Role Dynamics in Encounters



Despite its importance to sociological analysis, the concept of roles remains rather vaguely conceptualized. Part of the reason for this vagueness is that roles organize the behaviors through which other microdynamic processes operate; and as a consequence, role dynamics become complex. Just listing the many dimensions of roles can best bring home this point. For instance, roles are cultural in that there is usually a script or set of expectations for how individuals should behave in a particular situation or in a status position (Linton 1936; Goffman 1959, 1967); roles are cognitive in that persons carry in their stocks of knowledge inventories of roles and elements of roles that they use to interpret the actions of others and to orchestrate their behaviors in order to make a role for themselves (Turner 1962, 1988, 2002); roles are the mechanism by which persons come to understand the dispositions and to anticipate the likely actions of others during the course of interaction (Mead 1934); roles are the anchor that gives individuals a sense that they are experiencing the same reality (Schutz 1932 [1967]); roles are played on a stage or in an ecological location and often involve the use of props to bring off a line of conduct (Goffman 1959); roles are what give meaning to ecological settings, props, and use-spaces (Goffman 1963, 1967, 1971); roles are used strategically to bring off a performance and to secure resources, and conversely, roles can be the means by which resources are mobilized for exchanges with others and, at times become a resource in and of themselves (Callero 1994); roles are the vehicle by which individuals verify their various levels of self (Burke 1980; Burke and Stets 2009; Stryker 1980); roles are also the vehicle by which other transactional needs are realized, allowing persons to secure resources in exchange, to feel included in ongoing activity, to achieve a sense of trust, and to experience a sense of facticity (Turner 2002, 2008); roles are the means for signaling which elements of culture to what degree are relevant in normatizing encounters (Turner 1962, 1968, 2002); roles are both behavioral adjuncts to status (Park 1926) and the means and resources for asserting status (Clark 1990); and roles are the vehicle by which emotions are often displayed to others (Moreno 1934 [1953]; Turner 2008).


Negative Emotion Generalize Role Complementary Role Role Element Relevant Element 
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© Springer New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California at RiversideRiversideUSA

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