A role (from the French rôle, and sometimes so spelt in English) or social role is a set of connected behaviours, rights and obligations as conceptualised by actors in a social situation. It is an expected or free or continuously changing behaviour and may have a given individual social status or social position. It is vital to both functionalist and interactionist understandings of society. Social role posits the following about social behaviour:
- The division of labour in society takes the form of the interaction among heterogeneous specialised positions, we call roles.
- Social roles included appropriate and permitted forms of behaviour, guided by social norms, which are commonly known and hence determine the expectations for appropriate behaviour in these roles.
- Roles are occupied by individuals, who are called actors.
- When individuals approve of a social role (i.e., they consider the role legitimate and constructive), 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- Changed conditions can render a social role outdated or illegitimate, in which case social pressures are likely to lead to role change.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 and punishments, as well as the satisfaction of behaving prosocially, account for why agents conform to role requirements.
Famous quotes containing the word role:
“I wish glib and indiscriminate critics of industrialists had some conception of the problems that have to be met by factory management.... General condemnation of employers is a favorite indoor sport of the uninformed intelligentsia who assume the role of lance- bearers for labor.”
—Mary Barnett Gilson (1877?)
“American feminists have generally stressed the ways in which men and women should be equal and have therefore tried to put aside differences.... Social feminists [in Europe] ... believe that men and society at large should provide systematic support to women in recognition of their dual role as mothers and workers.”
—Sylvia Ann Hewitt (20th century)
“Always and everywhere children take an active role in the construction and acquisition of learning and understanding. To learn is a satisfying experience, but also, as the psychologist Nelson Goodman tells us, to understand is to experience desire, drama, and conquest.”
—Carolyn Edwards (20th century)