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- Changed conditions can render a social role outdated or illegitimate, in which case social pressures are likely to lead to role change.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:
“Given that external reality is a fiction, the writers role is almost superfluous. He does not need to invent the fiction because it is already there.”
—J.G. (James Graham)
“What is charm then? The free giving of a grace, the spending of something given by nature in her role of spendthrift ... something extra, superfluous, unnecessary, essentially a power thrown away.”
—Doris Lessing (b. 1919)
“His role was as the gentle teacher, the logical, compassionate, caring and articulate teacher, who inspired you so that you wanted to please him more than life itself.”
—Carol Lawrence, U.S. singer, star of West Side Story. Conversations About Bernstein, p. 172, ed. William Westbrook Burton, Oxford University Press (1995)