Symbolic Interactionism and Dramaturgy
Symbolic interactionism and dramaturgy are sociological perspectives used in explaining human behavior in the society. Symbolic interactionism perspective rests on three premises, with the first one stating that humans act towards things (symbols) depending on the meaning that those things have for them. In this case, the term “things” refers to everything that humans can note in their world, for instance, physical objects, other humans, institutions, activities, and situations they encounter in their daily lives. The second premise states that the meaning of such things or symbols develops from the social interaction that individuals have with others. The final premise is that these meanings are upheld or modified through an interpretative process that individuals use to deal with things they encounter. Dramaturgy perspective explains human behavior using the metaphor of theater. It suggests that the world is a theater and life is a play, where people are the actors. Therefore, dramaturgy is perceived as the way individuals present themselves in the everyday life. People are ushered onto the stage of everyday life through birth, and the socialization process entails learning to perform on the stage. At the center of the performances is the self, as everyone has a role to play when interacting with others. The roles are determined by the society and can vary with performances, as influenced by the individual’s social status, situation, or circumstances. Since what is expected of individuals (their role) in one status is often incompatible with what is expected of them in another, the individuals will experience role conflict. The role conflict is normally avoided through segregation of statuses, which may be accomplished through continued realignments. If the same status is comprised of incompatible roles, the situation is referred to as role strain.
It is evident that the study of human behavior is largely based on the interpretative process, where people develop the meanings of things, events, or behaviors they encounter in their daily lives. These meanings influence how people communicate and interact with one another in the society. Secondly, the action of individuals is often aligned to that of others in the society. Therefore, the study of social behavior should view such behavior in its collective character, rather than in its individual component. The process of interactive interaction produces the social behavior. The study of social behavior should also recognize the importance of rules and expectation in the development of individual and collective behavior. The behavior exhibited by individuals is dictated by the society through its respective social institutions. The society can develop rules that guide social behavior to ensure that it commensurate with its established values and beliefs. People will embrace particular behaviors because they valued by the society and may be rewarding. They will also conform because exhibiting contrary behavior may attract punishment for violating established behavioral standards. Since the society expects its members to behave in a particular way, people will often strive to show others the idealized or best image of themselves as a means of gaining approval and higher status. However, they will tend to hide their undesirable behavior from the public. Therefore, the study of social behavior should recognize that individual and collective behavior is a product of impression management, where people control how others perceive them. All identities and behaviors are influenced by the society in which they perform their roles, as they are governed by societal rules, expectations, and interactive interaction.