Goffman is the sociologist responsible for much of theoretical ideas and concepts shown on the personal level of symbolic interactionism and its integration into modernity. Goffman’s major concept of Dramaturgy brought a lot of insight into the ways an individual acts. His theories gave a lot of insight into the way an individual behaves and how their personality develops. He also gave his insight on institutions and the effects that they may have on others.

Personality and Behavior

Goffman believed that the behaviour of an individual and their interactions and self-development could be explained on a social level. The behaviour and personality of an individual is seen through their interactions with others and Goffman made observations and theories that correspond with symbolic interaction theory.

Goffman theorized that everyone in their interactions would act much like they were in a stage production. He theorized that an individual will act in society much like they would in a drama. They are given a role and will present themselves in the way that they wish to convey to others. People will interact in certain ways to leave an impression. Social roles are similar to the roles given in theatre, where an individual will project images of themselves to others. Goffman’s concept of Dramaturgy also acknowledges that while the stage is imaginative, real life is not imaginative nor is it well rehearsed.
Sign Vehicles are a concept within Dramaturgy that an individual uses to convey or pick up ideas from. These are sources of information that are readily drawn upon. An individual has many different preconceptions about different scenarios that they end up in. A ‘sign vehicle’ may be anything that others view in order to give you a label or have an expectation on something. A close minded individual will use an “untested stereotype” or preconception on a given scenario to pass a judgement.

Impression management
Impression management is a concept whereby an individual manages what sorts of impressions they are leaving on others. Goffman theorizes that impression management happens much like the different components of theatre. He suggests three things in his theory. They include:
- “Scenary” – An individual will construct a scenary of where they live, whether that be indoors or outdoors.
- “Props” – These are the different accessories that one uses to define themselves.
- “Costume” – The clothing an individual wears, that may be used to define self.


Goffman was interested how institutions operated and how these institutions affected all those who are associated with it. He suggested that group members will hold a prejudiced view against non-members. Goffman also suggested that when institutionalisation occurs an individual loses their sense of self. He came up with the terms of “Total Institution,” (where a group of like-minded individuals gather and cut off all ties to the outer community. An example of this is a prison cell or detention center) “Mortification of Self,” (Loss of sense of self) and “Stripping of Identity” (loss of identity). Sometimes people resist to institutional boundaries and adjust to a change in environment or circumstances in their own way. This is known as secondary adjustment.