The shell, the stranger and the competent other: towards a sociology of shyness

Scott, Susie (2004) The shell, the stranger and the competent other: towards a sociology of shyness. Sociology, 38 (1). pp. 121-137. ISSN 00380385

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Abstract

In contemporary Western societies, shyness appears to be an increasingly common experience, and yet its sociological relevance has been overlooked. Within psychology, the condition has been seen as an individual pathology, and there has been little attempt to relate this to the wider cultural context. The argument of this article is that shyness can be interpreted as both a privately felt state of mind and a publicly recognized social role. I revisit Meads conception of the self as an inner conversation between the `I and the `Me, arguing that the shy actor perceives themselves as relatively unskilled in interaction by comparison to a `Competent Other. It is then suggested that it is normal for people to drift into isolated episodes of shyness as primary deviance, but that in some cases the reactions of others can lead to a career of secondary deviance. However, while a display of shyness may be normalized in certain situations, in others it can pose a more serious or enduring threat to the residual rules of interaction.This motivates the non-shy majority to defend their normative assumptions by casting moral blame upon the individual, and reframes the `problem outside of society.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Susie Scott
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:32
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2012 11:44
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/21176
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