• Even more »

Account Options

the presentation of self in everyday life pdf

  • Try the new Google Books
  • Advanced Book Search
  • Barnes&Noble.com
  • Books-A-Million
  • Find in a library
  • All sellers  »

Other editions - View all

About the author  (2022), bibliographic information.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959)

Erving goffman (1959): the presentation of self in everyday life.

By Jason Taylor


Erving Goffman (1922-1982) was “arguably the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century” (Fine & Manning, 2003, p. 34). This summary will outline one of his earliest works – The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life , originally published in 1956. The book was published more widely in 1959 with some minor changes and in 1969, won the American Sociological Association’s MacIver Award (Treviño, 2003). It has been listed by the International Sociological Association (1998) as the tenth most important book of the last century.

Goffman (1959, p.12) introduces his “report” as “a sort of handbook” which details “one sociological perspective from which social life can be studied”. In it, he describes “a set of features… which together form a framework that can be applied to any concrete social establishment, be it domestic, industrial, or commercial”.

Goffman (1959) intends on providing a unique sociological perspective from which to view the social world. He names this perspective dramaturgical analysis. Elegantly intuitive, this perspective directs us to view the social world as a stage. Goffman is using the language of the theatre to describe social interaction. Much like on the stage, ‘actors’ take on ‘roles’ – they engage in a performance . There is an audience who views and interprets this performance. There are props and scripts. And there is a ‘front stage’ and a ‘backstage’.

Following the introduction, the book is broken down into six main chapters. These are:

  • Performances
  • Regions and Region Behaviour
  • Discrepant Roles
  • Communication out of Character
  • The Arts of Impression Management

These six chapters outline the six ‘dramaturgical principles’ of Goffman’s theory (Fine & Manning, 2003; Manning, 1992). This section will outline some of the core aspects of each of these ‘dramaturgical principles’. The first principle (performances) will be the most detailed of the six, because it is the fundamental theoretical basis for Goffman’s (1959) overall concept. The additional five principles can be seen as supporting and building upon this underlying idea. Following from this fairly extensive summary of the book, a critical evaluation will discuss some of its main criticisms and consider why it remains an exceptionally influential piece of Sociology. Finally, we will end with some cautionary advice from Goffman on the scope and practicality of his theory.

1. Performances

A “performance” may be defined as all the activity of a given participant on a given occasion that serves to influence in any way any of the other participants. (Goffman, 1959, p.26)
I have been using the term “performance” to refer to all the activity of an individual which occurs during a period marked by his continuous presence before a particular set of observers and which has some influence on the observers . (Goffman, 1959, p. 32)

So, by ‘performance’, Goffman (1959) is referring to any activity by an individual in the presence of others which influences those others.

It is important to recognise that there are various situations, circumstances and settings within which a performance can take place. One of the most obvious, perhaps, is a job interview. In this case, the interviewee is likely presenting a version of themselves that they believe the interviewer values in their employees – well-mannered, confident (but not arrogant), respectful, hard-working, trustworthy, and so on. They may attempt to present these characteristics through the way they dress, their posture, their manner and tone of speaking, their body language, etc. Indeed, the interviewer will also be putting on a performance – perhaps restraining themselves so as not to reveal too much about how the interview is going or presenting an authoritative demeanour, for example. However, performances occur in more subtle settings and situations, too. When a couple go out to dinner, they present themselves in a certain way – both towards each other as well as the person serving them and to other diners. The way we dress, the way we speak, the facial expressions we make, our body language, all amount to a kind of performance.

Goffman (1959) suggests that performances are an essential aspect of how we “define the situation”:

When an individual enters the presence of others, they commonly seek to acquire information about him or to bring into play information about him already possessed. They will be interested in his general socio-economic status, his conception of self, his attitude toward them, his competence, his trustworthiness, etc. Although some of this information seems to be sought almost as an end in itself, there are usually quite practical reasons for acquiring it. Information about the individual helps to define the situation, enabling others to know in advance what he will expect of them and what they may expect of him. Informed in these ways, the others will know how best to act in order to call forth a desired response from him. (Goffman, 1959, p.1)

Essentially, the argument here is that social interaction requires performances from all actors involved in any social interaction in order to define and negotiate the situation we find ourselves in. Through our performances, we make claims about what the situation is, who we are, and what to expect from one another.

A word of caution here. Goffman (1959) is not necessarily implying that individuals are consciously deceiving one another or ‘faking it’… at least, not all of the time:

At one extreme, one finds that the performer can be fully taken in by his own act; he can be sincerely convinced that the impression of reality which he stages is the real reality. When his audience is also convinced in this way about the show he puts on—and this seems to be the typical case—then for the moment at least, only the sociologist or the socially disgruntled will have any doubts about the “realness” of what is presented. At the other extreme, we find that the performer may not be taken in at all by his own routine. This possibility is understandable, since no one is in quite as good an observational position to see through the act as the person who puts it on. Coupled with this, the performer may be moved to guide the conviction of his audience only as a means to other ends, having no ultimate concern in the conception that they have of him or of the situation. When the individual has no belief in his own act and no ultimate concern with the beliefs of his audience, we may call him cynical, reserving the term “sincere” for individuals who believe in the impression fostered by their own performance. (Goffman, 1959, pp.17-18)

Certainly then, an individual may intentionally and consciously put on a performance in order to gain in some way from a given situation. However, performances occur in any and all social interactions. The performer may well be convinced that the performance they are giving is not really a performance at all and instead may view it as an authentic reflection of him- or herself.

Nonetheless, there has been criticism that Goffman presents a cynical view of the ‘self’. Manning (1992), for example, argues that Goffman’s theory is based on what he calls the ‘two selves thesis’. One aspect of the self is considered to be a careful performer, while the other is the “cynical manipulator behind the public performance” (Fine & Manning, 2003, p. 46). We will return to this and other criticism later in the discussion.

An essential aspect of performance, one we have considered in examples already, is what Goffman (1959) calls ‘front’:

It will be convenient to label as “front” that part of the individuals performance which regularly functions in a general and fixed fashion to define the situation for those who observe the performance. Front, then, is the expressive equipment of a standard kind intentionally or unwittingly employed by the individual during his performance. (Goffman, 1959, p. 22)

Front can be broken down into two broad components:

Setting: the manipulation of the environment to support a particular performance…

… involving furniture, décor, physical layout, and other background items which supply the scenery and stage props for the spate of human action played out before, within, or upon it.  (Goffman, 1959, p.22)

Personal Front:

refers to the other items of expressive equipment, the items that we most intimately identify with the performer himself and that we naturally expect will follow the performer wherever he goes. As part of personal front we may include: insignia of office or rank; clothing; sex, age, and racial characteristics; size and looks; posture; speech patterns; facial expressions; bodily gestures; and the like. (Goffman, 1959, p. 24)

Personal Front is broken down into two further categories – ‘Appearance’ and ‘Manner’. Appearance refers to the performers social status – how they are dressed, for example, or any status symbols they may have on show; while manner may be taken as “those stimuli which function at the time to warn us of the interaction role the performer will expect to play in the oncoming situation” (Goffman, 1959, p. 24). For example:

a haughty, aggressive manner may give the impression that the performer expects to be the one who will initiate the verbal interaction and direct its course. A meek, apologetic manner may give the impression that the performer expects to follow the lead of others, or at least that he can be led to do so. (Goffman, 1959, p.24)

Performances are often a collaborative effort. Individuals will often find themselves in situations whereby they must perform as part of a ‘team’. Examples of this include colleagues at work, students in a classroom, and family outings. ‘Teams’ work together to maintain a common impression and cooperate to contribute to defining the situation. They are required to trust one another to play their role convincingly.

Individuals who perform together as a team are therefore mutually dependent on one another. Each may have a specialised role to play, and there may be a ‘director’ who has “the right to direct and control the progress of the dramatic action” (Goffman, 1959, p. 97).  Members of a team are also generally aware that each individual within the team is performing while they are ‘frontstage’.

Members of a team also have access to a ‘backstage’ where they are able to relax and cease performing – to an extent. However, it should be recognised that each individual will still maintain their own personal performance, intended to be observed by other members of the team.

3. Regions and Region Behaviour

Continuing with the metaphor of the stage, Goffman (1959) considers there to be various regions, variably observable to different audiences, where performers will have more or less need to perform. He distinguishes between three different ‘regions’. These are front region , back region and outside region .

Front Region: Also referred to as ‘frontstage’. An audience is present and a performance is given. Essentially, an individual is ‘frontstage’, at least to a degree, any time they are in the presence of others.

Back Region: Also referred to as ‘backstage’. When ‘backstage’, individuals and teams can rehearse, relax and behave ‘out of character’.

[Backstage], the performer can relax; he can drop his front, forgo speaking his lines, and step out of character. (Goffman, 1959, p. 122)

An individual ‘backstage’ no longer has to be concerned with their appearance or manner, or with with manipulating the setting to accommodate or please an audience. Under normal circumstances the audience has little or no access to the backstage region.

Outside Region: A region occupied by ‘outsiders’ who are not intended to be present by a performer. These outsiders are neither performers or actors and are often considered to be ‘intruders’. Performances vary based on who is in the audience. Outsiders may cause confusion or embarrassment because they may not be the ‘intended audience’ for a specific performance. Goffman (1959) gives an example of a couple who regularly bicker unexpectedly receiving a guest who they do not wish to be aware of their marital troubles. Essentially, the current performance must be adapted to accommodate the outsider, although “rarely can this be done smoothly enough to preserve the newcomer’s illusion that the show suddenly put on is the performer’s natural show” (Goffman, 1959, p. 139), In other words, the ‘adapted’ performance may not be a convincing one.

4. Discrepant Roles

For far, we have considered most individuals to be categorised in one of three ways – a performer, an audience member, or an outsider. But Goffman (1959) notes that ‘discrepant roles’ also exist, where an individual may not appear what they seem or may not completely fit into any of these three predefined categories. Some examples of discrepant roles include:

The Informer:

… someone who pretends to the performers to be a member of their team, is allowed to come backstage and to acquire destructive information, and then openly or secretly sells out the show to the audience. The political, military, industrial, and criminal variants of this role are famous. If it appears that the individual first joined the team in a sincere way and not with the premeditated plan of disclosing its secrets, we sometimes call him a traitor, turncoat, or quitter, especially if he is the sort of person who ought to have made a decent teammate. The individual who all along has meant to inform on the team, and originally joins only for this purpose, is sometimes called a spy. It has frequently been noted, of course, that informers, whether traitors or spies, are often in an excellent position to play a double game, selling out the secrets of those who buy secrets from them. Informers can, of course, be classified in other ways: as Hans Speier suggests, some are professionally trained for their work, others are amateurs; some are of high estate and some of low; some work for money and others work from conviction. (Goffman, 1959, pp. 145-146)
A shill is someone who acts as though he were an ordinary member of the audience but is in fact in league with the performers. Typically, the shill either provides a visible model for the audience of the kind of response the performers are seeking or provides the kind of audience response that is necessary at the moment for the development of the performance.  (Goffman, 1959, p. 146)
We must not take the view that shills are found only in non-respectable performances… For example, at informal conversational gatherings, it is common for a wife to look interested when her husband tells an anecdote and to feed him appropriate leads and cues, although in fact she has heard the anecdote many times and knows that the show her husband is making of telling something for the first time is only a show. A shill, then, is someone who appears to be just another unsophisticated member of the audience and who uses his unapparent sophistication in the interests of the performing team. (Goffman, 1957, pp. 146-147)


… are present during the interaction but in some respects do not take the role either of performer or of audience, nor do they (as do informers, shills, and spotters) pretend to be what they are not. (Goffman, 1959, p. 151)

Goffman suggests examples of ‘non-persons’ such as servants, children, the elderly and the sick. The term ‘non-person’ may come across as insensitive or prejudiced, but to be clear, Goffman is trying to outline how people are seen, thought about and treated within this framework. Such examples highlight members of society who are seen as neither performer, audience or outsider and do not make substantial impact on the way people behave in their presence. ‘Non-persons’ can often move between frontstage and backstage without causing the same sort of disruption that an ‘outsider’ might. Goffman’s (1963) work on Stigma adds a great deal of theory building on comparable concepts.

The Spotter: Undercover government or company ‘agents’ who act as a member or the public or team in order to check up on the conduct of employees or officials.

The Shopper:

… is the one who takes an unremarked, modest place in the audience… but when he leaves he goes to his employer, a competitor of the team whose performance he has witnessed, to report what he has seen. He is the professional shopper—the Gimbel’s man in Macy’s and the Macy’s man in Gimbel’s; he is the fashion spy and the foreigner at National Air Meets. [He] has a technical right to see the show but ought to have the decency, it is sometimes felt, to stay in his own back region, for his interest in the show is from the wrong perspective… (Goffman, 1959, pp. 148-149)

The Mediator: An individual who has access to both sides of a dispute but gives each side the impression that they are more loyal to them than to the other. Examples Goffman (1959) suggests are arbiters of labour disputes (negotiating between each side of the dispute), factory foremen (advancing the directives of upper management whilst maintaining the respect and willingness of workers) and chairmen or formal meetings (who are to moderate the meeting and ensure everyone is treated fairly). Goffman is amusingly cynical of ‘mediators’, concluding that they are essentially a ‘double-shill’:

When a go-between operates in the actual presence of the two teams of which he is a member, we obtain a wonderful display, not unlike a man desperately trying to play tennis with himself. Again we are forced to see that the individual is not the natural unit for our consideration but rather the team and its members. As an individual, the go-between’s activity is bizarre, untenable, and undignified, vacillating as it does from one set of appearances and loyalties to another. As a constituent part of two teams, the go-between’s vacillation is quite understandable. The go-between can be thought of simply as a double-shill. (Goffman, 1959, p. 149)

5. Communication out of Character

The discussion so far has outlined many of the ways in which a performer maintains their performance. There are, however, times when an actor may step ‘out of character’, revealing aspects of themselves that are not part of, and may be incompatible with, a given performance. For example, an actor who is unexpectedly startled or frightened while giving a performance may shout out “Good Lord” or “My God!” (Goffman, 1959, p. 169). Goffman outlines four forms this communication out of character may take:

  • Treatment of the Absent: While backstage, performers may derogate and talk negatively about the audience, toward whom they speak about favourably whilst frontstage. Goffman gives an example of salespeople:
… customers who are treated respectfully during the performance are often ridiculed, gossiped about, caricatured, cursed, and criticized when the performers are backstage; here, too, plans may be worked out for “selling” them, or employing “angles” against them, or pacifying them. (Goffman, 1959, p. 170)

While it is asserted that derogative speech is most the common treatment of the absent, backstage performers may also talk positively about their audience in ways they would not whilst frontstage.

  • Staging Talk: Backstage discussion between teams about various aspects of the performance, possible adjustments are considered, potential disruptions are explored, “wounds are licked, and morale is strengthened for the next performance” (Goffman, 1959, p. 176).
  • Team Collusion: Communication between fellow performers and those backstage who are involved in maintaining the performance. One example of team collusion is instructions given through the in-ear piece of a television news anchor. However, team collusion can also be more subtle, such as through “unconsciously learned vocabulary of gestures and looks by which collusive staging cues can be conveyed” (Goffman, 1959, p. 181).
  • Realigning Actions: Unofficial communication directed at the audience, often in an attempt to redefine the situation. Realigning actions may include “innuendo, mimicked accents, well-placed jokes, significant pauses, veiled hints, purposeful kidding, expressive overtones, and many other sign practices” (Goffman, 1959, p. 190). In the event that a performer is accused of unacceptable or improper communication out of character, through realigning actions they may attempt to claim that they did not ‘mean anything’ by their out of character communication and the audience is given a chance to disregard the outburst or mistake.

6. The Arts of Impression Management

It is a reality that performances have the potential to be disrupted. Audience members or outsiders may find their way backstage, for example, or communication out of character may result in a particular performance becoming irreconcilably contradictory with what the audience has witnessed.  ‘Impression management’ is a term used to describe the ways in which performers may plan and prepare ‘corrective practices’ for such disruptions (Goffman, 1959). These ‘dramaturgical disciplines’ may include techniques for covering up for teammates, suppressing emotions and spontaneous feelings, and maintaining self-control during performances.

Performers often rely on the “tactful tendency of the audience and outsiders to act in a protective way in order to help the performers save their own show (Goffman, 1959, p. 229). However, the tactfulness of the audience may not be enough to recover the situation, which may result in embarrassing and socially awkward consequences. As Goffman explains in his wonderfully Goffman way:

Whenever the audience exercises tact, the possibility will arise that the performers will learn that they are being tactfully protected. When this occurs, the further possibility arises that the audience will learn that the performers know they are being tactfully protected. And then, in turn, it becomes possible for the performers to learn that the audience knows that the performers know they are being protected. Now when such states of information exist, a moment in the performance may come when the separateness of the teams will break down and be momentarily replaced by a communion of glances through which each team openly admits to the other its state of information. At such moments, the whole dramaturgical structure of social interaction is suddenly and poignantly laid bare, and the line separating the teams momentarily disappears. Whether this close view of things brings shame or laughter, the teams are likely to draw rapidly back into their appointed character. (Goffman, 1959, 233)

Summary Conclusion

Here we will conclude this summary of Presentation of Self . It is a fairly extensive summary in comparison to many currently available and is focused principally on helping students to engage in the core ideas found throughout the book. As has become usual on this website, I have used extensive quotations with the aim of encouraging readers to explore this key text more directly. While I consider this summary to be fairly extensive, it does not nearly cover everything. My hope is that there is enough here to provide a relatively clear outline of what Goffman (1959) is trying to say. That said, it should be noted that Goffman’s theories are notoriously considered to be tricky to understand structurally. His work can be difficult to neatly condense and summarise. At the same time, something about his work changes the way we view the world. As Lemert (1997) puts it:

The experience Goffman effects is that of colonizing a new social place into which the reader enters, from which to exit never quite the same. To have once, even if only once, seen the social world from within such a place is never after to see it otherwise, ever after to read the world anew. In thus seeing differently, we are other than we were. (Lemert, 1997 – cited in Scheff, 2003, p.52)

Scheff (2003) adds:

Our vision of the world, and even of ourselves, is transformed by reading Goffman. (Scheff, 2003, p.52)

We will now move on to some critical analysis of the book.

Critical Analysis

Goffman provides us with an interesting and useful framework within which to think about social interaction through the framework of dramaturgical analysis. As we shall see, this is not a theory which claims to explain all of society or all aspects of social interaction. What it does provide is a framework that we can apply in studying social groups and their interaction between and among one another. It is a method of analysis.

The various principles he outlines offer a range of complexities that may apply in any particular social situation. One very obvious type of social space with which the dramaturgical perspective may be useful is in the workplace – (probably) any workplace. Some questions we might want to consider in studying social interaction within such an environment include:

  • What are individual performers hoping to achieve through their performances?
  • How do team dynamics apply in various situations?
  • Where do front and back regions exist and how clear are the lines between each?
  • How do performers respond to informers, or feel about spotters and how well do they work with mediators? Are there any strategies in place to guard against such discrepant intruders?
  • What contexts or situations may inspire communication out of character?
  • What methods of impression management are utilised in the event a performance is disrupted or exposed?

This is just one, very brief example, but hopefully it makes the point. Other settings I personally would be interested to explore through dramaturgical analysis include homeless hostels, educational establishments, prisons (which has been done, to an extent – start with Goffman’s (1961) Asylums if you find this interesting) and hospitals.

Goffman (1959) gives us a language to explore social interaction through dramaturgical analysis. The book, like much of Goffman’s work, is filled with specific examples from autobiographies and first-hand accounts of individuals experiences. Goffman is considered by many as a “brilliant maverick” (Manning, 1992, p. 1). However, he does not follow any of the clearly defined, systematic approaches used by other notable social theorists, and this has left many Sociologists in a position where they do not know how to replicate his approach:

Part of these limits of Goffman’s impact can be attributed to the daunting perception of his idiosyncratic brilliance. Few wish to place themselves in comparison with this master sociologist, particularly since his approach lacks an easily acquired method. How can one learn to do what Goffman did? Methodological guidelines do not exist. This has the effect of leaving the work both sui generis and incapable of imitation. The belief (and perhaps the reality) is that Goffman created a personalistic sociology that was virtually mimic-proof. (Fine & Manning, 2003, p. 56)

On the other hand, while few (if any) have been able to replicate Goffman’s work, some of the most influential and successful Sociologists are indebted to his writing (Fine & Manning, 2003). Goffman’s mark on Sociology is enormous. This is both the case for his theories, as well as his writing style – as Fine & Manning (2003, p. 57) put it,“Goffman’s sardonic, satiric, jokey style has served to indicate that other genres and tropes can be legitimate forms of academic writing”. Goffman’s style is interesting, humorous and natural. Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is, at the very least, an incredibly readable and engaging book.

Giddens (2009) summary of his rereading of Presentation of Self outlines and reflects on some of the main criticisms of the book. One of these is that Goffman (1959) ignores power structures throughout his discussion. Giddens (2009) correctly recognises that Goffman does explore how we ‘do’ power, but notes that he neglects any sort of systematic discussion around how power is institutionally structured. His discussion of ‘non-persons’, for example, would have benefited greatly from a focus on institutional differentials of power. Furthermore, Goffman avoids providing any historical context to his ideas. While many of the examples and citations Goffman presents are historically diverse, his analysis is intrinsically grounded in the here and now. Social interaction is very much a product of historical development, and Goffman makes no attempt to investigate this. Treviño (2003) agrees,  arguing that grounding his ideas in a more ‘recognisable theoretical tradition’ would have resulted in ‘greater coherence’ in Goffman’s work.

These criticisms are valid. However, this should not be understood to undermine the value of Goffman’s ideas. While Giddens (2009) views it as ultimately inadequate, he offers Goffman a defence – Goffman’s work is concerend with analysis of interpersonal interaction within social situations rather than macro-structural theory. He takes a micro-sociological approach and this comes with limitations. While issues of power differentiation and historical context certainly would add extra value to Goffman’s work here, it is just that – added value. Indeed, Giddens (2009) makes reference to work such as Elias (1969) and Scheff (1999), who have incorporated and connected some of Goffman’s ideas with issues of power and sociohistorical development. Whilst recognising that there will always be areas that can be (and maybe should have been) explored further, be wary of allowing such criticism to detract from the usefulness of any valuable body of work. After all, there is no reason these issues cannot be explored later and/or by other scholars.

Furthermore, according to Scheff (2006, p. viii), Goffman’s work is ‘fully original’. He deliberately evades traditional social scientific methodology and practice, seeking to get…

… outside the box, beyond the conventions of our society and of social science… Goffman’s main focus was what might be called the microworld of emotions and relationships (ERW). We all live in it every day of our lives, yet we have been trained not to notice. Since Goffman noticed it, he was the discoverer of a hidden world. His work, if properly construed, provides a window into that otherwise invisible place… it is important in its own right, since it constitutes the moment-by-moment texture of our lives. Second, it is intimately connected to the larger world; it both causes and is caused by that world. If we are to have more than a passing understanding of ourselves and our society, we need to become better acquainted with the emotional/relational world… Conventional social science mostly ignores emotions and relationships in favour of behaviour and cognition. Goffman’s recognition of the existence of an ERW is the foundation of his whole approach. He realized, at some level, that conventional social and behavioural science was blind to the ERW, and might as well be blind in many other arenas as well… Following Goffman’s lead, if we are going to advance in our understanding of the human condition, we need to build a new approach. This approach would not only include the ERW, but other hitherto unrecognized structures and processes as well, such as the filigree of emotions and relationships that underlies large-scale behaviour, as in the case of collective cooperation and conflict. (Scheff, 2006, p. vii – ix)

Following Scheff (2006) then, we can turn the criticism that Goffman ignores other aspects of traditional Sociology on its head. Indeed, we can argue that Goffman is exploring aspects of social life that have remained largely hidden to the rest of the field. To quote Treviño (2003, p. 36), Presentation of Self was “the first sociological effort to truly treat face-to face interaction as a subject of study, as an order, in its own right, at its own level”. Those issues of macro social structure, those of institutional power differentials and of sociohistorical development were not revealed and communicated even nearly in full by any one body of work or by one sole theorist. As ‘discoverer’ of this aspect of the social world, it would be unreasonable to expect Goffman to combine his ideas with all available aspects of social science into one unifying theory of all social life and social structure. All science is collaborative, and Goffman provides us with one more addition to a dizzying array of diverse social science. Nonetheless, it is worth taking these criticisms seriously, if only as a recognition that Goffman, like any other social theorist, provides us with just one perspective with which to view the world. His theories should be used alongside, rather than in isolation from, other perspectives in Sociology.

Another reasonable criticism briefly mentioned earlier in this discussion is that Goffman’s view of the ‘self’ is grounded in what Manning (1992) calls the ‘two selves thesis’. It is argued here that Goffman takes a cynical view of the ‘self’, which he inherently suggests has two sides – one, the careful performer, the other the ‘cynical manipulator’ guiding the performance. It is fair to claim that human beings and their interactions are far more complex, far more multifaceted, than Goffman seems to suggest. Manning (1992) points out that Goffman recognised and attempted to distance himself from this thesis with small additions to the second 1959 edition of the book as well as in subsequent work. It seems that Goffman does not want us to view the dramaturgical analogy as a complete and full description of the self or as a tool to accurately understand all aspects of social interaction. Indeed, he uses the final few paragraphs of Presentation of Self in Everyday Life to reinforce this. We shall therefore conclude this summary as Goffman (1959) choses to end his book :

And now a final comment. In developing the conceptual framework employed in this report, some language of the stage was used. I spoke of performers and audiences; of routines and parts; of performances coming off or falling flat; of cues, stage settings and backstage; of dramaturgical needs, dramaturgical skills, and dramaturgical strategies. Now it should be admitted that this attempt to press a mere analogy so far was in part a rhetoric and a maneuver. The claim that all the world’s a stage is sufficiently commonplace for readers to be familiar with its limitations and tolerant of its presentation, knowing that at any time they will easily be able to demonstrate to themselves that it is not to be taken too seriously . An action staged in a theater is a relatively contrived illusion and an admitted one; unlike ordinary life, nothing real or actual can happen to the performed characters—although at another level of course something real and actual can happen to the reputation of performers qua professionals whose everyday job is to put on theatrical performances. And so here the language and mask of the stage will be dropped . Scaffolds, after all, are to build other things with, and should be erected with an eye to taking them down . This report is not concerned with aspects of theater that creep into everyday life. It is concerned with the structure of social encounters—the structure of those entities in social life that come into being whenever persons enter one another’s immediate physical presence. The key factor in this structure is the maintenance of a single definition of the situation , this definition having to be expressed, and this expression sustained in the face of a multitude of potential disruptions. A character staged in a theatre is not in some ways real, nor does it have the same kind of real consequences as does the thoroughly contrived character performed by a confidence man; but the successful staging of either of these types of false figures involves use of real techniques—the same techniques by which everyday persons sustain their real social situations. Those who conduct face to face interaction on a theatre’s stage must meet the key requirement of real situations; they must expressively sustain a definition of the situation: but this they do in circumstances that have facilitated their developing an apt terminology for the interactional tasks that all of us share. (Goffman, 1959, pp. 254-255, emphasis added )

Goffman (1959) intends his dramaturgical methaphor to be used as a scaffold. It is not all-emcompassing and is not adequate as an approach used in isolation. Rather, it is a means to an end. It is a method of highlighting and teasing out aspects of social interaction which, once identified, must be analysed further through the use of other Sociological methologies and perspectives. Nonetheless, the analogy of the theatre to describe everyday life is fascinating and has had substantial impact on the field.

Elias, N., 1969. The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell.

Fine, G. A. & Manning, P., 2003. Erving Goffman. In: The Blackwell Companion to Major Contemporary Social Theorists. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 34-62.

Giddens, A., 2009. On Rereading The Presentation of Self: Some Reflections. Social Psychology Quarterly, 72(4), pp. 290-295.

Goffman, E., 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor.

Goffman, E., 1961. Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and other Inmates. New York: Anchor.

Goffman, E., 1963. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. London: Penguin.

International Sociological Association, 1998. Books of the Century. [Online] Available at: https://www.isa-sociology.org/en/about-isa/history-of-isa/books-of-the-xx-century

Manning, P., 1992. Erving Goffman and Modern Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Scheff, T. J., 1999. Being Mentally Ill: A Sociological Theory. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.

Scheff, T. J., 2003. The Goffman Legacy: Deconstructing/Reconstructimg Social Science. In: Goffman’s Legacy. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., pp. 50-70.

Scheff, T. J., 2006. Goffman Unbound! A New Paradigm for Social Science. Routledge: Oxon.

Treviño, A. J., 2003. Introduction: Erving Goffman and the Interaction Order. In: Goffman’s Legacy. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., pp. 1-49.

Authors & Events


New Releases

  • New & Noteworthy
  • Bestsellers
  • Popular Series
  • The Must-Read Books of 2023
  • Popular Books in Spanish
  • Coming Soon
  • Literary Fiction
  • Mystery & Thriller
  • Science Fiction
  • Spanish Language Fiction
  • Biographies & Memoirs
  • Spanish Language Nonfiction
  • Dark Star Trilogy
  • A Joe Pickett Novel
  • Penguin Classics
  • Award Winners
  • The Parenting Book Guide
  • Books to Read Before Bed
  • Books for Middle Graders
  • Trending Series
  • Magic Tree House
  • The Last Kids on Earth
  • Planet Omar
  • Beloved Characters
  • The World of Eric Carle
  • Llama Llama
  • Junie B. Jones
  • Peter Rabbit
  • Board Books
  • Picture Books
  • Guided Reading Levels
  • Middle Grade
  • Activity Books
  • Trending This Week
  • Romantasy Books To Start Reading Now
  • Page-Turning Series To Start Now
  • Books to Cope With Anxiety
  • Short Reads
  • Anti-Racist Resources
  • Staff Picks
  • Memoir & Fiction
  • Features & Interviews
  • Emma Brodie Interview
  • James Ellroy Interview
  • Nicola Yoon Interview
  • Qian Julie Wang Interview
  • Deepak Chopra Essay
  • How Can I Get Published?
  • For Book Clubs
  • Reese's Book Club
  • Oprah’s Book Club
  • happy place " data-category="popular" data-location="header">Guide: Happy Place
  • the last white man " data-category="popular" data-location="header">Guide: The Last White Man
  • Authors & Events >
  • Our Authors
  • Michelle Obama
  • Zadie Smith
  • Emily Henry
  • Amor Towles
  • Colson Whitehead
  • In Their Own Words
  • Qian Julie Wang
  • Patrick Radden Keefe
  • Phoebe Robinson
  • Emma Brodie
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Laura Hankin
  • Recommendations >
  • Books To Read if You Love Challengers
  • Western Romance Novels
  • Insightful Therapy Books To Read This Year
  • Historical Fiction With Female Protagonists
  • Best Thrillers of All Time
  • Manga and Graphic Novels
  • happy place " data-category="recommendations" data-location="header">Start Reading Happy Place
  • How to Make Reading a Habit with James Clear
  • Why Reading Is Good for Your Health
  • 10 Facts About Taylor Swift
  • New Releases
  • Memoirs Read by the Author
  • Our Most Soothing Narrators
  • Press Play for Inspiration
  • Audiobooks You Just Can't Pause
  • Listen With the Whole Family

Penguin Random House

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

By erving goffman, by erving goffman read by graham halstead, category: psychology, category: psychology | audiobooks.

May 20, 1959 | ISBN 9780385094023 | 5-3/16 x 8 --> | ISBN 9780385094023 --> Buy

Jan 14, 2020 | 571 Minutes | ISBN 9780593150122 --> Buy

Buy from Other Retailers:

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman

May 20, 1959 | ISBN 9780385094023

Jan 14, 2020 | ISBN 9780593150122

571 Minutes

Buy the Audiobook Download:

  • audiobooks.com

About The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Based upon detailed research and observation of social customs in many regions, here is a notable contribution to our understanding of ourselves, using theatrical performance as a framework. This book explores the realm of human behavior in social situations and the way that we appear to others. Each person in everyday social intercourse presents himself and his activity to others, attempts to guide and control the impressions they form of him, and employs certain techniques in order to sustain his performance, just as an actor presents a character to an audience.

Listen to a sample from The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Also by erving goffman.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

About Erving Goffman

Erving Goffman was born in Canada in 1922. He received his B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1945 and then studied at the University of Chicago, receiving his M.A. in 1949 and his Ph.D. in 1953.  For a year… More about Erving Goffman

Product Details

You may also like.

Book cover

Interaction Ritual

Book cover

Virtual Unrealities

Book cover

Typhoon and Other Stories

Book cover

The Red Carpet

Book cover

Selected Stories

Book cover

Against the Day

Book cover

Naked Masks

Book cover

The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2

Book cover

The Changing Light at Sandover

Book cover

De Profundis

Visit other sites in the Penguin Random House Network

Raise kids who love to read

Today's Top Books

Want to know what people are actually reading right now?

An online magazine for today’s home cook

Just for joining you’ll get personalized recommendations on your dashboard daily and features only for members.

Academia.edu no longer supports Internet Explorer.

To browse Academia.edu and the wider internet faster and more securely, please take a few seconds to  upgrade your browser .

Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link.

  • We're Hiring!
  • Help Center

paper cover thumbnail

The presentation of self in everyday life. 1959

Profile image of Myra Machado

1961, Garden City, AT: Doubleday

Related Papers

Anita Avramides

Philosophers have struggled with the problem of knowing others. The emphasis is often on the knowing here. In this paper I want to concentrate on our conception of what is known (i.e. a person). I shall argue that we should aim to give an account of our knowledge of others that has us engaging with each other as persons. I shall argue that there is a perceptual account of our knowledge of others that has this result.

the presentation of self in everyday life pdf

New Trends in the Philosophy of Social Sciences 2

Emanuele Bottazzi

Monika Dullstein

The Theory of Mind Debate has seen a recent shift of focus from social observation towards social interaction. Defenders of so-called second-person accounts claim that social interactions reveal an understanding of another person which is different in kind to merely knowing that the other has a particular mental state. The aim of this paper is to specify this (allegedly) new form of understanding. In the first part, I criticize attempts to describe it as the knowledge of how to react to the other’s mental state, i.e. as the exhibition of a social skill. In the second part, I develop an alternative proposal which is based upon the work of Cavell and Thompson. I suggest that understanding another person in a social interaction is to be conceptualized as the propositional nexus of acknowledging his mental state to him.

Oxford Handbook of 4E Cognition (eds. Newen et al)

Joel Krueger

Paul Van Lange

Danstan D Kayombo

Edith K. Ackermann , Domenico Masciotra, PhD

The way people develop has a great deal to do with how they adaptively relate to the world and get in tune with each other. They do so, in large part, via living and nonverbal acts such as distancing, spacing, syncing, timing... Distancing is related to the Japanese notion of (ma = space-time; ai = encounter) which integrates the notions of spacing, syncing and timing. Distancing is connected with the construction of an ever better relation with "Other". We propose a three developmental steps in this construction: the genesis of the relation with "Other", which appears to be a symbiotic one at the start (fusion of the S with the O), is progressively transformed in a relation of exteriority (separation of the S from the O) and becomes, at the highest level, a relation of interiority (union or S-O oneness) (Masciotra, 1996). It is only at the last level that distancing becomes an art and the presentation focuses on it. The art of distancing is studied in a discipline (karate) practiced as a DO. DO (Way, Road or Method) implies that the purpose of a practice is not the mastery of the discipline itself. The discipline constitutes a mean, method or way for self-perfection and for achieving a harmonious relationship with the environment and people.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Russell Fazio

Barton J. Blinder MD PhD

What we sense as a “self” emerges from stimuli both from within and without our body through complex levels of neural integration. The integration of memory and self is not a one-time occurrence but involves lifelong development. The autobiography of self is the accumulated unique mental narrative that emerges from our experiencing and participating in the fl ow of events and interpersonal encounters that reach a level of awareness critically facilitated by emotional tone. 1-6 Autobiographical memory plays an important role in the construction of personal identity. An individual’s construction of themselves through time serves the function of creating a coherent and largely favorable view of their present selves and circumstances. 7-11 The autobiographical self is a product of an extended consciousness that places a person in an individual history over time, aware of a lived past and anticipated future. From a multilevel coalescence of

John Johnson


Diabetes Care

Isabel Ferreira

Journal of the Medical Library Association

Deborah Lauseng

Call Girls Hyderabad

Advances in Physiology Education

Moses Ikiugu

Iranian Journal of Insurance Research

Corporate and Business Strategy Review

Bajram Fejzullahu

9th Research in Engineering Education Symposium (REES 2021) and 32nd Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference (REES AAEE 2021)

Multimedia Tools and Applications

Nikhil Sharma

recio espejo



Journal of Headache and Pain

Ivan Milanov

Barbara Wiśniewska-Paź

Busarakorn Mahayothee

Nuclear Matter in Different Phases and Transitions

Jean-Paul Blaizot

The Journal of Urology

Kemal Gulkesen

Jurnal Tanaman Industri dan Penyegar

Juliana França

Universiti Putra Malaysia Press eBooks

Fatimah Arshad


Susan Malinowski

  •   We're Hiring!
  •   Help Center
  • Find new research papers in:
  • Health Sciences
  • Earth Sciences
  • Cognitive Science
  • Mathematics
  • Computer Science
  • Academia ©2024


  1. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life von Goffman, Erving: Good

    the presentation of self in everyday life pdf

  2. The presentation of self in everyday life (1959 edition)

    the presentation of self in everyday life pdf

  3. The Presentation Of Self In Everyday Life Summary PDF

    the presentation of self in everyday life pdf

  4. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman

    the presentation of self in everyday life pdf

  5. (PDF) The Presentation of Self in Electronic Life: Goffman on the Internet

    the presentation of self in everyday life pdf

  6. E-Goffman

    the presentation of self in everyday life pdf


  1. (The Presentation of Self) in Everyday Life

  2. 5-minutes Daily Affirmations for Self-Love

  3. The Self from the Perspective of Anthropology (Part 2)

  4. Voice Interfaces in Everyday Life

  5. How to present yourself in 30 Second Self-Introduction Presentation

  6. LESSON 8: THE DIGITAL SELF || Understanding the Self


  1. PDF The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

    self in a particular way, but chiefly because the tradition of his group or social status require this kind of expression and not because of any particular response (other than vague accept­ ance or approval) that is likely to be evoked from those im­ pressed by the expression. Sometimes the traditions of an

  2. PDF The Presentation of Self

    definition and construction of the public self during social interaction. Goffman's approach to this topic is commonly de-scribed as dramaturgical-that is, Goffman views the self, social interaction, and life as dramatic or theatri-cal productions. Individuals are social actors who play different parts in the varied scenes of social life. Every

  3. The presentation of self in everyday life : Goffman, Erving : Free

    Download or stream the 1959 book by Erving Goffman on self-presentation, social role, and social behavior. The book is available in PDF and EPUB formats, with some pages having a gutter.

  4. The presentation of self in everyday life : Erving Goffman : Free

    Download or stream the 1990 edition of Erving Goffman's classic book on self-presentation and social role. This book is available in PDF format and has a boxid of IA175601.

  5. PDF The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

    4 THE PRESENTATION OF SELF ing the definition of the situation which the others come to formulate, and he can influence this definition by ex- pressing himself in such a way as to give them the kind of impression that will-lead them to act voluntarily in accord- ance with his own plan. Thus, when an individual appears

  6. PDF Psychology

    Psychology | Rutgers SASN

  7. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

    The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Erving Goffman. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Sep 29, 2021 - Social Science - 272 pages. A notable contribution to our understanding of ourselves. This book explores the realm of human behavior in social situations and the way that we appear to others. Dr. Goffman uses the metaphor of theatrical ...

  8. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

    The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Based upon detailed research and observation of social customs in many regions, here is a notable contribution to our understanding of ourselves, using theatrical performance as a framework. This book explores the realm of human behavior in social situations and the way that we appear to others.

  9. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

    The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Erving Goffman. Penguin Books, Limited, May 5, 2022 - Psychology - 272 pages. One of the defining works of twentieth-century sociology: a revelatory analysis of how we present ourselves to others. 'The self, then, as a performed character, is not an organic thing ... it is a dramatic effect'.

  10. PDF Home

    Home | munmund

  11. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959)

    Erving Goffman. Erving Goffman (1922-1982) was "arguably the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century" (Fine & Manning, 2003, p. 34). This summary will outline one of his earliest works - The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, originally published in 1956. The book was published more widely in 1959 with some ...

  12. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

    ISBN. 978--14-013571-8. OCLC. 59624504. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is a 1956 sociological book by Erving Goffman, in which the author uses the imagery of theatre to portray the importance of human social interaction. This approach became known as Goffman's dramaturgical analysis. Originally published in Scotland in 1956 and in ...


    THE PRESENTATION OF SELF 1 IN EVERYDAY LIFE ERVING GOFFMAN University of Edinburgh Social Sciences Research Centre Price : Ten Shillings. INTRODUCTION When an individual enters the presence of others, they commonly seek to acquire information about him or to bring into play information about him already possessed. ...

  14. The presentation of self in everyday life.

    Citation. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Doubleday. Abstract. A classic analysis of the processes by which persons manage their appearance and demanor so as to project an appropriate impression of themselves into social interactions.

  15. The presentation of self in everyday life : Goffman, Erving : Free

    The presentation of self in everyday life by Goffman, Erving. Publication date 1959 Topics Self-presentation, Social role Publisher New York : Anchor Books Collection ... Pdf_module_version 0.0.18 Ppi 360 Rcs_key 24143 Republisher_date 20220523195247 Republisher_operator [email protected] ...

  16. [PDF] The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

    The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. E. Goffman. Published 1959. Psychology. hen an individual enters the presence of oth ers, they commonly seek to acquire information about him or to bring into play information about him already possessed. They will be interested in his general socio-economic status, his concep tion of self, his ...

  17. The presentation of self in everyday life : Goffman, Erving : Free

    The presentation of self in everyday life by Goffman, Erving. Publication date 1959 Topics Self-presentation, Social role, Role, Self Concept, Social Behavior, Rollen (sociale wetenschappen), Zelf, Rôle social, Vie quotidienne, Moi (Psychologie) Publisher Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday

  18. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

    About The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Based upon detailed research and observation of social customs in many regions, here is a notable contribution to our understanding of ourselves, using theatrical performance as a framework. This book explores the realm of human behavior in social situations and the way that we appear to others.

  19. Goffman, Erving

    Goffman, Erving - The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life - Free download as PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or view presentation slides online. A region may be defined as a place that is bounded to some degree by barriers to perception. In our anglo-american society a performance is usually given in a highly bounded region. The impression and understanding fostered by the performance will ...


    I am, let us say, your guest. You do not know, you cannot determine scientifically, that I will not steal your money or your spoons. But inferentially I will not, and inferentially you have me as a guest.2 Let us now turn from the others to the point of view of the individual who presents himself before them.

  21. The presentation of self in everyday life : Goffman, Erving : Free

    The presentation of self in everyday life by Goffman, Erving. Publication date 1959 Topics Self, Social psychology Publisher Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday Collection marygrovecollege; internetarchivebooks; americana; printdisabled Contributor Internet Archive Language English.

  22. EPUB Download The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by : Erving

    Listen to this episode from My Blog » Avipodbook on Spotify. To Download or Read The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman Visit Link Bellow You ...

  23. The presentation of self in everyday life. 1959

    New York: Dutton, p. 46. Goffman, Erving (1959). "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life". p. 17-25. From The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York: The Overlook Press, 1959) each of these different parts may be presented by the performer on a series of occasions to the same kinds of audience or to an audience of the same persons.

  24. Goffman The Presentation Of Self In Everyday Life

    Goffman The Presentation Of Self In Everyday Life. Topics intro to sociology Collection opensource Language English. goffman Addeddate 2020-01-11 18:40:10 Identifier ... PDF download. download 1 file . SINGLE PAGE PROCESSED JP2 ZIP download. download 1 file ...