Erving Goffman was one of the most important instigators of the field Performance Studies. His look at the performance of every day life helped influence different theoretical fields understanding of social behavior and identity. Goffman’s book is an attempt at analyzing our daily life through looking at how all of the actions and activities we do throughout the day, and the interpretations we give to such activities, are constructed by our society. Goffman relates human behavior to that of theatrical performance and illustrates how we perform ourselves, and our society, through day to day gestures and social interactions. So our actions and activities are performances for society. We perform ourselves, who we think we are, and what our role is at any given moment in society. Individuals perform in order to give a certain impression to the people they are interacting with, and also to perform the role that is expected of them in a particular social situation (i.e. at work, at home, in the bar). Goffman distinguishes between two different modes of communication, the expressions we give and the expressions we give off.
The former is more verbal communication, while the latter is non-verbal modes of communication. Thus we consciously or unconsciously create an effect upon who we are speaking to through language, gestures, and physical behavior. How people perform is multilayered, they often consciously desire to create a certain impression, but they also unconsciously perform by degrees that are instinctive and caused by their being embedded within their social structure. Goffman works under the assumption that everything is subjective and caused by individual experience within a society. By broaden the definition of performance and the theatrical to describe human behavior in everyday life, Goffman has offered insight into levels of human behavior and human experience that help illustrated the complexities of identity and social relationships.