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Erving Goffman. The Presentation of Self In Everyday Life. Erving Goffman. We are all actors within the Social World, a central theme from Goffman work. In a sense, we are call “Fakers” or engaged in a “Con Job” on ourselves to effect other people.

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Erving Goffman

The Presentation of Self In Everyday Life

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Erving Goffman

  • We are all actors within the Social World, a central theme from Goffman work.

  • In a sense, we are call “Fakers” or engaged in a “Con Job” on ourselves to effect other people.

  • Goffman argues that the self is simply nothing more than “Self Presentations” and “Role Performances.”

  • Social life as a theatre, with social scripts, performances and actors & roles that perform in the Front and Back Regions of self.

  • The concept of depicting social life as a Theatre, Goffman developed the term Dramaturgy.

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  • What is Dramaturgy

  • Dramaturgy is Impression Management

  • Social interactions is like a stage, the self promotes scenery

  • Moreover, that scenery is divided into two regions, the Front and Back Regions.

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  • By definition regions may be defined as any place that is bounded to some degree by barriers to perception

  • When we talk about the Dramaturgical Approach to the Social World the self is divided by perception.

  • The perception of the “Front Stage” and “Back Stage,” also known as the Front and Back Regions of Behavior

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Front Region

  • This Refers to a place where the performance is given.

  • In this regions the actor engages in, and performs his/hers role for the audience.

  • While the Self is in the Front Region of behavior the performance of the individual embodies certain standards.

  • Standards of the “Matters of Politeness” and “Decorum.”

    “Matters of Politeness”

  • Relates to the way in which the performer treats the audience while engaged in talk or gestural interactions.

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  • Refers to a set of behaviors that have to do with the way the performer conducts himself in the visual or audio range of the audience

  • Decorum has two sub-groupings referred too as the “Moral” and the “Instrumental’

    1) Moral

  • Moral Requirements refers to rules regarding non-interference and non-molestation of others.

    Ex: Sexual Propriety, and rules regarding sacred places etc.

    2) Instrumental Requirement

  • Refers to duties that are task oriented and secular

    Ex: An employer might demand his employees to care of property or engage in maintenance within work areas.

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Back Region

  • Def: A back region or backstage may be defined as a place, relative to a given performance, where the impression fostered by the performance is knowingly contradicted.

  • This area is where the suppressed facts make an appearance.

  • Here the performer can relax; he can drop his front, relinquish speaking his lines, and step out of character.

  • It is here where illusions and impressions are openly constructed.

  • The back region is a place where the performer can reliably expect that no member of the audience will intrude.

  • The back region or back stage is kept closed from the audience, the entire region is meant to be kept hidden.

    Ex: Perfect examples of back stage regions are kitchens within restaurants, this area is not meant for customers to enter.

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  • In between the Front and Back Region, there is a phenomenon called the “Zone of Transition”

  • Goffman argues that this is one of the most interesting times to observe impression management

  • At these in between moments one can detect a interesting putting on and taking off of character.

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However there is a Third Region

  • Apart from Front and Back Stage there is a third region within the ideas of Dramaturgy.

  • This Region is called “The Outside”

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“The Outside”

  • The Outside region is a residual one, everything that is not covered in the Front or Back Regions are in “The Outside.”

  • Those individuals who are on “The Outside” of the social interactions we may call outsiders.

  • If we shift our considerations from the front or back region to the outside, we tend to shift our reference from one performance to another.

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Discussion Question

  • If we take the Dramaturgical approach in an attempt to define “The Self” what would we conclude? And can we relate our conclusion with the ideas from Post Modernism?

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Impression Management

  • Impression Management implies that there are attributes that are required of a performer in successfully staging a character.

  • The Performer must Act with “Expressive Responsibility”

    Expressive Responsibility

  • Illustrates the idea that actors must consciously choose the manner in which they behave and interact with others

  • It is Imperative that the audience understand that a performer is “Acting” his part and that is does not necessarily reflect the dispositions an individual may hold privately.

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However, What happens when an actor makes a mistake and reveals true intentions of the performance?

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  • The Answer to the Question: Is that Unintentional Disruptions can occur.

  • Unintentional Disruption are a source of embarrassment and dissonance for the performer, these disruptions are seperated into three catagories, unmeant Gestures, inopportune Intrusion and faux pas.

    Unmeant Gestures

  • These are inadvertent acts that convey an impression that is inappropriate at the time.

  • The individual held responsible for contributing an unmeant gesture may chiefly discredit his own performance


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Inopportune Intrusion Disruptions can occur.

  • This Occurs when an outsider accidentally enters a region in which a performance is being given or when a member of the audience inadvertently enters the backstage.

    Ex: An example of this, is when a student walk into the classroom while the professor is giving a lecture. We have Inopportune Intrusion (this coming from the outsider approach)

    Ex: Another example is when a customer runs into the kitchen of a restaurant where the chefs resides. We have another Inopportune Intrusion (from an audience approach)

    Faux Pas

  • Def: As Disruptions in projections of the self

  • These facts may involve well-kept dark secrets or negatively-valued chacteristics that everyone can see but no one refers too.

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  • When such facts are introduced, embarrassment is the usual feeling

    Ex: An example is when Raphael Palmero was conducting an interview and a journalist bought up his use of anabolic steroids.

    Gaffes & Boners

  • Are types of Faux Pas where a performer unthinkingly makes an intentional contribution which destroys his own team image


  • Here, a performer jeopardizes the image of self projected by the other team.

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Discussion Question feeling

  • If we are nothing more than “Fakers” within the social world, and assuming impression management is how we navigate through social interactions, then one asks the question is society real?