Conclusion - Social Interaction

MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review - Kaplan Test Prep 2021–2022

Social Interaction

Skunks are unique in how they communicate with other animals they perceive as threats. Their anal glands are capable of producing high concentrations of thiol-containing compounds, which create a distinctive malodorous scent. But it is noteworthy that skunks only carry five or six sprays’ worth of material at a time—thus, they tend to use other forms of animal communication, such as body language, hissing, and foot stamping before resorting to spraying. The spray, however, is an ultimate defense: intense, caustic, and very sticky. Animals who are sprayed quickly learn that the skunk is not an animal to mess with.

Humans also use many methods of communication. While they may certainly not follow the same patterns as skunks, humans use combinations of vocalization, body language, facial expressions, and gestures to interact with each other socially. The field of sociology flows from these interactions as we create groups, networks, and organizations; organize our society into hierarchies with statuses; and fulfill the roles dictated by our statuses. We put much of our energy into controlling how we communicate with others, trying to create the optimal image of ourselves through impression management.

The content of this chapter plays a large role in your day-to-day life. Every day you interact with other people, and how you interact is largely determined by the culture and society in which you live. In the next chapter, we begin to analyze specific types of interactions, like attraction and altruism, and then examine the dark side of human society: bias, prejudice, discrimination, and stereotypes.

Concept Summary

Elements of Social Interaction

· A status is a position in society used to classify individuals.

o An ascribed status is involuntarily assigned to an individual based on race, ethnicity, gender, family background, and so on.

o An achieved status is voluntarily earned by an individual.

o A master status is the status by which an individual is primarily identified.

· A role is a set of beliefs, values, and norms that define the expectations of a certain status in a social situation.

o Role performance refers to carrying out the behaviors of a given role.

o A role partner is a person with whom one is interacting who helps define the roles within the relationship.

o A role set contains all of the different roles associated with a status.

o Role conflict occurs when one has difficulty in satisfying the requirements of multiple roles simultaneously; role strain occurs when one has difficulty satisfying multiple requirements of the same role simultaneously.

· Groups are made up of two or more individuals with similar characteristics that share a sense of unity.

o A peer group is a self-selected group formed around similar interests, ages, or statuses.

o A family group is the group into which an individual is born, adopted, or married.

o An in-group is a social group with which a person experiences a sense of belonging or identifies as a member.

o An out-group is a social group with which an individual does not identify.

o Group conflict occurs when an out-group competes with or opposes an in-group.

o A reference group is a group to which an individual compares him- or herself.

o Primary groups are those that contain strong, emotional bonds.

o Secondary groups are often temporary and contain fewer emotional bonds and weaker bonds overall.

o Gemeinschaft (community) is a group unified by feelings of togetherness due to shared beliefs, ancestry, or geography.

o Gesellschaft (society) is a group unified by mutual self-interests in achieving a goal.

o Groupthink occurs when members begin to conform to one another’s views without critical evaluation.

· A network is an observable pattern of social relationships between individuals or groups.

· Organizations are bodies of people with a structure and culture designed to achieve specific goals.

Self-Presentation and Interacting with Others

· Various models have been proposed for how we express emotion in social situations.

o The basic model states that there are universal emotions, along with corresponding expressions that can be understood across cultures.

o The social construction model states that emotions are solely based on the situational context of social interactions.

· Display rules are unspoken rules that govern the expression of emotion.

· A cultural syndrome is a shared set of beliefs, norms, values, and behaviors organized around a central theme, as is found among people sharing the same language and geography.

· Impression management refers to the maintenance of a public image, which is accomplished through various strategies.

o Self-disclosure is sharing factual information.

o Managing appearances refers to using props, appearance, emotional expression, or associations to create a positive image.

o Ingratiation is using flattery or conformity to win over someone else.

o Aligning actions is the use of excuses to account for questionable behavior.

o Alter-casting is imposing an identity onto another person.

· The dramaturgical approach says that individuals create images of themselves in the same way that actors perform a role in front of an audience.

o The front stage is where the individual is seen by the audience and strives to preserve his desired image.

o The back stage is where the individual is not in front of an audience and is free to act outside of his desired image.

· Communication includes both verbal and nonverbal elements.

o Verbal communication is the conveyance of information through spoken, written, or signed words.

o Nonverbal communication is the conveyance of information by means other than the use of words, such as body language, prosody, facial expressions, and gestures.

o Animal communication takes place not only between nonhuman animals, but between humans and other animals as well. Animals use body language, rudimentary facial expressions, visual displays, scents, and vocalizations to communicate.

Answers to Concept Checks

· 9.1





Any status given involuntarily, due to factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, and family background


Any status that is gained as a result of one’s efforts or choices


Any status by which a person would be most readily identified and that pervades all aspects of an individual’s life

2. Statuses are positions in society used to classify individuals. Roles are the behaviors and expectations associated with a status in a particular context. A group is a collection of at least two individuals. A network is a more formal illustration of the relationships between individuals, usually through graphic representation. An organization is a body with a specific set of goals, a structure, and a culture; organizations are complex secondary groups that are set up to achieve specific goals.

· 9.2

1. Verbal: American Sign Language, text messages

Nonverbal: turning your body away (body language), giving a “high five” (gesture), frowning (facial expression)

2. The front stage self refers to when we are on stage and performing. This requires us to live up to the roles and expectations assumed by our status. The back stage self is when we are away from others and may include behaviors that would not be appropriate or consistent with the front stage self.

3. Examples may vary.

Method of Communication


Body language

Dogs: tail between the legs

Facial expressions

Various animals: baring teeth

Visual displays

Peacocks: colorful plumage


Insects (and others): pheromones


Birds: birdcalls

Shared Concepts

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 3

o Learning and Memory

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 5

o Motivation, Emotion, and Stress

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 6

o Identity and Personality

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 8

o Social Processes, Attitudes, and Behavior

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 10

o Social Thinking

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 11

o Social Structure and Demographics

Discrete Practice Questions

1. Which of the following best describes the sociological definition of a status?

1. The emotional state of a social interaction

2. Expectations that are associated with a specific title in society

3. A position in society used to classify an individual

4. A means to describe one’s peers

2. Becoming a college graduate requires hard work and diligence in academics. As such, being a college graduate could be considered a(n):

1. ascribed status.

2. achieved status.

3. master status.

4. cardinal status.

3. A bureaucracy is a specific example of a(n):

1. immediate network.

2. primary group.

3. organization.

4. reference group.

4. Which of the following is NOT characteristic of a bureaucracy?

1. Rigidly defined work procedures

2. Requirement for officials to hold an advanced degree

3. Regular salary increases

4. Election by constituents

5. Which of the following is a form of verbal communication?

1. Facial expressions

2. Hand gestures

3. Written text

4. Body movements

6. Which of the following best describes the impression management strategy of aligning actions?

1. Adhering to the behaviors that are expected for a given role in society

2. Relieving tension brought about by holding conflicting views in one’s head

3. Providing socially acceptable reasons to explain unexpected behavior

4. Dictating that members of a group should follow similar practices to one another

7. While on the phone, a friend says: “A good friend would let me borrow the bike.” This friend is using which impression management strategy?

1. Managing appearances

2. Alter-casting

3. Ingratiation

4. Self-disclosure

8. Which of the following is an example of a Gesellschaft?

1. A large corporation

2. A small rural neighborhood

3. Members of the same family

4. An ethnic enclave in a large city

9. In some cultures, it is considered taboo for one to show too much sadness at a funeral. In other cultures, wailing and crying loudly is expected. These cultures differ in their:

1. characteristic institutions.

2. display rules.

3. authentic selves.

4. peer groups.

10. Which of the following is NOT a dimension of the system for multiple level observation of groups (SYMLOG)?

1. Friendliness vs. unfriendliness

2. Dominance vs. submission

3. Conformity vs. contrast

4. Instrumentally controlled vs. emotionally expressive

11. Political campaign ads often focus on “exposing” an opposing candidate’s negative characteristics. In the dramaturgical approach, one would describe this as:

1. bringing the front stage self to the back stage.

2. bringing the back stage self to the front stage.

3. removing the front stage self.

4. removing the back stage self.

12. In the context of impression management, which of the following selves is most similar to the ought self?

1. The ideal self

2. The tactical self

3. The authentic self

4. The presented self

13. The evolutionary role of emotions has been used as support for which model(s) of emotional expression?

1. The basic model only

2. The social construction model only

3. Both the basic model and social construction model

4. Neither the basic model nor the social construction model

14. Which of the following is an example of intraspecific animal communication?

1. A dog who barks when a stranger enters the house

2. An anglerfish that uses a bioluminescent appendage to attract prey

3. Bats using echolocation to detect the surrounding environment

4. A cat who uses scent glands to mark his territory for other cats

15. Primary groups differ from secondary groups in that:

1. primary groups are shorter-lived than secondary groups.

2. primary groups are larger than secondary groups.

3. primary groups are formed of stronger bonds than secondary groups.

4. primary groups are assigned while secondary groups are chosen.

Discrete Practice Answers

1. CA status is a position in society used to classify a person and exists in relation to other statuses. The specific behaviors associated with this status, (B), best describe a role.

2. BAn achieved status is one that is acquired through personal efforts. This is in contrast to an ascribed status, (A), in which the status is involuntarily given based on race, ethnicity, gender, family background, and so on. A master status, (C), is one that influences all aspects of an individual’s life. While being a college graduate is an important aspect of day-to-day life, it does not usually pervade every part of one’s life.

3. CA bureaucracy is an example of an organization, specifically one with the goal of performing complex tasks as efficiently as possible. Immediate networks and primary groups, (A) and (B), are characterized by strong, intimate bonds, which are not commonly seen in bureaucracies. Reference groups, (D), are those groups to which we compare ourselves for various characteristics.

4. DGenerally, bureaucracies are marked by six characteristics: paid officials on a fixed salary; nonelected officials who are provided rights and privileges as a result of making their career out of holding office; regular salary increases, seniority rights, and promotions upon passing exams or milestones, (C); officials who enter the organization by holding an advanced degree or training, (B); responsibilities, obligations, privileges, and work procedures rigidly defined by the organization, (A); and responsibility for meeting the obligations of the office one holds.

5. CVerbal communication uses words (whether spoken, written, or signed). Nonverbal communication uses other means of signaling emotions or ideas, such as gestures (B), body language (D), facial expressions (A), prosody, eye contact, and personal space.

6. CAligning actions is an impression management technique in which one provides socially acceptable reasons for unexpected behavior. This may manifest as providing an excuse for poor performance or laughing off an inappropriate comment as a joke. Tension created from having conflicting thoughts or opinions, as mentioned in (B), refers to cognitive dissonance.

7. BImposing a role on another person (in this case, “good friend”) is the hallmark of alter-casting. This example is also the opposite of ingratiation, (C), because the implication behind the statement is that one is a “bad friend” if he or she does not lend the bike; ingratiation is the use of flattery or conformity to win over someone else.

8. AA Gesellschaft (society) is one in which individuals are working toward the same goal, such as a company or country. Gemeinschaften (communities), on the other hand, are those that are bonded together by beliefs, ancestry, or geography.

9. BDisplay rules are those that dictate cultural expectations of emotion. In some cultures, sadness is considered personal and internal; in others, sadness is shared externally with the community.

10. CSYMLOG is a method for analyzing group dynamics and considers groups along three dimensions: dominant vs. submissive, friendliness vs. unfriendliness, and instrumentally controlled vs. emotionally expressive.

11. BIf a candidate is “exposed,” then personal characteristics that are usually shielded from public view have been brought in front of the public. This would be pulling aspects of the back stage self to the front stage. It would not be considered removing the front stage self, (C), because the candidate still has a public image, even if it has been tarnished.

12. BThe ought self is who others think we should be: the expectations imposed by others on us. This is most similar to the tactical self, which is the self we present to others when we adhere to their expectations. The presented self, (D), is a combination of the authentic, ideal, and tactical selves.

13. AThe basic model of emotion, as proposed by Charles Darwin, states that emotions serve an evolutionary purpose and thus are similar across cultures. The seven universal emotions have also been used as support for this theory. The social construction model states that emotions are always a product of the current social situation and does not posit any biological basis for emotions, implying a lack of a role for emotions in evolution.

14. DIntraspecific communication refers to communication between members of the same species. Interspecific communication, on the other hand, refers to communication between members of different species. Echolocation (C) is not an example of intraspecific communication because the sender of the signal and the recipient are the same organism; this would be considered autocommunication.

15. CPrimary groups have direct and close bonds between members, providing warm, personal, and intimate relationships to its members. Secondary groups, in contrast, form superficial bonds and tend to last for a shorter period of time.

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