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Social Roles and Personality

The little boy who takes the role of the father while playing house is aware that he must think and act in a different manner than when he is simply playing his own role, that of child. At first he may have little understanding of the reasons underlying a father's actions, but this understanding grows and his "pretend" roles will help prepare him for the time when he actually becomes a father. At a more mature level "pretend" role taking has been a helpful aid in assisting people to , understand reactions of others in a diagnostic • and therapeutic technique known as 'psychodrama, developed by Moreno [1940] and others. A hu~nd, for example, may take the role of the wife while she takes his role as they reenact some recent discussion or conflict · in an unrehearsed dialogue. As each tries to take the part of the other, voicing the other's complaints and defenses, each may gain greater insight into the other's feelings and reactions. The concept of role implies a set of expectations. We expect to act in certain ways, and we expect other people to act in certain ways. .. ·Whether a new role is pretend or genuine, one must analyze one's own behavior' and
· the behavior of others. The self does not remain unchanged after this kind of experience.

The married woman is in a different status than the single woman. Her role is different, and in some ways she will be a different person. " Occupational roles also produce personality changes, so that there are "reciprocal effects of man 011 job and job on man" [Kahn and Schooler, 1973]. In a famous role-taking experiment, Zlmbardo [1973] set up a mock prison complete with a simulated cell block, uniformed guards, 'and the usual prison routines.' Student volunteers were randomly divided into "prisoners" and "guards hole the "guards" were instructed to invent their own means Control The "prisoners" quickly become rebellious and sullen while the "guards" became brutal and abusive to a degree which surprised and alarmed those supervising the experiment. The experiment was suspended because the "prisoners" suffered uncontrollable rages, crying fits, and other symptoms resembling those of schizophrenia and the supervisors feared' some might suffer serious mental or physical injury [Craig Haney et a!., 1973].

While this experiment is artificial in that all the participants realized it was temporary playacting, it nonetheless is significant. If playacting roles can have so great an effect upon behavior, how much greater must be 'the .effect of genuine role playing upon. behavior. It is likely that persons 'with certain  personality characteristics: are attracted. to. occupational role which call for. the characteristics while those 'roles in turn tend to develop and reinforce the personality characteristics the role requires .

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