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A role (also rôle or social role) is a set of connected
behavior Behavior (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English ...
s,
rights Rights are legal Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior,Robertson, ''Crimes against humanity'', 90. with its precise definition a matter of longstandi ...
,
obligation An obligation is a course of action that someone is required to take, whether legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A s ...
s, beliefs, and
norms Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic disciplines * Norm (geology), an estimate of the idealised mineral content of a rock * Norm (philosophy), a standard in normative ethics that is prescriptive rather than a descriptive or explanato ...
as conceptualized by people in a social situation. It is an expected or free or continuously changing behavior and may have a given individual
social status Social status is the level of social value a person is considered to hold. More specifically, it refers to the relative level of respect, honour Honour ( British English) or honor (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng ...
or
social position Social position is the position of an individual An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity Entity may refer to: Computing * Character entity reference, replacement text for a character in HTML or XML * Entity class, a thing of ...
. It is vital to both functionalist and interactionist understandings of society. Social role theory posits the following about social behavior: # The
division of labour The division of labour is the separation of tasks in any economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an ...
in society takes the form of the interaction among heterogeneous specialized positions, we call roles. # Social roles included appropriate and permitted forms of behavior and actions that recur in a group, guided by social norms, which are commonly known and hence determine the expectations for appropriate behavior in these roles, which further explains the place of a person in the society. # Roles are occupied by individuals, who are called
actors An actor is a person who portrays a character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk * ''Characters'' (Theophrastus), a classical Greek set ...
. #When individuals approve of a social role (i.e., they consider the role legitimate and
constructive Although the general English usage of the adjective constructive is "helping to develop or improve something; helpful to someone, instead of upsetting and negative," as in the phrase "constructive criticism," in legal writing ''constructive'' has a ...
), they will incur costs to conform to role norms, and will also incur costs to punish those who violate role norms. # Changed conditions can render a social role outdated or illegitimate, in which case social pressures are likely to lead to role change. # The anticipation of
rewards
rewards
and
punishment Punishment, commonly, is the imposition of an undesirable or unpleasant outcome upon a group or individual, meted out by an authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of soci ...

punishment
s, as well as the satisfaction of behaving pro-socially, account for why agents conform to role requirements. The notion of the role can be and is examined in the
social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist o ...

social science
s, specifically
economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a bran ...

economics
,
sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the scie ...
and
organizational theory A theory involves concepts or construct Construct, Constructs or constructs may refer to: * Construct (information technology), a collection of logic components forming an interactive agent or environment ** Language construct * Construct (albu ...
.


Definition

Stanley Wasserman Stanley Wasserman (born August 29, 1951) is an American statistician and Rudy Professor of Statistics, Psychology, and Sociology at Indiana University Bloomington Indiana University Bloomington (IU Bloomington, IU, or simply Indiana) is a public ...
and Katherine Faust cautioned that "there is considerable disagreement among social scientists about the definitions of the related concepts of
social position Social position is the position of an individual An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity Entity may refer to: Computing * Character entity reference, replacement text for a character in HTML or XML * Entity class, a thing of ...
,
social status Social status is the level of social value a person is considered to hold. More specifically, it refers to the relative level of respect, honour Honour ( British English) or honor (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng ...
, and social role." They note that while many scholars differentiate those terms, they can define those terms in a way that clashes with the definitions of another scholar; for example they state that " alphLinton uses the term 'status' in a way that is identical to our use of the term "position".


Determinants and characteristics

Roles may be achieved or ascribed or they can be accidental in different situations. An ''achieved role'' is a position that a person assumes voluntarily which reflects personal skills, abilities, and effort. An ''ascribed role'' is a position assigned to individuals or groups without regard for merit but because of certain traits beyond their control, and is usually forced upon a person. Roles can be semi-permanent ("
doctor Doctor or The Doctor may refer to: Personal titles * Doctor (title) Doctor is an academic title that originates from the Latin word of the same spelling and meaning. The word is originally an Agent noun, agentive noun of the Latin verb ...

doctor
", "mother", "child"), or they can be transitory. A well-known example is the ''
sick role Sick role is a term used in medical sociology Medical sociology is the sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a l ...
'' as formulated by
Talcott Parsons Talcott Parsons (13 December 1902 – 8 May 1979) was an American sociologist of the classical tradition The Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, ...

Talcott Parsons
in the late 1940s. In the transitory "sick role", a person is exempted from their usual roles, but is expected to conform to transitory behavioral standards, such as following doctors' orders and trying to recover. For many roles, individuals must meet certain conditions, biological or sociological. For instance, a boy cannot ordinarily take the biological role of mother. Other roles require training or experience. For instance, in many cultures doctors must be educated and certified before practicing medicine. Role development can be influenced by a number of additional factors, including
social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology The word "Social" derives fr ...

social
,
genetic
genetic
predisposition,
cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior among two or more organisms within the same species, and encompasses any behavior in which one member affects the other. This is due to an int ...

cultural
or situational. *Societal influence: The structure of society often forms individuals into certain roles based on the social situations they choose to experience. Parents enrolling their children in certain programs at a young age increases the chance that the child will follow that role. *Genetic predisposition: People take on roles that come naturally to them. Those with athletic ability generally take on roles of athletes. Those with mental genius often take on roles devoted to education and knowledge. This does not mean that people must choose only one path, each individual can reprise multiple roles (i.e. Evelyn can be the point guard on the basketball team and the editor of her school newspaper). *Cultural influence: Different cultures place different values on certain roles based on their lifestyle. For instance,
soccer Association football, more commonly known as simply football or soccer, is a team sport A team sport includes any sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain ...
players are regarded higher in European countries than in the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, where soccer is less popular. *Situational influence: Roles can be created or altered based on the situation a person is put in outside their own influence. An example of this is students blaming failure on situational factors like "the test wasn't fair" and this effects their role as a student. Roles are also frequently interconnected in a
role setAccording to Erving Goffman a role set is the various kinds of relevant audiences for a particular role. Robert K. Merton describes "role set" as the "complement of social relationships in which persons are involved because they occupy a particular s ...

role set
, that complement of role-relationships in which persons are involved by virtue of occupying a particular social status. For example, a high school football player carries the roles of student, athlete, classmate, etc. Another example of a role is "an individual in the role of a parent is expected to care for their child and protect them from harm".


Role theory

Role theory is the sociological study of role development, concerned with explaining what forces cause people to develop the expectations of their own and others' behaviors. According to sociologist Bruce Biddle (1986), the five major models of role theory include: #Functional Role Theory, which examines role development as shared social norms for a given social position. These social positions may include leadership. #Symbolic Interactionist Role Theory, which examines role development as the outcome of individual interpretation of responses to behavior, #Structural Role Theory, which emphasises the influence of society rather than the individual in roles and utilizes mathematical models, #Organizational Role Theory, which examines role development in organizations, and #Cognitive Role Theory, which is summarized by Flynn and Lemay as "the relationship between expectations and behaviors"


Role in functionalist and consensus theory

The functionalist approach to role theory, which is largely borrowed from
anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, ...
, sees a "role" as the set of expectations that
society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be ...

society
places on an individual. By unspoken consensus, certain behaviors are deemed "appropriate" and others "inappropriate". For example, an appropriate
doctor Doctor or The Doctor may refer to: Personal titles * Doctor (title) Doctor is an Academic degree, academic title that originates from the Latin word of the same spelling and meaning. The word is originally an Agent noun, agentive noun ...

doctor
dresses fairly conservatively, asks a series of personal questions about one's health, touches one in ways that would normally be forbidden, writes prescriptions, and shows more concern for the personal
wellbeing Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a person is what is ultimately good ''for'' this person, what is in the s ...

wellbeing
of his or her clients than is expected of, say, an
electrician An electrician is a tradesman A tradesman, skilled tradesman, or tradie refers to a skilled worker who specializes in a particular occupation that requires work experience, on-the-job training, and often formal vocational education ...

electrician
or a
shopkeeper A shopkeeper is a retail merchant or tradesman A tradesman, skilled tradesman, or tradie refers to a skilled worker who specializes in a particular occupation that requires work experience, on-the-job training, and often formal vocational e ...

shopkeeper
. "Role" is what the doctor ''does'' (or, at least, is expected to do) while status is what the doctor ''is; ''in other words, "status" is the position an actor occupies, while "role" is the expected behavior attached to that position. Roles are not limited to occupational status, of course, nor does the fact that one is cast in the role of "doctor" during working hours prevent one from taking on other roles at other times: husband/wife, friend, father/mother, and so on.


Role in interactionist or social action theory

In interactionist social theory, the concept of role is crucial. The interactionist definition of "role" pre-dates the functionalist one. A role, in this conception, is not fixed or prescribed but something that is constantly negotiated between individuals in a tentative, creative way.
Philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mi ...

Philosopher
George Herbert Mead George Herbert Mead (February 27, 1863 – April 26, 1931) was an American philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatists. He is regarded ...

George Herbert Mead
explored roles in his seminal 1934 work, ''Mind, self and society''. Mead's main interest was the way in which children learn how to become a part of society by imaginative ''role-taking'', observing and mimicking others. This is always done in an interactive way: it's not meaningful to think of a role for one person alone, only for that person as an individual who is both co-operating and competing with others. Adults behave similarly: taking roles from those that they see around them, adapting them in creative ways, and (by the process of social interaction) testing them and either confirming them or modifying them. This can be most easily seen in encounters where there is considerable
ambiguity Ambiguity is a type of meaning Meaning most commonly refers to: * Meaning (linguistics), meaning which is communicated through the use of language * Meaning (philosophy), definition, elements, and types of meaning discussed in philosophy * ...
, but is nevertheless something that is part of all social interactions: each individual actively tries to "define the situation" (understand their role within it); choose a role that is advantageous or appealing; play that role; and persuade others to support the role.


Social norms theory

Social norms theory states that much of people's behavior is influenced by their perception of how other members of their
social group In the social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of pla ...
behave. When individuals are in a state of
deindividuationDeindividuation is a concept in social psychology Social psychology is the Science, scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined, and implied presence of others, 'imagined' a ...
, they see themselves only in terms of group identity, and their behavior is likely to be guided by group norms alone. But while group norms have a powerful effect on behavior, they can only guide behavior when they are activated by obvious reminders or by subtle cues. People adhere to social norms through enforcement, internalization, the sharing of norms by other group members, and frequent activation. Norms can be enforced through punishment or reward. Individuals are rewarded for living up to their roles (i.e. students getting an "A" on their exam) or punished for not completing the duties of their role (i.e. a salesman is fired for not selling enough product). Social norm theory has been applied as an environmental approach, with an aim of influencing individuals by manipulating their social and cultural environments. It has been widely applied using
social marketing Social marketing has the primary goal of achieving "social good". Traditional commercial marketing aims are primarily financial, though they can have positive social effects as well. In the context of public health, social marketing would promot ...
techniques. Normative messages are designed for delivery using various media and promotional strategies in order to effectively reach a target population. Social norms theory has also been successfully applied through strategies such as curriculum infusion, creating press coverage, policy development, and small group inventions.


The theory of planned behavior

People display reactance by fighting against threats to their freedom of action when they find norms inappropriate. Attitudes and norms typically work together to influence behavior (directly or indirectly). The
theory of planned behavior The theory of planned behavior (TPB) is a psychological Psychology is the scientific Science (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languag ...
intentions are a function of three factors: attitudes about the behavior, social norms relevant to the behavior, and perceptions of control over the behavior. When attitudes and norms disagree, their influence on behaviour will depend on their relative accessibility.


Team role theory

As described in ''Working in Groups'' by Engleberg and Wynn, team role theory is when "members assume roles that are compatible with their personal characteristics and skills".
Meredith Belbin Raymond Meredith Belbin (born 4 June 1926) is an English people, English researcher and management consultant best known for his work on management teams. He is a visiting professor and Honorary Fellow of Henley Management College in Oxfordshire ...
, a psychologist, first explored the concept of team-role theory in the 1970s when he and his research team went about observing teams and wanted to find out what made teams work and what did not. According to Belbin and his research team "the research revealed that the difference between success and failure for a team was not dependent on factors such as intellect, but more on behavior". They began to identify separate clusters of behaviors and found that behavior was more influential on a team than anything else. These separate clusters of behaviors are known as the "Team Roles". The nine "team roles" are as follows: coordinator/chairperson, shaper, innovator, resource investigator, monitor/evaluator, implementer, teamworker, completer/finisher, and specialist.


Role conflict

There are situations where the prescribed sets of behavior that characterise roles may lead to
cognitive dissonance In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the perception of contradictory information. Relevant items of information include a person's actions, feelings, ideas, beliefs, Value (ethics), values, and things in the environment. Cognitive d ...

cognitive dissonance
in individuals. Role conflict is a special form of
social conflict Social conflict is the struggle for agency or power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the ...
that takes place when one is forced to take on two different and incompatible roles at the same time. An example of role conflict is a father, who is a baseball coach, that is torn between his role as a father by wanting to let his son be the pitcher and his role as a coach who should let the more experienced pitcher play.


Role confusion

Role confusion occurs in a situation where an individual has trouble determining which role he or she should play, but where the roles are not necessarily incompatible. For example, if a college student attending a social function encounters his teacher as a fellow guest, he will have to determine whether to relate to the teacher as a student or a peer.


Role enhancement

Role enhancement or ''role enrichment'' refers to a situation in which roles which are held by a person are compatible and moreover enacting one role has beneficial
spillover effect In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods a ...
s on the enactment of the other role. An example of role enhancement is a nurse who assists a patient in improving relationships by "clarifying and supplementing specific role behaviors". Some evidence indicates that role conflict and role enhancement can occur simultaneously, and further evidence suggests that
mental health Mental health is "a state of well-being Well-being, also known as ''wellness'', ''prudential value'' or ''quality of life'', refers to what is intrinsically valuable relative ''to'' someone. So the well-being of a person is what is ultimatel ...

mental health
correlates with low role conflict and high role enhancement. Also certain
personality trait In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense sco ...
s, in particular traits linked to perceiving and seeking greater levels of support, are associated with lower inter-role conflict and increase inter-role enrichment.


Role strain

Role strain is "the incompatibility among roles corresponding to a single status". An example of role strain is "a student who is torn between the obligations of school, their parents, and their job". This is role strain because the status of being a student comes with multiple responsibilities that make it difficult to handle all at the same time.


Gender roles

Gender roles are "sets of behavioral norms assumed to accompany one's status as male or female". Gender roles are "one of the most popular strains of thought to evolve from role theory" because it can be applied to one's status as a male or female in everyday life. It has been argued that gender "constitutes as a
master status In sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytolog ...
" because the status of gender holds a power in society. An example of gender role is baby boys being associated with the color blue and baby girls being associated with the color pink. As people get older, women are traditionally assigned the role of being a stay at home mom and men are assigned the role of being the breadwinner of the family.


See also

* Character mask *
Conflict theory Conflict may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''Conflict'' (1921 film), an American silent film directed by Stuart Paton * ''Conflict'' (1936 film), an American boxing film starring John Wayne * ''Conflict'' (1938 film) ...
*
Gender role A gender role, also known as a sex role, is a social role encompassing a range of behaviors and attitudes that are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for a person based on that person's sex. Gender roles are usually cente ...
*
Sick role Sick role is a term used in medical sociology Medical sociology is the sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a l ...
*
Purpose in life Intentions are mental states A mental state, or a mental property, is a state of mind of a person. Mental states comprise a diverse class including perception, pain experience, belief, desire, intention, emotion, and memory. There is controversy c ...
*
Role-playing Role-playing or roleplaying is the changing of one's behaviour to assume a role A role (also rôle or social role) is a set of connected behaviors, rights, moral obligation, obligations, beliefs, and social norm, norms as conceptualized by peo ...
*
Role engulfmentIn labeling theory Labeling theory posits that self-identity and the behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. It is associated with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyp ...
*
Role model A role model is a person whose behaviour, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. The term ''role model'' is credited to sociologist Robert K. Merton Robert King Merton (born Meyer Robert Schkolnic ...
* Role suction *
Social position Social position is the position of an individual An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity Entity may refer to: Computing * Character entity reference, replacement text for a character in HTML or XML * Entity class, a thing of ...
*
Social status Social status is the level of social value a person is considered to hold. More specifically, it refers to the relative level of respect, honour Honour (British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English langu ...
*
Master status In sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytolog ...
*
Achieved status Achieved status is a concept developed by the anthropologist Ralph Linton Ralph Linton (27 February 1893 – 24 December 1953) was a respected American anthropologistAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthr ...
*
Ascribed status Ascribed status is a term used in sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals ...
*
Stereotypes Social psychology defines a stereotype as a generalized belief about a particular category of people. It is an expectation that people might have about every person of a particular group. The type of expectation can vary; it can be, for exa ...

Stereotypes
*
Transactional analysis Transactional analysis (TA) is a psychoanalytic theory Psychoanalytic theory is the theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative ...

The Fundamentals of Social Roles
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References


Bibliography

* *Chandler, Daniel. "Television and Gender Roles"

*Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah. ''Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust''. Vintage Books, New York. 1996. * *Main Frame: Strategies for Generating Social Norms News. 2002

* * * * *Time Life. ''The Twisted Dream''. Time Life, Alexandria, Virginia. 1990.


External links

* {{Authority control Role status,
Sociological terminology This category relates to sociological Sociology is the study of society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or s ...
Role theory Identity (social science)