Theories of Contextual Behavior in Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Decent Essays

First written in 1956 by former Sociologist and President of the American Sociological Association, Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life takes a micro-level approach in explaining changes in individual behavior as they relate to various situational contexts within social interaction. Goffman establishes and analyzes the processes by which we change our behavior in order to alter or manage the impressions we give off. In order to apply Goffman’s theories in a contemporary context, it’s important to first understand and recognize the main concepts outlined in his work. To begin, the performance can be defined as “all the activity of a given participant on a given occasion which serves to influence in any way any of the …show more content…

Finally, all of these components influence what type of performance will take place, whether the actor will perform in a front stage, back stage, or off stage manner. As a performer, the front stage act “is that part of the individual’s performance which regularly functions in a general and fixed fashion to define the situation for those who observe the performance. Front, then, is the expressive equipment of a standard kind intentionally or unwittingly employed by the individual during his performance” (Goffman 1956:15). The front stage allows the actor to maintain a desired public image, which supports and defines his current social status and standing within society. Back stage becomes the opposite of the front, “defined as a place, relative to a given performance, where the impression fostered by the performance is knowingly contradicted as a matter of course” (Goffman 1956:69). Off stage performances occur with an audience member on the individual level, while an actor may perform one way to an audience of multiple people, they will change that behavior when interacting privately with only one member in the audience, in large part due to the setting of the interaction. While Goffman’s theories regarding presentation of self have been present within societies throughout history, recent advancement of technology and access to social media has caused our society to change

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