(Role Theory) What is our role in society?

(Role Theory) What is our role in society?

In this blog post, we will explain the Role Theory. We will approach subtopics such as:     our role in society; what happens when we become one with our social role; what are some role-associated stressors; and Goffman’s theory. 

How does Role Theory define social roles?

According to the Role theory, social roles are defined as the role we exercise within society, that is, they detail and represent what activities or behaviours are expected in a given social environment. 

Enrique Pichón (1985) defines the role as “an organized model of behaviour, relative to a certain position of the individual in a network of interaction, linked to expectations of himself and others“.

The roles are played within any group. We can see the role within a team, for example, the defender or the striker; one of base, eaves or pivot. Another role within a family, the role of mother, father, brother; or within the job, the role of director, secretary, fellow or assistant. 

The same person, depending on the context in which he is, can play several roles. The scholarship holder at work, the son in the family or the funny one in the group of friends.

The role is constructed and adapted by each one to himself, it may be initially defined by what the other taxpayers of the group expect from my behaviour, but it will be in general terms since each one must subsequently adopt those expectations and demands to your personal characteristics.

Once the child reaches Identity Achievement, he declares his role by taking into account his family, society etc.

(Role Theory) What is our role in society?

Role-associated stressors

The problems associated with the role can come from various sources:

Role ambiguity: In this case, we have to adapt to a role where we don’t really know what to do. Our role is unclear and neither do we know what others expect from our behaviour or our contribution to the group.

Role conflict: in this section, we will have two points. On the one hand, conflict within the same role, that is, when the role does not go with me, I cannot adapt to what they ask for. In the same way, it also happens because it exceeds my abilities, or because it does not go with my ideology, I do not feel comfortable doing those behaviours. 

The other type will be the conflict between roles, for example, I am assigned within a group two different roles, for example, being a fellow and continuing to study. Or being parents and workers at the same time, which could create stress due to not being able to comply with both.

Roles assigned: these are the problems derived from having to adapt to an already defined role and having little margin to build it ourselves. A good example of this type of stress associated with role could be gender roles, behaviours already expected by the group for the simple fact of being male or female.

Role overload: the behaviours expected when assuming a role demand a lot from oneself. This can overcome the adaptability of the subject and generate stress.

Poor roles: this problem happens contrary to the previous point when the subject believes that he can give much more of himself but his role does not allow it.

(Role Theory) What is our role in society?

Our role in society or in the group is dynamic and evolving. In many cases in this transformation, it is we, as main actors, who have the greatest responsibility in their direction. In this sense, problems usually appear when we behave like a ship adrift. 

When we try to adopt a role that goes beyond the limits of our flexibility or when we want to introduce too rapid and radical changes in our functions, we can feel great discomfort.

Basically, the role of each should be unique and non-transferable. There may be “positions” to adapt to when we access a new group, but starting from some general lines and behaviours, it is the role that must accommodate us and not the other way around, as it happens in so many cases. 

On many occasions, we end up confusing certain roles with ourselves. For example, when we say “I am the mayor” we are believing the role. Perhaps it would be more correct to say, “I am serving as a mayor.”

When we become our role

Although it seems a minor nuance, when we believe ourselves according to roles, we are mistaken in our identification. Just as today I can be a school principal, tomorrow I may not be. Thus, there are roles that are usually more temporary than others.

 From there, on many occasions, come political conflicts, when those who form a party refuse to give up their positions: “I am president”, “I am a councillor”, “I am a minister”. When in reality, they are only exercising as such.

Building the role requires time and above all, intelligence. Therefore it is important to know how to develop a role and know-how to carry it. Each role requires a certain dedication and we can take advantage of each of them. 

When our role ends at a certain time, it is best to take it on. If we know how to play our cards, we can make it a great learning opportunity. After all, the role is the opportunity to show the world what we are capable of contributing.

(Role Theory) What is our role in society?

Role Theory

The foundations of role theories and the concept itself are built throughout the passage to the 20th century. Contributions of self psychologists, sociologists of social norms and standards, and philosophers.

Theodore R. Sarbin described the role theories in the following terms:

Role theory attempts to conceptualize human behaviour at a relatively complex level. In a certain sense, it is an interdisciplinary theory because its variables are derived from studies of culture, society and personality. The broad conceptual units of the theory are role, as the unit of culture; position, as a unit of society and the self, as a unit of personality.

In understanding behaviour in a theoretical sense of the role, Sarbin proposed three main variables: 

1) the precision or validity of the perception of the role, that is, how well the person places her position with respect to the other;

 2) the ability to play a role, in other words, the effectiveness of a person to develop systems of actions or represent roles related to positions;

 3) the organization of the self, that is, how a person sees himself, his self-concept.

A social role

A social role is a behaviour that society expects of one of its members in a given situation.

Emphasizes the need to analyze social phenomena from the perspectives of the participants in social processes, the human being is basically an actor who plays roles before an audience.

Social role refers to the set of functions, norms, behaviours and culturally and culturally defined rights that a person (social actor) is expected to fulfil or exercise according to their acquired or attributed social status. Each status has a role. If the individual does not perform her role as expected, she may be at risk of exposing herself to sanctions.

Jiménez Burillo outlines the characteristics and properties of the social role as follows:

– They are open actions, behaviours executed by individuals, learned through the socialization process.

– Somehow they are limited by the situation

– They can be more or less “general”, depending on the number of people who execute them on different occasions.

– They vary in complexity, which, in turn, depends on the “breadth” of the role (the spectrum of characteristic behaviours within the role), its difficulty (degree of skill required for its performance) and its coherence (the degree to which the components of a role can be easily executed, either simultaneously or successively)

– They vary in “visibility”, according to their performance before an audience.

Erving Goffman’s Dramaturgical Approach

Erving Goffman was interested in the most everyday and routine aspects of our interactions. He tried to understand how the social structure impacts the most local aspects of daily life and how daily action collaborates in the construction of the social structure. 

From the psychosocial point of view, the most significant aspect of Goffman’s thought is the foundation of his theory on the society-theatricality analogy, as a development of the Role Theory. 

In it, he bases his notions of the human person as a “character” and of his performance as “representation”, of social interaction as an “interpretive ritual” and of the framework of the same as a “stage”.

People represent two roles: that of the actor/actress that generates impressions and the character that the performance will evoke. 

Through the labelling process, the interior-exterior separation of closed institutions, together with the system of over control and organization of the daily life of the internees and the fact of finding new conditions of survival from a system of privileges and punishments, and of new norms, a modification of the identity takes place, which deteriorates it and modifies it negatively. 

According to Goffman, this happens because different transformations take place on the idea of the self that is related to a progressive decomposition or disorganization: 

“The processes by which a person’s self is mortified are de rigueur in total institutions; The barriers that total institutions raise between inside and outside marks the first mutilation of the self.  In total institutions, income automatically breaks with the programming of the role, since it is the separation between the interior and the wide world, lasts all day and can continue for years

(Role Theory) What is our role in society?

FAQ about the Role Theory

What is meant by role theory?

Role Theory postulates that we all assume a certain social role in our society. The role we exercise within society, that is, they detail and represent what activities or behaviours are expected in a given social environment. The same person, depending on the context in which he is, can play several roles. 

Why is role theory important?

Role theory is an important component of our social lives. It explains behaviour, decisions and patterns of thinking. 

Who created the role theory

The Role theory was credited to many psychologists and sociologists, among them Margaret Mead, Talcott Parsons, and Robert K. Merton. 

What is the role expectation?

The role expectation is the totality of assumptions and beliefs that a certain person should behave a certain way. For example, we expect mothers to take care of their children, fathers to work, leaders to take important decisions, captains to lead the team, etc. 

Conclusions

In this blog post, we explained the Role Theory. We approached subtopics such as:   our role in society; what happens when we become one with our social role; what are some role-associated stressors; and Goffman’s theory. 

According to the Role theory, social roles are defined as the role we exercise within society, that is, they detail and represent what activities or behaviours are expected in a given social environment. 

Social role refers to the set of functions, norms, behaviours and culturally and culturally defined rights that a person (social actor) is expected to fulfil or exercise according to their acquired or attributed social status. Each status has a role. If the individual does not perform her role as expected, she may be at risk of exposing herself to sanctions.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know!

References

Fiske, S. T. (2001). Social Psychology, Theories of. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 14413–14421. doi:10.1016/b0-08-043076-7/01648-x 

Opp, K.-D. (2001). Norms. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 10714–10720. doi:10.1016/b0-08-043076-7/01936-7 

Scott, J. (2001). Status and Role: Structural Aspects. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 15095–15098. doi:10.1016/b0-08-043076-7/01972-0

Willems, H. (2001). Goffman, Erving (1921–82). International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 6297–6301. doi:10.1016/b0-08-043076-7/00249-7 

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.