Descriptive Essay. Social Roles. Part 1


What social roles can an adult member of society play? In what case can social roles conflict with each other? What did the socio-psychological experiments of Milgram and Zimbardo show? Our task is to find out all this. This will be all the better for you if you decide to write a sociology essay on this topic.

A role is one of the basic concepts of sociology. All first-year students who fall into the hands of a sociologist, first of all, are taught to look at social behavior as the fulfillment of certain fixed roles. It is clear that the "role" is a term taken from the theater. As each actor performs a certain party on stage in a traditional theater, which cannot be changed without causing criticism from the director, so we all fulfill the part assigned to us in a social life. We also cannot change it without causing a misunderstanding in our environment.

Each of us performs a number of such parties. This number is called a role set. Robert Merton first introduced this concept, saying that every healthy adult member of society – a child and a seriously ill person has a single role – has a lot of these roles. These roles are not written by us, we partially choose them and partially do not choose them. Some of the roles that are called ascriptive get to us in accordance with our biological signs. You can start playing the wrong role, but in many countries, it entails unpleasant consequences.

Imaginary Freedom of Choice

Other roles are generally chosen completely freely. Where the profession is not inherited, as, for example, in all societies that are called modern, the choice of which professional role to perform is entirely at the discretion of an individual. Some roles do not even presuppose a long biographical experience of their performance. All the same, people prepare to perform a professional role for years, and, since they began to perform it, there is little chance of switching to another one, and maybe not at all. We can try several different roles several times in the evening – lovers of philately or numismatics, for example, and then we disappoint in them and quit them.

Roles are not the entirely harmless things in the sense that they tend to conflict with each other. Roles from the same set, even necessarily prescribed to a particular individual, do not always agree with each other. They can run against each other as much as they want, make opposite demands, force others to behave in a mutually exclusive way.

A classic example is a school teacher who has to teach his or her own child. As a schoolteacher, they should address all students equally, as a good parent, they should love their child more than other children. As a schoolteacher, they must ensure that all children are able to do their homework, as a good parent, they should help the child get a good evaluation – they can think this way. In both cases, there is a role conflict because of which most school teachers prefer not to teach their children.

In addition to these innocuous forms of conflict, there are, of course, more ambitious and more serious ones. Some of them can lead to terrible consequences. And we want to remind you that if you have unfinished assignments or unwritten essays on sociology or other subjects, you always have an optimal solution. Just contact the professionals. This is the best option for the students who value their time and are ready to seek the detours for classical academic obstacles.

Alternative Scenarios

The concept of role is important for researching people's behavior in situations of interaction in many ways. In addition, they allow us to describe the social structure as a whole, they allow us to describe much of what is happening around us in a specific situation. In most situations, we know what role we play but something remains at our own discretion. In addition, we often find ourselves in a situation of a potential conflict when it seems to us that another role could be played with the same set of participants. Usually, this creates awkwardness, but the masters and aces of their position – a very valuable skill in society – know how to resolve this awkwardness or go out of this situation.

For example, a surgeon who performs an operation and, of course, interacts with younger assistants or with nurses primarily as a surgeon. Nevertheless, they can afford to demonstrate what Erving Hoffman called the role distance, demonstrate for a moment that another role can be performed in relation to the patient or to their environment – they can somehow joke. And, moreover, for the surgeon, this demonstration of the role distance is even welcomed and supported in every way because it seems to take the heat off: if the operation is complicated, it makes it clear that the operation is not so complicated, if the patient is still conscious – it calms the patient about his or her prospects.

On the one hand, such a confusion of roles may seem inappropriate. If a person suddenly says something that is not expected to be heard from them, the reaction can be very different, from perplexity to aggression. But on the other hand, sometimes it becomes clear to us that without this seemingly irrelevant action or phrase, everything that happens either falls under the next template category and is consigned to oblivion or just loses its meaning.

This may sound paradoxical, but very often it is the deviation from the standard scenario that awakens life and allows people who mechanically play their roles with clouded eyes and a cold heart, pulsating only for blood pumping, suddenly wake up and realize what is happening.

Read the continuation of the article in the next part on the blog of the website.

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