A role (from the French rôle, and sometimes so spelt in English) or social role is a set of connected behaviours, rights and obligations as conceptualised by actors in a social situation. It is an expected or free or continuously changing behaviour and may have a given individual social status or social position. It is vital to both functionalist and interactionist understandings of society. Social role posits the following about social behaviour:

  1. The division of labour in society takes the form of the interaction among heterogeneous specialised positions, we call roles.
  2. Social roles included appropriate and permitted forms of behaviour, guided by social norms, which are commonly known and hence determine the expectations for appropriate behaviour in these roles.
  3. Roles are occupied by individuals, who are called actors.
  4. When individuals approve of a social role (i.e., they consider the role legitimate and constructive), they will incur costs to conform to role norms, and will also incur costs to punish those who violate role norms.
  5. Changed conditions can render a social role outdated or illegitimate, in which case social pressures are likely to lead to role change.
  6. The anticipation of rewards and punishments, as well as the satisfaction of behaving prosocially, account for why agents conform to role requirements.

Read more about RoleDeterminants and Characteristics of Social Role, Role Theory, Role Conflict and Role Confusion, Role Enhancement, Documenting Roles

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Famous quotes containing the word role:

    Today, only a fool would offer herself as the singular role model for the Good Mother. Most of us know not to tempt the fates. The moment I felt sure I had everything under control would invariably be the moment right before the principal called to report that one of my sons had just driven somebody’s motorcycle through the high school gymnasium.
    Mary Kay Blakely (20th century)

    Language makes it possible for a child to incorporate his parents’ verbal prohibitions, to make them part of himself....We don’t speak of a conscience yet in the child who is just acquiring language, but we can see very clearly how language plays an indispensable role in the formation of conscience. In fact, the moral achievement of man, the whole complex of factors that go into the organization of conscience is very largely based upon language.
    Selma H. Fraiberg (20th century)

    Whether or not you have children yourself, you are a parent to the next generation. If we can only stop thinking of children as individual property and think of them as the next generation, then we can realize we all have a role to play.
    Charlotte Davis Kasl (20th century)