yes, therapy helps!
The dramaturgical model of Erving Goffman

The dramaturgical model of Erving Goffman

January 25, 2022

In a theatrical performance the characters interact in a specific scenario with certain roles in order to represent a script. But the representation of roles it is not something that is confined to the theatrical or the cinematographic .

In our daily life we ​​also often interpret different roles depending on the circumstances we live, who we interact with and the expectations we have of our performance. In this way, some theoretical perspectives consider that the human being acts in his contact with others as if he were performing a play. Specifically, it is what he proposes the dramaturgical model of Erving Goffman , focused on face-to-face social contact.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Jacob Levy Moreno's psychodrama: what is it?"

In Goffman's dramaturgical approach

The approach or dramaturgical model of Erving Goffman is a way to interpret social interaction in which the idea that all interaction is a performance or role represented towards the other or the possible observers is proposed. Social interactions and our social structure are nothing more than the representation of the roles we have internalized in such a way that they end up being part of our own identity.

In any social situation that people carry out, some kind of role is being interpreted, which will change depending on the interactive contexts. The person shows a specific type of information of himself according to the situation and the intention, which will provoke different answers according to how he is interpreted by his similar. As in the theater, in all interaction there are pre-established behavioral limits , a script to interpret before others.

The basic idea of ​​this model is that the human being tries to control the impression he generates in others from the interaction in order to bring this impression closer to your ideal self. In each contact a scheme of acts is represented, from which you can express your point of view regarding reality and interaction while trying to modify the evaluation of others.

The dramaturgical model of Erving Goffman part of a conception of symbolic interactionism , in which the mental and the situational influence the realization of behavior and the construction of the psyche from the construction and transmission of shared meanings referring to the symbols used in the interactive context.

  • Related article: "The 4 styles of relationships, according to the Johari Window"


Social interaction takes place in a context or in a specific framework, what the author calls establishment. In other words, it is the scenario in which the interaction takes place, in which impressions will be exchanged. It consists of the personal facade or internalized role and the public facade or image that we show the public when representing.

In this stage the physical location and the actors and roles converge of each one to configure the scene in which the actors are going to express themselves and be interpreted.

The actors and their interaction

For social interaction to exist, one of the key components is the existence of someone who carries them out. These people, who interact, are the so-called actors.

In an interaction the different actors are in a situation of copresence, that is to say of mutual interaction, in which these people represent concrete roles and exchange impressions which will be used to understand the performance and act accordingly. Both subjects are emitters and receivers at the same time , they are both actor and audience.

In addition, during the interaction, impressions are transmitted both voluntarily and consciously and involuntarily through contextual elements that are beyond the control and intentionality of the actor. The two types of elements are going to be captured and interpreted by the other, acting accordingly. The knowledge of this fact allows that contextual elements are used strategically to give different interpretations of what they would have at another time or situation.

The actor must try to handle the impressions he provokes in the audience so that it is interpreted as he intends, without falling into contradiction.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Paul Watzlawick's theory of human communication"

The role or role

Roles play a fundamental role in the interaction between people, indicating the type of behaviors that are expected to be carried out in a certain situation. They mainly indicate what position each one should take, as well as their status or the meaning endowed by the culture to the role in question.

These roles involve a process by which an influence is established from one person to another , generating a performance by the other. Roles are a fundamental part of our relationship with our peers and can vary according to the scenario or contextual framework. In addition, they are also linked to the identity or the concept of the Self.

  • Related article: "The 28 types of communication and their characteristics"

Identity according to the dramaturgical model

The concept of the Self or itself it is an element that for Goffman's model supposes the product of the manipulation of the impressions of the others so that they elaborate an image of the determined and flattering individual. Identity is a construction that the human being makes of himself for others from the roles he carries out.

Thus, people create a general public facade for their performance. This main role that we play throughout our lives, the integration of most of the roles, is what we consider self . This assumes that people are actually offering an appearance of themselves to others, that they try to approach an ideal Self.

Identity, the Self, it's just the set of masks that we put on , what we express and project to others. We are what others interpret about us from our interactions.

  • Maybe you're interested: "The id, the self and the superego, according to Sigmund Freud"

Interpreting social situations: the frames of meaning

Another concept of Goffman's dramaturgical model is that of frame or frame, which is understood as the scheme or perspective from which the social phenomena is understood and allows the subject to organize their knowledge and experiences.

These frames or frames they are given largely by the culture to which we belong from which we acquire ways of interpreting our social world and the symbolisms that are part of it, as well as the situations that we live in., so we can adjust our interaction with the environment.

Knowing what happens in a given situation requires these frameworks, which will be used as elements both to understand the reality of the interaction and to contribute to its realization by the individual. These frames can be primary, which are used to understand natural or social events , but in some cases they require secondary frames to give an act a purpose different from the original or to consciously manipulate the perception of the other regarding a concrete action (respectively, modifications or fabrications).

Bibliographic references:

  • Chihu, A. and López, A. (2000). The dramaturgical approach in Erving Goffman. UNAM, Mexico.
  • Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Doubleday Anchor. New York
  • Rivas, M. & López, M. (2012). Social psychology and organizations. CEDE Manual of Preparation PIR, 11. CEDE. Madrid.

Erving Goffman's Dramaturgy (January 2022).

Similar Articles