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Role theory

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Role theory is a perspective in social psychology that considers most of everyday activity to be living up to the roles, or expectations, of others.

It posits the following propositions about social behavior:

  1. People spend much of their lives in groups.
  2. Within these groups, people often take distinct positions.
  3. Each of these positions can be called a role, with a whole set of functions that are molded by the expectations of others.
  4. Formalized expectations become norms when enough people feel comfortable in providing punishments and rewards for the expected behavior.
  5. Individuals are generally conformists, and in so far as that is true, they conform to roles.
  6. The anticipation of rewards and punishments inspire this conformity.

The central weakness of role theory is in describing and explaining deviant behavior.

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