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- Changed conditions can render a social role outdated or illegitimate, in which case social pressures are likely to lead to role change.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:
“Friends serve central functions for children that parents do not, and they play a critical role in shaping childrens social skills and their sense of identity. . . . The difference between a child with close friendships and a child who wants to make friends but is unable to can be the difference between a child who is happy and a child who is distressed in one large area of life.”
—Zick Rubin (20th century)
“Of course, some men are very effective caregivers [of elderly parents]. But this situation occurs far less frequently for males than females, because it is a role reversal. For women, caregiving is an expected duty; for men, it is an unexpected expression of love or devotion.”
—Tish Sommers (20th century)
“Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within.”
—Hannah Arendt (19061975)