1. Whenever we join a group, voluntarily or involuntarily, we assume a role. A role is one’s relative position in a group; that is, one’s rank. Any group role exists in relation to some other role in that group
2. With all roles, in all groups, certain behaviors are expected. A role, then, can be defined as one’s relative position in a group with an expected set of verbal and nonverbal behaviors.
3. There are two types of roles in most cultures, including formal and informal. Formal roles have very well defined, and often times contractual, behavioral expectations associated with them. Formal roles and their prescriptions vary across cultures. Informal roles are learned informally and are much less explicit than formal roles.
4. Roles and communication are integrally linked. Roles prescribe (1) with whom, (2) about what, and (3) how to communicate with others.
5. Our social identity is created by our total combination of roles.
6. There are at least four dimensions upon which roles vary across cultures. These dimensions include the degree of personalness, formality, hierarchy, and deviation from the ideal role enactment.
IV. Role Differentiation and Stratification
1. The rank ordering of roles within a culture is called social stratification. Social stratification varies across cultures. Not all roles are valued the same across cultures. Some cultures make relatively few distinctions while others make many. This is called role differentiation. A highly differentiated culture may make numerous role distinctions.
2. Many collectivistic, high context, and high power distance cultures possess a relatively strict hierarchical role stratification compared to low context, individualistic, low power distant cultures.
V. A Cultural Conversation Between Roles
1. In this conversation, Mr. Mammen does not understand why he cannot be seated in the restaurant. In his native culture, Mr. Mammen occupies a high status role that gives him certain privileges not accorded others. In his native culture, Mr. Mammen would have been seated immediately.