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Dramaturgical Analysis in Sociology: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Kimberly Moffitt

Kimberly has taught college Sociology and Criminal Justice classes and has a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice.

Dramaturgical analysis is the idea that people's day-to-day lives can be understood as resembling performers in action on a theater stage. Learn more about dramaturgical analysis and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition

Erving Goffman (1922-1982) was a sociologist who analyzed social interaction, explaining that people live their lives much like actors performing on a stage. As we present ourselves in various situations, we are much like actors putting on performances for their audience.

Theatre

Definition and Examples

Our life, according to Goffman, is a series of performances. Let's take a look at some of this theory's key concepts and ideas:

Presentation of the Self

Do you act differently in front of your boss than your best friends? Your coworkers compared to your children? What about your posts on Facebook? Goffman argued that we put on different performances based on who our audience is.

The presentation of the self is a person's efforts to create specific impressions in the minds of others. This process, sometimes called impression management, begins with the performances we carry out each day. Our performances might include the way we dress (our costume), the objects we carry or use (our props), and our tone of voice and gestures. We might also vary our performances based on where we are (the set). Most people would act differently in a church than a local bar or restaurant. People also design their own homes and offices to bring about a desired impression or reaction in others.

Impression Management

Central to Goffman's theory is the notion of impression management. In this, he argues that all social situations with two or more people involve attempting to persuade others of your definition of the situation. If, for example, you are buying a new car, the salesperson will attempt to convince you that you need to have a pricier vehicle because you are a deserving person who works hard. You are trying to construct a definition that suggests that while you appreciate the added perks of a pricier vehicle, you also have financial considerations to take into account. It becomes a struggle over who is more convincing of their definition of that particular situation.

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