Sociology Index


As used by Erving Goffman (1922-1982), 'Presentation of Self' refers to the methodical as well as the unintentional practices of presenting or displaying one's self in ways that create a particular definition of the situation. This presentation of self may include verbal messages as well as gestures, clothing style, hair style and posture.

Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday, 1956 - Extract:

A person may try to present their self in a particular way by dressing up to go to court or they may find themselves the victim of a jury's definition of the situation derived from the accused's appearance. The presentation of self is usually done front stage, while in the back stage the actor can let their guard down and act themselves.

In many modern settings, individuals are caught up in a variety of differing encounters and milieux, each of which may call for different forms of appropriate' behaviour. Goffman is normally taken to be the theorist par excellence of this phenomenon. As the individual leaves one encounter and enters another, he sensitively adjusts his presentation of self in relation to whatever is demanded of a particular situation.

Such a view is often thought to imply that an individual has as many selves as there are divergent contexts of interaction, an idea which somewhat resembles poststructuralist interpretations of the self, albeit from a differing theoretical perspective. Yet again it would not be correct to see contextual diversity as simply and inevitably promoting the fragmentation of the self, let alone its disintegration into multiple 'selves'.

A person may make use of diversity in order to create a distinctive self-identity which positively incorporates elements from different settings into an integrated narrative. - From Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

The Presentation of Self in Presidential Life: Onstage and Backstage With Johnson and Nixon - Sigelman L.
Abstract: This is a dual case study of the strategic use of presidential rhetoric, drawing on sociological and social-psychological treatments of self-presentation and impression management. Comparison of the 'onstage' and 'backstage' language of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon provides an opportunity to analyze presidential impression management strategies. The primary question posed here is the extent to which the tendency to engage in impression management is observable in the two presidents' major public appearances. The secondary questions are whether the two presidents pursued different presentation of self strategies, projecting positive but distinctive personas, or converged toward a common presidential profile and the extent to which their distinctive personalities came through in their private conversations.

Emotion and performance - Prison officers and the presentation of self in prisons.
Elaine M. Crawley, Keele University, UK.
This article explores how prison officers manage and perform emotion on a day-to-day basis. Although the performance of emotion is invariably highlighted when things go wrong in prison - perhaps particularly during prison disturbances - the emotional life of prisons at an everyday level has received much less attention. This article focuses on how prison officers emotions are structured and performed on a daily basis.

Members of Congress and Presentation of Self on the World Wide Web
Girish J. Gulati, Department of Political Science, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
The Internet has become an important means by which members of Congress communicate with their constituents. Although a number of studies have examined the content and features of congressionalWeb sites, how members of Congress present themselves on theWeb has yet to be addressed. A content analysis of the images displayed on the home pages of 100 senators and 244 House members who served in the 107th Congress reveals two distinct presentations: an insider style and an outsider style. The results vary, moreover, by chamber, seniority, gender, and race. Within each party, the most significant differences were by gender, with Democratic women the presentation of self would most likely be as outsiders and Republican women the presentation of self would most likely be as insiders.

Hyperbole over Cyberspace: Self-Presentation (Presentation of Self) and Social Boundaries in Internet Home Pages and Discourse - Wynn E., Katz J. E. - The Information Society, Volume 13, Number 4, 1 December 1997.
Abstract: Futurist sensationalism, journalistic attention, constructivist theory, and appeal to technical determinism all make the genre of literature on cyberspace, described as postmodern, visible and possibly influential. A main theme of the postmodern perspective is that Internet technology liberates the individual from the body and allows the separate existence of multiple aspects of self that otherwise would not be expressed and that can remain discrete rather than having to be resolved or integrated as in ordinary social participation. Evidence of the socially grounded nature of interaction exists everywhere in cyberspace. Empirical evidence examples include list discourse that illustrates the situated significance of authentic identity in Internet professional groups, secondary research suggesting that electronic communication is most successful as one genre in a communication repertoire, cases of home page self-presentation (Presentation of Self) mediated through socially defined links.