roles versus activity

An emphasis that often comes up in SRV training is to encourage those learning about and implementing SRV to think, plan and act in terms of roles, not just of activities. Social roles are clearly at the center of Social Role Valorization. Roles are a much richer construct than activities, and touch on a person’s identity, social status, appearance, relationships, activities, and much more. If we want to help societally devalued people to have greater access to the ‘good things of life,’ then SRV proposes that we help devalued people to get access to societally valued roles, hopefully many valued roles and big valued roles (i.e., with a broad bandwidth).

Researcher Christopher Bryan has done some interesting research relevant to this SRV point. He notes that we are much more likely to change the way we act when we think and speak in terms that reflect on the person (and thus, I would propose, on the person’s roles), not just on activity.

For example, Bryan proposes thinking and speaking in terms of voter (role), not just of voting (activity):

Indeed, recent research suggests that adults are more likely to perform socially approved behaviors (Bryan, Walton, Rogers, & Dweck, 2011) and less likely to perform socially disapproved behaviors (Bryan, Adams, & Monin, 2013) when subtle linguistic cues represent that behavior as reflective of the self. For instance, Bryan et al. (2011) found that adults who completed a survey that referred to voting with noun wording (e.g., “How important is it to you to be a voter”) the day before an election were more likely to then vote than adults who completed a survey using verb wording (e.g., “How important is it to you to vote”). This, Bryan and colleagues suggest, is because the noun condition represents voting as a way to claim the identity “voter.”

‘Helping’ Versus ‘Being a Helper’: Invoking the Self to Increase Helping in Young Children, p. 1836

We don’t just vote, we are voters. Note that Bryan further posits that thinking and speaking in terms of roles will make it more likely that people will act in societally valued ways and less likely that they will act in socially devalued ways.


Bryan and colleagues also point out that this emphasis on role, rather than simply activity, can influence how we perceive others, another SRV relevant point:

a large volume of past theory and research indicating that noun wording, more than verb wording, conveys that a behavior reflects a person’s essential character—something enduring and fundamental about the target (for an in-depth review, see Gelman, Hollander, Star, & Heyman, 2000; see also Bryan et al., 2011; Bryan et al., 2013; Carnaghi et al., 2008; Cimpian, Arce, Markman, & Dweck, 2007; Gelman & Heyman, 1999; Markman, 1989; Walton & Banaji, 2004). Even preschool-aged children are sensitive to this difference in wording, for instance, in how they perceive other children (Gelman & Heyman, 1999) and in how they react to praise of their own behavior (Cimpian et al., 2007). Moreover, when noun wording describes a potential future behavior (something one could do), as in the present research, it can influence whether people choose to perform that behavior (Bryan et al., 2011). It turns a decision about whether to engage in a behavior (e.g., “to help”) into a more meaningful question about whether to be a kind of person (e.g., “a helper”)

 ‘Helping’ Versus ‘Being a Helper’: Invoking the Self to Increase Helping in Young Children, p. 183


Bryan’s work is another example of contemporary research that buttresses SRV theory and implementation, and may also provide insights that help us to extend our understanding of SRV, how to teach and implement it.

For further reading and study:


Posted on September 7, 2015 at 12:28 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink
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