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Social Interaction and Social Culture

The social structure is the framework of society.  We focus on how this framework affects individuals.  Think about how our position or location (social location) in the social structure affects our behaviors and attitudes and guides our behaviors.

The major influences on our behaviors are: our culture, social class (affected by education, income, occupation), and social status (including our social positions and including level of prestige).  The positions we are born into affect us, group memberships especially.

Within each of our social institutions we have groups and group membership.  Each of us belong to a group within each institution (family group, economical group, political group, religious group, educational group) which guides our behavior.

Social Location is the location in the social structure.  We each have various social locations, where we are located in the social structure, our placement in society (social class, race, gender,…).  Our social location is affected by social forces and affects our behaviors, attitudes, life chances, and opportunities.

Status Positions and Opportunity Structure

The status positions individuals have available to them afford them different opportunities, which, in turn, can dictate who and what we become.  For example think about sports.  Does our ascribed status affect what sports we will play or even what positions we will play in a particular sport?  Historically, this was even more apparent.  For example, there was a time (not too long ago) when there were no black quarterbacks.  What if a person has his heart set on being a quarterback but is blocked due to the opportunity structure?  What if I am a black male and I want to be a head college football coach?  How many actually are there?  The important thing to remember is that this has a great impact on children.  If I have my heart set on a specific achieved status but I do not see anyone who mirrors me in that position do I begin to think it is not a possibility?  It is important for children to see and have role models to look up to who are similar to them.  There was a vignette on “Real Sports with Bryant Gumble” about this very issue.  An African American sportscaster spoke about the fact that his son had offers from four different colleges for a full ride football scholarship.  Only one of these colleges had an African American head coach.  The son wanted to go to one college but his father told him he had to go to the other college (the one with the African American head coach).  His father said he wanted his son to be on a team in which a person who was similar to him was in a high status position.  Was this father actually on to something important? 

When I was little my mom told me I was going to be president of the United States and I used to walk around telling everyone that I WAS going to be president of the United States.  Then I got a table placemat that had all the U.S. presidents on it and noticed something…there were “no girls!”  Did this send me an important message?  I told my mother that I could not be president, that “girls cannot be president!”  Due to the opportunity structure and our social structure are there some things we may not think we can achieve?  Of course my mother told me, “you will be the first woman president!”  I guess I failed :o)

So, what is ascribed status?  What is an achieved status?  Think of some specific examples.  Gender?  Education level?  Wealth?  Okay, that was a trick question…wealth can be either ascribed or achieved.  How does our ascribed status affect our achieved status?  Think of examples of your own experiences.

Group Membership

The groups we belong to, our socialization, and the situations we are in affect our interactions and in turn the impressions other have of us.

The Looking Glass Self

Charles H. Cooley coined the concept the looking glass self.  He discussed how our “Self” develops and stated that we imagine how we appear to others, we interpret others’ reactions to us, and in turn our self-concept develops.  It is also noted that this reflects the self-fulfilling prophecy (that we may become how we are labeled and become the expectation others have of us).  Our status positions often determines what others think of us and how they react to us.  This in turn also can affect the opportunity structure and our opportunities.

Social Interaction

It is said that life is like a play or stage.  Erving Goffman said, “We make efforts to control the impressions that others receive of us.”  Are we always trying to control how other perceive us?  Think about some of the first impressions that are in our control, and before we even speak to a person.  It has been studied that people think about 20-30 things about a person they are just meeting before they even speak to the person.  For instance, and it happens in a matter of seconds, we think that person is male/female, tall/short, well dressed/ sloppy, etc.  How do these first impressions affect how we interact with others?  What role do stereotypes have in our interactions?  What are some first impressions in which we have no control over?  Do people stereotype us based on these first impressions.   Do first impressions “last a lifetime?”  There are two terms you should know and directly relate to impression management: front stage and back stage.  We are always trying to control our front stage and portraying the person we want others to perceive us as being.  How long do you think it takes for a person to actually show us his or her back stage self?  I’m a little more cautious…I’m thinking at least 5 years.  So, don’t get married until you have dated the person for at least 5 years and you are over 30 years old and actually know your own backstage self!  This is what I am going to tell my children so I thought I would pass on the advice to all of you! :o)

Another Example of Impression Management

An example, have you ever met a couple that is obviously “happily married?”  I mean to the extreme, like, they call each other “honey, sweetie, pookie pie?”  And then all of a sudden they get a divorce and you think, if they are getting a divorce, then we are all in trouble.  Well, do you think you actually knew their back stage relationship?  Were we just seeing their front stage appearance? 

Job Interview and Impression Management

Do we specifically give off different impressions at a job interview?  At football game?  To our grandma?  On a date?  Think about all of the ways in which you behave differently and give others different “impressions” of you.

Late and Impression Management

Okay, do this.  Make a list of everything you could possibly think about a person who is constantly, and I mean always, late, for everything.  What does that mean to you when a person is late?  Are any of you late people?  If so, we will have to look deeper into your socialization sometime!  I can come up with many things that it means to me, but here are a couple.  Is that person unorganized?  Controlling (think about it, if you wait for them they are controlling you)?  Does that person have low self-esteem (it also raised their self-esteem if people care so much as to always wait for them)?  Is he/she rude?  Does he/she have bad time management skills?  How about he/she is very stressed out and has too much on his/her plate?  The idea is, and this is how this relates to social interaction, that one act or behavior can have several meanings.  It is up to the audience, you, to decide what it means to you.  Then we interact with that person accordingly; all of our interactions with individuals are affected by what we think about them.  How many of you have actually asked the person specifically why they are always late?

How is “late” caused by our socialization?  How are we taught this by our agents of socialization?



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