Sociology: the Basics
Chapter 4
Social Structure: A Guide
to Everyday Living
 Social Interaction – the process by which people
act and react in relation to others
 Through interaction, we create the reality in which
we live.
 Social structure guides our interaction.
– a social position that an individual occupies.
 Every status is part of our social identity.
– all of the statuses a person holds at a given
– a social position a person receives at
birth or assumes involuntarily.
– a social position a person assumes
voluntarily that reflects personal ability.
"Be not afraid of greatness: some are
born great, some achieve greatness
and some have greatness thrust upon
them". - (Quote Act II, Scene V,
Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare).
A Master Status
 Some statuses matter more than others.
– a status that has
special importance for social identity.
 For most, one’s occupation is a master status.
 Serious illness or disability may also operate
as a master status.
– behavior expected of someone
who holds a particular status.
 One performs a role. It requires action.
according to personality.
– a number of roles
attached to a single status. (text pg 90)
Role Conflict and Role
– conflict between roles
corresponding to 2 or more statuses.
 When we experience being pulled in several
different directions.
– tension between roles
connected to a single status.
 Performing various roles attached to one
status feels like a “balancing act.”
 Can you think of examples of role
conflict (conflict between different
 Can you think of examples role strain
(tension between roles connected to a
single status)?
 Reality is not as “fixed” as we may
– the process by which
people creatively shape reality through
social interaction.
 Interaction is a complex negotiation.
The Thomas Theorem
– situations
that are defined as real are real in their
 Can you think of examples?
 Although reality is “soft” as it is fashioned,
it can become “hard” in its effects.
 Can you think of examples?
in everyday encounters.
states people create reality
– the study of the way
people make sense of their everyday surroundings.
 This explores the process of making sense of social
 Realities are influenced by culture.
 Can you think of some examples?
Dramaturgical Analysis:
“The Presentation of Self”
 Erving Goffman states people are
much like actors performing on a
the study of social interaction in terms
of theatrical performance.
 Each performance involves the
presentation of self.
 Jaques:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many
His acts being seven ages…
 As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143
Nonverbal Communication
 Nonverbal communication – using body
movements, gestures, and facial
expressions rather than speech.
 This conveys information.
 Eye contact is used to invite interaction.
 Hand gestures may convey an insult.
 Gestures also supplement spoken words.
Gender and Performances
 Women are socialized to be less assertive than
 Women tend to be more sensitive to nonverbal
 Women craft their personal performances more
carefully than men.
 Men typically command more space than
 To what extent to do agree with the above?
Embarrassment, and Tact
 We construct performances to idealize our
 We try to convince others we do not have
selfish motives.
– discomfort resulting
from a spoiled performance.
– helping someone “save face”
Interactions in Everyday
Life: Emotions
, more commonly called feelings,
are an important dimension of every day life.
 Just as society guides our behavior, it guides
our emotional life.
 Do you agree? Why or why not?
 Emotions include a biological element, and a
cultural element.
 Can you think of some examples?
Interaction in Everyday
Life: Language
 Language conveys deep levels of
 Language defines men and women
differently in several ways:
 The power function of language.
 The value function of language
 The attention function of language
Interaction of Everyday
Life: Humor
 Humor is a product of reality construction.
 Humor arises from contradiction, ambiguity,
and double meanings found in differing
definitions of the same situation.
 Humor provides a way to express an opinion
without being serious.
 Humor often is a sign of real conflict.
 Consider your favorite comedies? Do you see
examples of any of the above?