erving Goffmale visited the Shetland Islands in the 1950s to carry out fieldjob-related on the social framework of the island also community for his PhD dissertation. However before, he found that the complex interpersonal relationships in the hotel he continued to be at to be a much richer website for social examine. The theories that became the basis for his dramaturgical approach in The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life (1959) arisen from his comprehensive monitorings of the intricate “interactivity rituals” in day-to-day social interactivity.

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Figure 22.2. “The face is choose a switch on a railroad track. It affects the trajectory of the social interaction the way the switch would certainly impact the path of the train” (Alan Fridlund, 1994). (Image courtesy of Derrick Tyson/Flickr).

Goffmale defines the means that world try to control the impression they make on others in social encounters. They want to be got well. They desire to be taken as credible. At the very same time, the others are interested in checking up on the person’s sincerity, trustworthiness and basic suitcapacity as someone worth spending time with. In face-to-confront encounters in “actual time,” they could not have actually access to information from the person’s background. So in the lack of confirming or disconfirming information that the perkid is as they claim, they compare what the perboy deliberately expresses about themselves versus various other expressions that the perkid unintentionally “offers off”: facial expressions, mannerisms, gestures, nervousness, top quality of clothes, application of make-up, use of language and also so on. This dynamic between a person’s self-presentation and also the audience’s important discernment sets in movement a number of micro-level structures that govern the course of social interactions no matter their particular content.

In the Shetland also Islands, Goffmale observed just how islanders were sometimes amused to watch the manners of neighbors who dropped in for a cup of tea. As tright here were no impediments to the view in front of the basic cottages and also no electrical lights inside, they were well positioned to watch just how the neighbour would certainly drop one expression as he or she approached and embrace another as they gotten in the door. The visitor consciously composed his or her “social face” by adopting a “warm expectant smile.” Based on these cues the hosts were able to judge how the neighbour really felt around them. However, other neighbors who were aware of this dynamic of examination, embraced a social confront well prior to turning into the cottage “therefore ensuring the forecast of a consistent image” (Goffguy, 1959). Successful impression monitoring requires an awareness of both the expressions that one provides and the expressions that one provides off. In this manner Goffguy examines exactly how impression management in social interaction constantly entails some degree of cynical performance.

In his essay “On Face-Work,” Goffguy (1972) says that individuals in any social encounter attempt to develop and act out a line, not unchoose the pick-up line a suitor might try out on a potential companion in a bar. The line the individual adopts in any type of social enrespond to expresses their see of the instance, their perspective towards the other members of the group, and also particularly, their mindset in the direction of themselves. Consciously or unconsciously, they decide what “line” they are going to require to respond to the case. Their line could be, “I’ve been down on my luck, deserve to you assist me out?” or “I recognize more around wine than that male, so I’m going to let him know it” or “I am really polite so I am not going to say directly that the dress does nopoint for her,” etc.

As a result of this line, they current a details face to the team that Goffmale explains as a case to a “positive social value” for themselves.


Face is a picture of self delineated in terms of apshowed social attributes–albeit a photo that others may share, as when a perboy makes a great showing for his profession or religious beliefs by making a good mirroring for himself (Goffman, 1972).

They current themselves as humble, sincere, knowledgeable, decisive, aggressive, or easygoing, depending upon the circumstances and also the nature of the social crowd current. Goffman remarks that whether they purposely take a certain line or existing a particular challenge, or not, they will discover that the others assume they have actually done so and also will act towards them as necessary.

As such, the dynamics of social encounters play out based on whether an individual is effective in his or her bid to “maintain face” or whether they make a gaff or perform something that inadvertently interrupts their performance. If they are a professor, they can misspell a word on the blackboard, which undermines their case to rarefied expertise and erudition. If they are a brand-new MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly), they could have to account for inappropriate pictures or articles on their Facebook web page which undermine their insurance claim to have the requisite responsibility and perspicuity for the project. If they are a driver, the hint of liquor on their breath can weaken the appearance of sobriety they wish to screen to a police officer at a inspect soptimal. Then it becomes a question of whether they deserve to “save face” or whether they will certainly end up “shame challenged.” Goffman calls the monitoring of one’s face in light of the responses of others—just how we make it regular via the line we are acting out, just how we make adjustments to cover over inconsistencies or cases, etc.—face-work.

The stselection insight that Goffmale uses is that one’s “face”—essentially positive social features one clintends for oneself in any type of instance, but also one’s actual face (its expressiveness, nonverbal cues, potential for betrayal)—does not really belengthy to the individual:


A perkid may be sassist to have, or be in or maintain confront once the line he successfully takes presents an image of him that is internally regular, that is supported by judgments and also evidence conveyed by other participants, and also that is evidenced by evidence conveyed through impersonal agencies in the case. At such times the person’s confront clearly is something that is not lodged in or on his body, yet quite somepoint that is diffusely situated in the flow of events in the encounter and also becomes manifest only when these events are read and also construed for the appraisals expressed in them. (1972, pp. 6–7)

The acceptance or rejection of one’s confront is in the hands of the others who generally are all set to accommodate little glitches in performance, but not inabsolutely. In Goffman’s evaluation, a social enrespond to is a precarious affair in which each of the participants desperately wishes to endure without disaster or mishap. An elaborate device of tact and also etiquette evolves to which the participants in a face-to-challenge encounter consciously or unconsciously submit, also when they have their doubts about the credibility of a performance, so that the group as a whole deserve to preserve confront. If the disruption to someone’s challenge becomes also severe but a “scene” is developed and also the encounter falls acomponent. Goffguy illustprices the way in which also the seemingly cost-free and spontaneous interactions of day-to-day life are governed by intricate and also predictable frameworks of self-presentation and also shared accommodation.

22.1. Micro-level Interaction

Social interaction is the process of reciprocal affect exercised by people over one another in the time of social encounters. Normally it refers to face-to-challenge encounters in which world are physically current through one an additional for a mentioned duration. However before, in modern society we deserve to also think of social encounters that are technologically mediated choose texting, skyping, or messaging. In terms of the various levels of evaluation in sociology–micro, meso, macro, and also global–social interactivity is mainly approached at the micro-level wright here the structures and also social scripts, the pre-established patterns of behaviour that people are supposed to follow in particular social situations, that govern the partnership between certain people deserve to be examined. However, as the sociological examine of eactivities shows, the micro-level processes of everyday life are additionally impacted by macro-level sensations such as gender inetop quality and also historic changes.

Emotional Management

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Figure 22.3. A-maze-ing Laughter sculpture (2009) by Chinese artist Yue Minjun, Vancouver B.C. (Image courtesy of Ted McGrath/Flickr)

The study of micro-level interactivity has been a affluent resource of understanding in sociology. The idea that our emovements, for example, have actually a social component might not be all that surpincreasing at first because regularly we are topic to having actually “emotional reactions” to other world, positive or negative. The various other perchild, or the social case itself, brings on an emovement that otherwise would not arise.

However, sociological study has presented that our eactivities also can have a methodical, socially structured quality of which we are not automatically aware. Studies of face-to-face conversations display that the outward indicators of eactivity prefer smiling or laughing are not equally distributed. For instance, the predisposition to show emovement by laughing in a conversation is structured by distinctions in sex, status, duty, and also norm. Robert Provine (1996) stupassed away 1200 two-perchild conversations, oboffered discretely in public locations choose shopping malls. He found that when a woguy was speaking and also a male was listening the woguy laughed more than twice as a lot as the guy. Similarly when a man was speaking and also a woman listening, she was still even more likely to laugh than him. “Female speakers laugh 127 percent even more than their male audience. In contrast, male speakers laugh around 7 percent less than their female audience” (Provine, 1996). Provine says that this shows that males lead in creating humour while females lead in laughing at humour, however it could additionally show a pattern of social deference reflecting the unequal social condition of males and woguys.

How a society laughs, as soon as it laughs and also at what it laughs additionally varies through background. Jokes often hone in on what we are the majority of anxious around as a culture. The Roman Classicist Mary Beard (2014) suggests that while it is exceptionally difficult to go from the tape-recorded literature to a confident appraisal of what laughter and its location in social life in primitive Rome was favor, the nature of the jokes the Romans told reveals an tension around the capacity to show identification distinct to Roman society. Many kind of jokes had the widespread design template of “exactly how perform I know that I am me?” andjust how have the right to I prove to others that I am me?”


For example, “2 friends satisfy in the street and also one states to the other, ‘I heard that you were dead,’ and also the various other states, ‘I’m not dead, you have the right to watch me, here I am,’ to which the first replies, ‘But the perkid that told me you were dead is much even more dependable than you are.’ “

This typical Romale joke describes a cultural conmessage in which demonstrating status was exceptionally essential but main proofs of identity favor passports or ID cards were minimal (Beard 2014).

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Figure 22.4. The Emperor Commodus (depicted recently in the film Gladiator, 2000). Roman statues carry out not depict their subjects with smiles. What does the lack of a society of smiling indicate around the emotional experience of daily social interactivity in primitive Rome? (Image courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna/Wikimedia Commons)

On the other hand also, one rare account from primitive Rome in which the physical, bodily, unmanageable nature of laughter is actually tape-recorded was when the Emperor Commodus was playing at being a gladiator in the Romale forum. He decapitated an ostwealthy and threatened the Roguy senators in the front row by waving its head and neck at them. What a modern-day audience would certainly probably uncover horrifying or disgusting, the Romale senator Dio Cassius found so ridiculous he had to bite down on a laurel leaf from the wreath he was wearing to suppress his urge to giggle (Beard 2014).

What is possibly also even more considerable with regard to the unique emotional life of the Romans is Beard’s insurance claim that the Romans did not smile, or more accurately, that the expression we endure as smiling played no substantial duty in Roman facial communication. The Romans could have turned their mouths up at the corners however the smile was not a far-reaching gesture in their social interactivity. Tright here are no accounts of smiling in Roguy literary works. The Romale words that are occasionally analyzed into English as smile are ridere and subridere which intend “laugh” and “bit laugh” respectively; no word for smile exists. Beard concludes that the culture of the smile that numbers so prominently in contemporary life (smiling as soon as we meet someone, smiling to show pleasure, smiling in photographs, etc.) did not exist in Romale life. Medieval scholars indicate that the culture of the smile was not developed till the middle periods (Beard 2014).

In reality our emotional life follows thorough cultural scripts and also feeling rules. Feeling rules are a collection of socially shared guidelines that direct just how we want to try to feel and not to feel emotions according to provided instances (Hochschild, 1979). We are obliged to systematically manage our emovements in response to different social cases.


For instance, we regularly soptimal of “having the right” to feel angry at someone. Or we say we “need to feel more grateful” to a beneelement. We chide ourselves that a friend’s misfortune, a relative’s fatality, “need to have hit us harder,” or that another’s good luck, or our own, have to have actually inspired even more joy. We recognize feeling rules, also, from just how others react to what they infer from our emotive screen. Another may say to us, “You shouldn’t feel so guilty; it wasn’t your fault,” or “You don’t have actually a appropriate to feel jealous, given our agreement” (Hochsboy, 1979).

As Hochschild argues, the reality that we are even able to distance ourselves sufficient from our feelings to acknowledge that somepoint favor a set of feeling rules may or might not use in particular situations is a product of the modern-day “ironic” posture in the direction of ourselves, fairly foreign to traditional cultures.

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Figure 22.5. Do funeral selfies violate deeply hosted feeling rules? (Image courtesy of MudflapDC/Flickr)

An instance of concern that revolves roughly feeling rules is the conflict that arised over people, mainly adolescents, or millennials, posting selfies at funerals. Selfies are the photographic self portraits taken with electronic camera at arms size to be shared on social media. Taking and also posting selfie photographs on social media favor Instagram is typically concerned as a frivolous, if not a pudepend narcissistic and also self-took in pastime. A headline in the Huffington Post review, “Funeral Selfies Are The Latest Evidence Apocalypse Can’t Come Soon Enough” (Huffington Message, 2013). Taking selfies at funerals is viewed to violate deeply organized views around the solemnity and emotional tenor of funerals and also the etiquette of mourning.

A commentator on an short article that safeguarded funeral selfies declared the trouble clearly:


But I can’t comprehfinish WHY you would certainly be taking images of yourself if you’re so deep into the grieving process. It does not compute. When my mother passed away six years ago … I didn’t decide to whip out my phone and also take photos of myself in my cute outfit or pretty makeup …. I didn’t also think about that stuff. I was too busy grieving the loss of someone that I loved. I simply don’t understand also how taking a selfie has actually anypoint to do through the grieving procedure. It’s just wildly inappropriate imo . It bugs me that they don’t think of this prior to they write-up the damn pic or don’t care (Doughty, 2013).

For this commentator, it is not just that selfies are seen as frivolous, however that the human being taking them perform not know just how to feel the appropriate feelings. She sees this as a character defect.

The defender of funeral selfies, a mortician herself, renders a comparable dispute however from the other side of the concern. Breaking the feeling rules of funerals is not great etiquette yet mirrors “our tragic disengagement with the truth of death” quite than a personal defect. “Modern death practices in the West, produced by the funeral market, have actually given teens diddly squat to execute when someone dies” and therefore their feelings have actually no support in collective routine (Doughty, 2013).

Emotions are therefore subject to more or less aware methods of emovement monitoring, the way people work-related on producing or inhibiting feelings according to the social expectations of various instances. They are not as herbal, spontaneous or involuntary as we frequently assume. In addition, this intimate and also personal component of our life is topic to macro-level processes choose comalteration. In post-industrial cultures, services—nursing and also treatment professions, flight attendants, contact facility employees, waiters, sales clerks, teachers, area policing police officers, therapists, etc.—increasingly require field of expertise in the use of emotional work. We stop of emotional work “when deep gestures of exchange enter the sector sector and are bought and also offered as an element of labour power” (Hochsson, 1979). Managing emotion according to meticulous protocols becomes part of the project description because emotional tonality is component of the commodity being marketed.

The philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1992) also noted the emotional or affective nature of power. He drew on Spinoza’s difference between joy and sadness as affects that expush the feelings of power and powerlessness respectively. Power for Deleuze is identified as the sense of being able to carry out something; feeling uninhibited. Powerlessness on the other hand also is the sense of being unable to something; feeling blocked. When we feel joy, we feel ourselves to be at the maximum of our power of action; we feel that we have actually fulfilled one of our abilities. Happiness is the expression of the experience of feeling empowered. When we feel sadness we feel separated from our power of action; we feel that we faicaused execute something we could have done bereason of circumstances, or because we were prevented or forbidden from doing it. Sadness is the expression of the endure of feeling disempowered. Deleuze suggests that sadness is therefore the effect of a power that is worked out over us; we are prevented from realizing or fulfilling our powers of action. In Deleuze’s evaluation modern manifestations of power–the power of assorted kinds of tyrant, judge or priest in particular–are accompanied by techniques that strip people of their powers of activity (joy) and also instill feelings of impotence, inadequacy, guilt, indebtedness, and also negative conscientific research.

As Brym et al., (2013) argue, “the widespread feeling view of emotions as distinct, spontaneous, uncontrollable, authentic, herbal, and maybe even rooted specifically in our biological makeup proves to be misguided.”

Social Constructions of Reality

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Figure 22.6. Who are we? What function perform we play in society? According to sociologists, we construct fact via our interactions through others. In a way, our day-to-day interactions are choose those of actors on a stage. (Picture courtesy of Jan Lewandowski/flickr)

In 1966 sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann wrote The Social Construction of Reality. In it, they said that culture is developed by people and also huguy interaction, which they call habitualization. Habitualization explains how “any action that is repetitive typically becomes cast right into a pattern, which can then be … performed aget later in the very same manner and also with the very same economical effort” (Berger and Luckmann 1966). Not only carry out we construct our very own society, yet we accept it as it is because others have produced it before us. Society is, in fact, “habit.”

For example, your college exists as a school and not just as a structure because you and others agree that it is a college. If your school is older than you are, it was produced by the agreement of others prior to you. In a feeling, it exists by consensus, both prior and present. This is an instance of the process of institutionalization, the act of implanting a convention or norm into culture. Bear in mind that the college, while socially built, is still rather actual.

Anvarious other means of looking at this concept is with W. I. Thomas’s noteworthy Thomas theorem which states, “If males define cases as actual, they are genuine in their consequences” (Thomas and also Thomas 1928). That is, people’s behaviour have the right to be determined by their subjective construction of fact fairly than by objective fact. For example, a teenager that is repeatedly offered a label—overachiever, player, bum, delinquent—can live up to the term even though it initially was not a component of his or her character.

Howard Becker (1963) elaboprices on this concept in his theory of labelling and also deviance. If someone violates a details dominion it does not expect that they are deviant in other respects. But being labelled “deviant” by authorities (police, parents, teachers, etc.) initiates a chain of after-effects for the individual which make it challenging for him or her to take part in conventional teams and activities (choose holding a job or going to school) via the “normals.” The individual is likewise subject to prevalent famous diagnoses about why he or she has “gone” that way–e.g. “he is a bad seed,” “she is weak willed,” and so on.–which outcomes in furthering the perception that he or she is an outsider. These components in turn make it more difficult for the individual to concreate to various other rules which he or she had actually no intention of violating. The individual is put in an significantly untallow position in which it becomes progressively likely they will certainly need to resort to deceit and also ascendancy violation. “Treating a perkid as though he were generally fairly than particularly deviant produces a self-fulfilling prophecy” (Becker, 1963).

Like Berger and Luckmann’s description of habitualization, and also Becker’s description of labelling, Thomas says that our ethical codes and social norms are produced by “successive meanings of the situation.” This concept is defined by sociologist Robert K. Merton as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Merton describes that through a self-fulfilling prophecy, even a false principle deserve to come to be true if it is acted on. Merton provides the example of a “financial institution run.” Say for some factor, a number of people falsely are afraid that their financial institution is quickly to be bankrupt. As such false concept, civilization run to their financial institution and also demand all their cash at once. As banks rarely, if ever before, have that much money on hand also, the bank does indeed run out of money, fulfilling the customers’ prophecy. On the various other hand, “investor confidence” is another social construct, which as we observed in the lead as much as the financial crisis of 2008, is “real in its consequences” however based on a fiction. Reality is created by an principle.

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Figure 22.7. The story line of a self-fulfilling prophecy shows up in many literary works, probably the majority of famously in the story of Oedipus. Oedipus is told by an oracle that he will murder his father and marry his mother. In going out of his way to protect against his fate, Oedipus inadvertently fulfills it. Oedipus’s story illustprices one way in which members of culture contribute to the social building and construction of reality. (Photograph courtesy of Jean-Antoine-Theodore Giroust/Wikimedia Commons)

Symbolic Interaction

How carry out we understand also the method an interpretation of the case pertains to be established in everyday social interaction? Social interactivity is in vital respects symbolic interaction–interactivity which is mediated by the exadjust and interpretation of symbols. In symbolic interaction, human being contrive to reach a shared understanding of each other and also of the tasks at hand also through the exadjust and interpretation of symbols. Only on this basis can a coordinated action be completed. The process of interaction is the main top quality of the huguy social setting. Social interactivity relies on communication.

George Herbert Mead (1934) suggests that we often act as if an principle we have “in our head” defines who we are and also what the instance in front of us is. But our ideas are in truth nebulous. They have to be confirmed by the others in the case before they have the right to become “real” or “actual.” Because of this, interaction is main to specifying social cases. Furthermore, it opeprices mainly based on indications or gestures of interpretation that contact out responses in others. As Mead puts it, in a somewhat complicated means, “the definition of a gesture by one organism … is uncovered in the response of another organism to what would be the completion of the act of the initially organism which that gesture initiates and indicates” (Mead, 1934).

Herbert Blumer (1969) clarifies the 3 parts of this interaction procedures as follows. Ones own and also the others actions are symbolic in that they refer beyond themselves to definitions which speak to out for the response of the other: (a) they suggest to the other what they are intended to do, (b) they indicate what the speaker plans to execute, and (c) on this basis they form a common definition of the instance that suggests just how a joint action will be agreed upon, lugged out, and also accomplished. Until each of the “indications” is confirmed by the other, the situation is unidentified and no coordinated joint activity is feasible. A robber tells a victim to put his or her hands up, which shows (a) what the victim is supposed to carry out (i.e., not resist); (b) what the robber inhas a tendency to execute (i.e., take the victim’s money), and (c) what the joint activity is going to be (i.e., a robbery). Blumer writes: “If tbelow is confusion or misunderstanding alengthy any among these 3 lines of definition, communication is ineffective, interactivity is impeded, and the development of joint activity is blocked” (Blumer, 1969).

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In this model of interaction, the interpretation of the situation, or common knowledge of the tasks at hand also, arises out of continuous communicative interaction. Situations are not defined in development, nor are they defined by the isolated understandings of the people involved. They are identified by the indications of definition provided by participants and also the responses by the others. “Such a response is its definition, or gives it its meaning” (Mead, 1934). Even the the majority of habitualized situations involve a process of symbolic interaction in which a definition of the case emerges with a common interpretation of signs or indications.