Social Roles

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Social roles are shared expectations for how an individual behaves within a group. Developed since early childhood, social roles help us navigate and understand our social environment. Similar to a play or a movie where different characters take on different roles, in the real-world individuals sometimes act in according with culturally defined roles or norms of behavior (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008).

Example / Application

Example: Simpsons episode

Application: In the video, start at the beginning, and watch until minute 3:46. In the video, the current supervisor of Homer and friends at the nuclear power plant retires. Mr. Burns decides to hire from within and appoint Carl as the new supervisor of Section 7G. Immediately upon being given the position, Carl instantly transforms from (a) the carefree neer-do-well who was previously daydreaming about driving a mini Cooper through the powerplant in a car chase with his buddies, Homer and Lenny; to (b) the uptight boss who sees himself as "King" of his buddies, and who proceeds to admonish them for the childish behavior he once engaged in. Similar to the Stanford Prison Experiment, he adopted the role he was given.


Application: Watch from 15:55 to 17:59. In the video, Amy Poehler, the main character, takes the blame for accidentally shooting a co-worker in the back of the head. A park ranger comes to investigate, and clearly shows his bias toward women hunters. Even though she is innocent, in order to take the blame for the accident, and thus save her guilty co-worker from going to jail, Amy Poehler has to convince the biased park ranger that she did in fact shoot the person in the back of the head. To do so, she plays to his stereotypes of women hunters as having tunnel vision, hysterical, emotional, thinking with her 'lady parts', and variety of other hilarious stereotypes.

Example: Clip of Mean Girls

Application: In Mean Girls, the movie, the main character was born and raised in Africa, so the teacher of her high school math class stereotypically believes that the only African-American in the class must be this new student, even though the new student, played by Lindsay Lohan, is caucasian. The teacher was adopting the culturally defined roles or norms within our society that individuals from African are African-American. What social roles do you adhere to?

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