Research Blog Assignment # 3.

Scheff, Thomas J. “Shame and Conformity: The Deference-Emotion System”. American Sociological Review, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jun., 1988), pp. 395-406. JSTOR. Web. 7 Oct. 2014

In the published work, “Shame and Conformity: The Deference-Emotion System” compiled by Thomas J. Scheff, the main idea revolves around the force of social influence- it’s experienced by individuals as exterior and constraining. Also, that conformity is encouraged by a system of  sanctions-so that when we conform, we expect reward and when we do not conform, we are punished. The remainder of the journal is broken down into sections: Shame and Conformity, The Sources of Shame and The Cooley-Scheff Conjecture.

Shame and Conformity: With the exposure to Goffman’s treatment of interaction ritual, he exclaims that “the emotions of embarrassment or anticipation of embarrassment plays a prominent role in every social encounter.” (Scheff, 396) Also, the type of deference/ emotions of pride and shame create a subtle and pervasive system of social sanctions.  Though, Goffman continues to explain that the deference-emotion system is invisible and instantaneous to each human being. The deference-emotion system occurs between and within human beings interacting.  When rejection is present on one or both sides, this spurs a chain-reaction of shame and anger between those persons interacting.  Goffman then summarizes the section ” One becomes ashamed that the other  is ashamed, who in turn becomes ashamed,  which increases the first person’s shame, and  so on-an interpersonal feeling trap. In H.B. Lewis’s analysis, one becomes ashamed that one is ashamed, an inner loop which feeds on itself-an intrapersonal trap. ” (Scheff, 396)

The Sources of Shame: This section provides oversight and a hybrid of threads of ideas, regarding shame. Darwin’s idea of blushing and it’s relation to shame from his 1872 (The Expressions of Emotions in Men and Animals) discusses that “blushing  may be caused by perceptions of other people’s evaluation of the self, whether positive or negative.” (Scheff, 398) William MacDougall’s insight about the crucial emotion of shame points to the emotion itself as possibly the most important of emotions though in adults is considerably more elaborate and complex.

The Cooley-Scheff Conjecture: This section provides follow-up of MacDougall’s insight, specifically pertaining to Cooley’s consideration that society rests on a foundation of pride and shame. The social nature of the self and his outlook on it is summarized into two propositions: that social monitoring of self is virtually continuous, even in solitude and social monitoring always has an evaluative component, and gives rise, therefore, to either pride or shame.

Key Quotes: 

“…when there is a real and/or imagined rejection on one or both sides (withdrawal, criticism, insult, defeat, etc.) the deference-emotion system may show a malign form, a chain reaction of shame and anger between and within the interactants.”

“…in the sequence of honor, insult and revenge-may decide fate not only of individuals but of nations, civilizations, of all life on earth.”

“As is the case with other feelings, we do not
think much of it (that is, of social self-feeling)
so long as it is moderately and regularly
gratified. Many people of balanced mind and
congenial activity scarcely know that they care
what others think of them, and will deny,
perhaps with indignation, that such care is an
important factor in what they are and do. But
this is illusion. If failure or disgrace arrives, if
one suddenly finds that the faces of men show
coldness or contempt instead of the kindliness
and deference that he is used to, he will perceive
from the shock, the fear, the sense of being
outcast and helpless, that he was living in the
minds of others without knowing it, just as we
daily walk the solid ground without thinking
how it bears us up. (p. 208) COOLEY”

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