All my question is in the title : What is the theory called where a person has different behaviors according to the person in front of her ?

Example : A woman will react with kindness in front of her child, but she's going to be suspicious of a stranger (It's just an example).

I've learn this in first year of sociology, but it was 5 years ago so I've forget the name ...

Thank you by advance for help.

  • 3
    Isn't that just "normal"? I doubt anyone behaves exactly the same way towards absolutely everyone. – Lawrence Aug 9 '19 at 13:36
  • I know that is normal, but this behavior has a name, and I just want to know what it is for research. – PositivProd Aug 9 '19 at 13:44
  • 1
    Something like behavioral script? It might help to show what you have found so far but decided wasn't what you were looking for. – Lawrence Aug 9 '19 at 13:49
  • Erving Goffman, "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life". en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Gordon Aug 9 '19 at 14:19
  • More. journals.openedition.org/rsa/1676 – Gordon Aug 9 '19 at 14:22

Perhaps what you are looking for is situationism. Here is Wikipedia's description:

Situationists believe that thoughts, feelings, dispositions, and past experiences and behaviors will not suggest what someone will do in a given situation, but the situation itself will. Situationists tend to assume that character traits are distinctive, meaning that they do not completely disregard the idea of traits, but suggest that situations have a greater impact on behavior than those traits. Situationism is also influenced by culture, such that the extent to which people believe that situations impact behaviors varies between cultures. Situationism has been perceived as arising in response to trait theories, and correcting the notion that everything we do is because of our traits. However, situationism has also been criticized for ignoring individuals' inherent influences on behavior.

This is associated with the person-situation debate according to Wikipedia:

The person–situation debate in personality psychology refers to the controversy concerning whether the person or the situation is more influential in determining a person's behavior. Personality trait psychologists believe that people have consistent personalities that guide their behaviors across situations. Situationists, opponents of the trait approach, argue that people are not consistent enough from situation to situation to be characterized by broad personality traits.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, August 4). Person–situation debate. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:45, August 9, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Person%E%%93situation_debate&oldid=909368361

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, July 31). Situationism (psychology). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:43, August 9, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Situationism_(psychology)&oldid=908754675


One such theory is psychoanalysis.

One aspect here is passive: influence -- humans exert power over one another simply by being present and triggering associations the affected person has with previously encountered humans.

Another is more active: 'intersubjectivity' -- people reach out into a sharing of ideas with another person based on how we decide to connect, but since there is only a narrow stream of conversation, we choose roles, and cast them in roles, in conversations already in progress. Otherwise, establishing communication would be slow and laborious. And without the filters imposed by roles the topic could not be negotiated efficiently unless it were urgent.

These two things can make up a 'transference', where each individual is really interacting with a selected part of the other and each is interpreting the part they have selected to represent a set of ongoing conversations with groups, roles or other significant people. Only as each actual person varies in response from what would be predicted to come from the persona or set of ideas they are being selected to represent, is there actual human contact, which modifies the content of the structuring roles and assumptions.

This explains how most conversations can come into such rich territory so quickly, instead of having to build up the relationship from scratch. But it also means that we are constantly confused by expectations, and not directly open to hear what is being communicated except through a set of filters build out of our biases.

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