Social Construction of Reality

  • The social construction of reality refers to the theory that the way we present ourselves to others is shaped by our interactions with others.
  • The Thomas Theorem posits that if a person perceives a situation as real, it is real in its consequences. People will act according to how they perceive a person or a situation.
  • Ethnomethodology, as founded by Harold Garfinkel, looks at how people make sense out of everyday situations by examining their background assumptions.


  • Erving Goffman developed dramaturgy, the theory that all social life is like a drama or play in which everyone plays a role.
  • Goffman coined the term impression management to refer to our desire to manipulate others’ impressions of us.
  • To manage impressions, we use three sign vehicles: setting, appearance, and manner.
  • People also manage impressions by managing their personal space, the immediate area surrounding their body.

Social Status

  • Social status is the position that we occupy in a particular setting.
  • Status symbols are obvious signs or symbols of a respective status. They can be positive or negative.
  • Status inconsistency occurs when a person occupies one or more statuses that do not usually coincide in a single person.
  • Master status overrides all other statuses and is the one by which we are first known to others. For many people, their occupation is their master status.
  • Stigma is Goffman’s term for a trait or characteristic we possess that causes us to lose prestige in others’ eyes.
  • When stigma is permanent or severe, it can result in spoiled identity. People think negatively of those with spoiled identities.
  • One way to deal with people with spoiled identities is through a degradation ceremony, a ritual designed to expel a person from a group.

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