The dramaturgical perspective in relation to self and culture

Daniel Sullivan, Mark J. Landau, Isaac F. Young, Sheridan A. Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Social scientists have studied human behavior from the dramaturgical perspective (DP), through which society is viewed as an elaborate play or game in which individuals enact different roles. The DP is more than a theoretical construct; members of individualist, secular societies occasionally adopt the DP with relation to their own lives. The current research examined the consequences of adopting the DP for evaluations of the self and conceptions of reality at large. Study 1 examined the attitudinal correlates of DP endorsement to test our claim that the DP is situated in an ideological context of individualism and secular modernism. Supporting our claim that the DP invalidates external information about the self's value, in Studies 2A and 2B individuals endorsed the DP to a greater extent after a self-esteem threat, and Studies 2C and 3 showed that exposure to the DP (but not a direct system threat) buffered self-esteem threats. Examining moderators of the DP's influence on self-esteem, Study 4 showed that taking the DP with regard to the ultimate value (vs. concrete experience) of a social role decreased self-esteem and investment in that role. Studies 5A and 5B examined the DP's consequences for perceived moral objectivism. Adopting the DP decreased moral objectivism and moralization of various behaviors but not when the intrinsic self was dispositionally or situationally salient. The latter finding suggests that although contemporary individuals can and occasionally do adopt a reflective stance toward their place within social reality, they nevertheless continue to believe in a true, core self that transcends that precarious drama.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)767-790
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2014


  • Culture
  • Dramaturgical perspective
  • Moral objectivism
  • Self-esteem
  • System threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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