Summary and Comparison of Freud and Goffman Erving Theories


A theory describes how some component of human action or achievement is structured, encouraging people to make judgments about that conduct. Hypotheses provide ideas to name what individuals perceive and clarify the links between notions. In addition, a concept enables individuals to describe what they observe and choose how to effect change. Research validates valid principles, which provide a solid foundation for decision-making. When expertise precedes action, solid plans replace flailing and haphazard endeavors at finding solutions. This paper summarizes Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic and Goffman’s social interaction theories. Furthermore, the essay provides a comparison and critique of the two methodologies.

Summary of Theories

Sigmund Freud’s Psycho-Analysis Theory

According to Freudian philosophy, the human psyche consists of two major components: the conscious and the unconscious mind. The conscious element contains all that people are mindful of or can readily recall. On the other hand, the unconscious part consists of everything outside of individuals’ awareness, including their unrecognized aspirations, ambitions, hopes, drives, and recollections that continue to impact their conduct (Freud 14). Freudian thought additionally separates an individual’s personality into three key elements: the id, the ego, and the superego (Freud 18). The id is the most primordial dimension of personality and the wellspring of a person’s most fundamental desires (Freud 18). Thus, this completely unconscious aspect of personality is the foundation of all sexual desire energy.

The ego is the part of the self-responsible for coping with circumstances and ensuring that the id’s needs are met in secure, practical, and culturally desirable forms. The superego is the component of the personality that contains all of the ingrained principles and norms that individuals obtain through their guardians, families, and community (Freud 27). The psychoanalytic paradigm states that they pass through several psychosexual phases as children mature. In every episode, the libido’s pleasure-seeking impulse focuses on a different region of the body (Freud 29). The effective completion of each level culminates in an adult with a positive sense of self. Nonetheless, if a dispute stays unaddressed at any given stage, the person may become fixated or locked at that particular developmental stage.

Goffman Erving’s Theory of Social Interaction

Goffman employs theatrical imagery to illustrate the intricacies and relevance of in-person social engagement. Goffman proposes the concept of social interaction, which he calls the dramaturgical idea of human existence. As per Goffman, socializing may be compared to a playhouse, and individuals in daily situations can be compared to performers who portray various parts (11). The segment comprises persons who examine the role-playing and respond to the presentations. In human engagement, like in live production, there is a front stage zone where the characters are on a platform before a population. Their awareness of that crowd and the public’s anticipation for their part impacts the performer’s conduct.

Goffman uses the phrase ‘performance’ to allude to all of a person’s behavior in front of a certain group of spectators or viewing public. Through this portrayal, the subject or performer gives significance to themselves, others, and their circumstance. These actions convey perceptions to others, which validates the actor’s personality in that setting. The performer may or may not be conscious of their presentation or have a purpose for their show, but the viewer continuously constructs credence to it and the artist (Goffman 25). The performance’s environment includes the backdrop, accessories, and location where the association works.

Diverse venues will target additional audiences, requiring the performer to adapt their acts accordingly. The performer’s socioeconomic status is communicated to the audience through their appearance. The person’s demeanor also indicates their temporary social condition or position, including whether they are involved in work, unstructured entertainment, or official community engagements. Here, attire and accessories help to transmit socially assigned meanings, such as gender, position, occupation, age, and personal obligations (Goffman 50). Manner relates to how the character performs the play and alerts the public of how the actor will interact or attempt to act in a role, such as dominant, assertive, or accommodating.

Discrepancy and disagreement between appearance and personality can confuse and irritate the audience. Therefore, this might occur, for instance, when individuals do not portray themselves or act consistently with their assumed social class. Goffman insinuated that the performer’s front is the portion of the presentation that defines the scenario for the spectators, and it is the picture they leave on the audience (68). A public front can also be viewed as a storyline. Some social protocols seem to become entrenched in light of the stereotypical expectations they convey.

Goffman enumerates that stage drama, like in daily interactions, has three sectors that influence an individual’s effectiveness: front stage, backroom, and off-stage. The front platform is where the artist appears professionally and according to audience-specific customs, and the performer is aware of being seen and acts appropriately (Goffman 70). The performer may appear different in the backstage area than in front of the viewers in the front venue (Goffman 70). Eventually, the off-stage section is where different actors interact with the audience apart from the teamwork on the main stage.


First, Goffman’s understanding of interaction order (IO) facilitates a clearer understanding of Freud’s superego, ego-ideal, and dispositional father. Consensual and conventional or highly different and outrageously surprising, the interaction order might be seen as an ongoing narrative of presentations. To function within the IO in the current time, one must depend on earlier performances’ textualized and programmed leftovers (Hancock and Roberta 419). The IO is not only a dynamic in the present but also an integrated system composed of shards and sediments from numerous self-formation experiences.

Second, Goffman and Freud employ a dramaturgical technique to comprehend psychopathology. Freud and Goffman both noticed the representation of disorder, which Freud termed psychosis. In addition, Hancock and Roberta extend the dichotomy of intrinsic and extrinsic factors by connecting Freud’s manifestations to Goffman’s types of dysfunctional or imperfect relationships (419). They propose that hysteria is associated with chaos and obsessive-compulsive behavior with hyper-ritualization. Freud exposes how dysfunctional perspectives culminate in chaotic presentations through these intersections, resulting in a disrupted encounter. Goffman recognizes how failures and disturbances in the IO can cause chaos and hyper-ritualization (Hancock and Roberta 419). This double reading allows individuals to build a critical perspective on community and the IO beyond the diseases that affect individuals.

Finally, the psychoanalysis understanding of Goffman and the behaviorist view of Freud enable people to bring their symptoms to cognitive consciousness for empirical questioning and to approach the exteriority contradiction in innovative ways. People may ask whether a remedy consists of eliminating certain ailments and actions and becoming better adapted to the social hierarchy, rendering them more typical. More consistent with the prevalent standards for improved operation and engagement. People can connect treatment to important social assessment that emphasizes the strategies in which the social order compels them to assume personalities and roles (Hancock and Roberta 420). These responsibilities correspond and operate as contextually centered if they investigate mechanisms intrinsic to individuality and the socialization order in which the personality is generated and accomplished.


Three negative frames have usually been used to describe the relationship between Goffman’s approach and psychoanalytic theory. First, Goffman had little concern for the inner experience of human existence; second, he was against psychotherapy; and third, Goffman was a sociological emotional responses professional (Hancock and Roberta 420). Several researchers are led astray by these interpretations, conflating Goffman’s criticisms of psychology and psychoanalysis. In addition, scholars view feelings as the experiential terminus of investigation and so fail to examine the three-way relationship between emotion, communication, and unconscious mechanisms.


A theory depicts the framework of some facet of human activity or accomplishment, allowing individuals to evaluate that conduct. As per the Freudian theory, personality encompasses two key elements: the conscious and unconscious minds. The conscious aspect includes everything individuals are aware of or can immediately recall to memory. On the other hand, the unconscious half includes all of a person’s unrealized aims, objectives, desires, urges, and memories that continue to influence their behavior. Goffman employs dramatic imagery to illustrate the intricacies and relevance of interpersonal interaction. Goffman presents the idea of socializing that he terms the metafictional perspective on human development. According to Goffman, a connection may be compared to a stage, and individuals in ordinary events can be paralleled to players who embody distinct roles. Goffman and Freud adopt a dramatic method of understanding psychosis. Both Freud and Goffman observe the manifestation of disturbance, which Freud labeled schizophrenia.

Works Cited

Freud, Sigmund. “The Ego and the Id. Standard.” Edition 19, 1923, 1-66.

Goffman, Erving. “Presentation of self in everyday life.” University of Edinburg Social Sciences Research Center, vol. 55, 1956, 1-173.

Hancock, Black Hawk, and Roberta Garner. “Theorizing Goffman and Freud: Goffman’s Interaction order as a Social-Structural Underpinning for Freud’s Psychoanalytic self.” Canadian Journal of Sociology, vol. 40, no. 4, 2015, 417-444.

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PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Summary and Comparison of Freud and Goffman Erving Theories." April 7, 2023.

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PsychologyWriting. "Summary and Comparison of Freud and Goffman Erving Theories." April 7, 2023.