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Identity and Reality

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Identity and Reality Quiz

Compare and contrast ethnomethodology and the Thomas Theorem.

According to both theories, reality is a social construction. Garfinkel’s work focused on how people make sense of their surroundings. He hypothesized that people respond differently to the same situation based on their background assumptions. His goal was to identify these assumptions and determine how they influence our perceptions of reality. Thomas theorized that if people defined situations as real, then they were real in their consequences. He did not search for background assumptions but instead focused on how people turned assumptions into reality.

Create an ethnomethodological experiment to identify background assumptions. What will you do, what assumptions will you be testing, and what predictions can you make?

For my experiment, I will test people’s assumptions about politeness. I will act in a manner contrary to normal behavior. Whenever someone asks me a polite question, I will answer it honestly. For example, when people ask me, “How are you?” I will not answer, “Fine, how are you?” I will tell them how I really feel at that moment and record their reaction. I predict that people will be surprised at my answer. They may initially respond as if I had given the expected response, because they may need time to process my unexpected answer.

In what ways do we manage people’s impressions of us? Imagine that you are a male college senior who looks and dresses like a snowboarder. If you were trying to get a job at a bank, how might you try to manage others’ impressions of you?

According to Goffman, we manage others’ impressions of us by manipulating sign vehicles. The most common sign vehicles are setting, appearance, and manner of interacting. In order to get a job at a bank, I would have to focus on two of Goffman’s sign vehicles: appearance and manner. I can’t really dictate the setting. I would cut my hair, shave my face, and wear a dark suit. I would also probably carry a leather briefcase. I would also pay attention to my body language. I would shake hands firmly and maintain eye contact.

What is the connection between appearance and status?

According to Goffman, appearance is one of the sign vehicles that people manipulate in order to manage others’ impressions. As we change our appearance, we change people’s view of us. Appearance is also an important indication of status. We wear status symbols to convey our status. When we change our appearance, we change which status we are highlighting. For example, a female executive wearing a suit conveys a status of power and importance. When she changes into jeans and a sweatshirt to attend her son’s soccer game, she is emphasizing her status as a mother.

How does gender inform personal space?

When someone stands closer to us than our culture deems appropriate, we feel uncomfortable because they have invaded our personal space. Powerful and prestigious people, often men, can command more personal space and in general are also more likely to invade others’ personal space. When a man stands closer to a woman than might be deemed culturally appropriate, he may be trying to intimidate or threaten her, conveying the message that he is more powerful than she is. It could also be interpreted as a sign of sexual interest. When women, who are generally less physically powerful than men, stand too close to a man, their behavior is more likely to be interpreted as a sexual overture than as a sign of power.

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