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Class: Managing Impressions

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Author: Jessica Collett
Understanding Societies lecture notes - Managing Impressions

Class Notes

"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences" (W.I. Thomas). The definition of the situation is an important part of interaction-- it is how each party understands and interprets the situation.  There are three important aspects of a situation: frame, identities, appropriate behaviors.  If people within a situation disagree on the definition, it can impede successful interaction.

People engage in impression management to attempt to portray a given impression about the self.  There are a number of ways in which people manage impressions: managing appearances (wearing make-up to a job interview, wearing glasses to appear smart, and so on), ingratiation (including opinion conformity, other enhancement, playing dumb, selective self-presentation, such as self-enhancement or self-deprecation), aligning actions (disclaimers, accounts, apologies), altercasting, and emotion management.

Watch the Sex and the City episode "The Drought."  Relate one of the scenes in the show to a specific scene or idea from one of the readings last night.  Be specific to demonstrate you've read and watched.


Required Reading: 

"The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Selections," Goffman (Sociology Reader, pp. 120-129)

"Wheelchair Users' Interpersonal Management of Emotions," Cahill and Eggleston (Sociology Reader, pp. 130-140)

Recommended Reading

"Supporting Identity: The Presentation of Self," Newman (Sociology, pp. 157-181)


Keywords: definition of the situation, frame, identities, appropriate behaviors, impression management, managing appearances, ingratiation, opinion conformity, other enhancement, playing dumb, selective self-presentation, self-enhancement and self-deprecation, aligning actions, disclaimers, accounts, apologies, altercasting, emotion management.


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