Sociology Index -


Dramaturgical model is a theory which interprets individual behaviour as the dramatic projection of a chosen self. Dramaturgy is a sociological perspective stemming from symbolic interactionism.

As used by Erving Goffman (1922-1982) and symbolic interactionists since, dramaturgical model is a metaphor for understanding human interaction and how humans present their self in society.

In dramaturgical model, all the world is conceived as a stage and individuals are seen as actors who present a show of their self by putting their ‘best foot forward.

The dramaturgical model metaphor is extended by Erving Goffman through concepts such as ‘front stage’, ‘back stage, ‘presentation of self’.

Erving Goffman in his dramaturgical model of social relations, sees social life literally in terms of actors acting, that is, all of us are like actors on a stage, presenting a play.

Goffman sees social interaction as involving 'impression management'. A social actor wants to feel that he or she is performing the role that he or she is playing well. 

In a dramaturgical model, social interaction is analyzed as part of a theatrical performance. People are actors who must convey their personal characteristics and their intentions to others through performances.

Dramaturgy or dramaturgical model emphasizes expressiveness as the main component of interactions. It is termed a "fully two-sided view of human interaction".

Dramaturgical perspective is one of several sociological paradigms separated from other sociological theories because it does not examine the cause of human behavior but the context.

The Dramaturgical Model of Behavior: Its Strengths and Weaknesses
Bruce Wilshire, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Symbolic Interaction, Fall 1982, Vol. 5, No. 2
Abstract: By means of the dramaturgical model we freshly illuminate social behavior as role-like “performances” in which persons manage the impressions that others get of them. This impression management involves the concealment of data in a “dramatic” struggle with those others who wish to penetrate one's “mask.” But the chief limitations of the dramaturgical model are that it excites the invalid inferences that offstage “roles” are more like stage actors' roles than they really are, and that the person is nothing but these “roles.” The differences between onstage and offstage behavior are kept in view when the metaphorical concept of “role playing” is re-connected to its source in role playing onstage. Through an analysis of theatre and the concepts of appearance and time we conclude that while we must appear to others in a “role-like” way offstage in order to be ourselves, we are nevertheless involved in world-time offstage in a way that fundamentally distinguishes our “role-playing” from an actor's role playing. We are our “roles”, but not just our “roles.”

The Psycho-Social Bases of Scatological Humor: The Unmasking of the Self - William G. Plank
Abstract: Using Erving Goffman's model of dramaturgical sociology (The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Garden City: 1959), we can see that scatological humor removes the props by which the self attempts to create and control its image: clothing, privacy, secrecy, composition of the face, and self-control. There is a general debasement of the human individual and at the same time an exaltation of the basic organic existence of the self. This situation, whether in jokes or literature, can be precisely expressed in Sartrean (and generally in an existentialism vocabulary): Scatological humor, unexpected flatulence, public excretion and other such acts are the proof of the independent behavior of the en-soi, which reveals the ultimate facticity (the rootedness of the pour-soi in the en-soi) of the pour-soi and destroys the latter's claims to be the origin of itself, of its freedom, and threaten the very existence of the pour-soi. This reduction of the self to flesh is Sartre's definition of sadism. We are then encouraged to develop the following hypothesis: Scatological humor is more evident in a society where strong individualism is a cultural value: conversely, scatological humor would be less obvious in a society where the individual was of lesser importance, where his identity was created by fixed social roles or by strong tribal definitions.