Erving Goffman “On Cooling the mark out”

This article first appeared in Psychiatry 1952. Before leaving Aberdeen sociology in 1969 Geoff Sharp used this article to explain how people are cooled out. See http://www.tau.ac.il/~algazi/mat/Goffman–Cooling.htm and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooling_out.

“The con is said to be a good racket in the United States only because most Americans are willing, nay eager, to make easy money, and will engage in action that is less than legal in order to do so The typical play has typical phases. The potential sucker is first spotted and one member of the working team (called the outside man, steerer, or roper) arranges to make social contact with him. The confidence of the mark is won, and he is given an opportunity to invest his money in a gambling venture which he understands to have been fixed in his favor The venture, of course, is fixed, but not in his favor. The mark is permitted to win some money and then persuaded to invest more. There is an “accident” or “mistake,” and the mark loses his total investment. The operators then depart in a ceremony that is called the blowoff or sting. They leave the mark but take his money. The mark is expected to go on his way, a little wiser and a lot poorer.

Sometimes, however, a mark is not quite prepared to accept his loss as a gain in experience and to say and do nothing about his venture. He may feel moved to [p. 452] complain to the police or to chase after the operators. In the terminology of the trade, the mark may squawk, beef, or come through. From the operators’ point of view, this kind of behavior is bad for business. It gives the members of the mob a bad reputation with such police as have not. yet been fixed and with marks who have not yet been taken. In order to avoid this adverse publicity, an additional phase is sometimes added at the end of the play. It is called cooling the mark out After the blowoff has occurred, one of the operators stays with the mark and makes an effort to keep the anger of the mark within manageable and sensible proportions. The operator stays behind his team‑mates in the capacity of what might be called a cooler and exercises upon the mark the art of consolation. An attempt is made to define the situation for the mark in a way that makes it easy for him to accept the inevitable and quietly go home. The mark is given instruction in the philosophy of taking a loss.

When we call to mind the image of a mark who has just been separated from his money, we sometimes attempt to account for the greatness of his anger by the greatness of his financial loss. This is a narrow view. In many cases, especially in America, the mark’s image of himself is built up on the belief that he is a pretty shrewd person when it comes to making deals and that he is not the sort of person who is taken in by any­ thing. The mark’s readiness to participate in a sure thing is based on more than avarice; it is based on a feeling that he will now be able to prove to himself that he is the sort of person who can “turn a‑fast buck.” For many, this capacity for high finance comes near to being a sign of masculinity and a test of fulfilling the male role.

It is well known that persons protect themselves with all kinds of rationalizations when they have a buried image of themselves which the facts of their status do not support. A person may tell himself many things: that he has not been given a fair chance; that he is not really interested in becoming something else; that the time for showing his mettle has not yet come; that the usual means of realizing his desires are personally or morally distasteful, or require too much dull effort. By means of such defenses, a person saves himself from committing a cardinal social sin‑the sin of defining oneself in terms of a status while lacking the qualifications which an incumbent of that status is supposed to possess.

A mark’s participation in a play, and his investment in it, clearly commit him in his own eyes to the proposition that he is a smart man. The process by which he comes to believe that he cannot lose is also the process by which he drops the de­fenses and compensations that previously protected him from defeats. When the blowoff comes, the mark finds that he has no defense for not being a shrewd man. He has defined himself as a shrewd man and must face the fact that he is only an­other easy mark. He has defined himself as possessing a certain set of qualities and then proven to himself that he is miser­ ably lacking in them. This is a process of self‑destruction of the self. It is no won­der that the mark needs to be cooled out and that it is good business policy for one of the operators to stay with the mark in order to talk him into a point of view from which it is possible to accept a loss.

In essence, then, the cooler has the job of handling persons who have been caught out on a limb‑persons whose expectations and self‑conceptions have been built up and then shattered. The mark is a person who has compromised himself, in his own eyes if not in the eyes of others.”

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Exploring the Meaning(s) of Record Store Day

Source: Exploring the Meaning(s) of Record Store Day

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Soundtracking Existence

Symbolic Interaction Music Blog

After dreaming of doing so for most of my life, two weeks ago I released my first novel – Cigarettes & Wine, for purchasing information please visit http://a.co/5bsI4v2.  The novel is a sociological narrative built on over two decades of observations and interviews (formal and informal) with LGBTQIAP people in the southern United States as well as the past decade of sociological and interactionist research I have done concerning these populations.  Written in the form of a personal narrative from the perspective of a bisexual, non-binary teenager growing up in the Bible Belt in the 1990’s, the novel traces the lives of an interrelated group of mostly LGBTQIAP characters while highlighting the ways relationships, meanings, and both negative and positive experiences shape the people we become over time.  Not surprisingly, the release of this book – and the actualization of a lifelong dream in the process – has dominated…

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Poor Selection of blogs to re-blog

Word  Press now has so many private blogs – they are encouraging bloggers to go independent – that it has become difficult to find new blogs to enable re-blogging. I have just passed 500 posts, so nothing new today, regrettably.

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Improvisation versus Familiarity

Symbolic Interaction Music Blog

This past week, my life partner and I went to see the Counting Crows perform live. It was not the first time we saw the band live, and unless they retire, it won’t be the last. This time, however, I did something after the show I had never done before, and in so doing, noticed an interesting dichotomy. What I did was follow, read, and think about comments on social media about the show itself, and the ways people interpreted the performance. The dichotomy I noticed revolved around tensions between attendees who hoped for the familiarity of songs they had on records at home, and other attendees who enjoyed the ways the band reinvents songs on stage over time.

Similar to acts often labeled as jam bands, the Counting Crows have a long standing reputation – dating back to the earliest days of the band actually – for revising and…

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Dramaturgical Guitars

Symbolic Interaction Music Blog

Having both begun playing guitar about this time last year, in this post Xan Nowakowski and J. Sumerau collaboratively reflect on some ways people interpret and use guitars in ways that signify meaning about themselves, music, and the wider social world.

One of the things we have enjoyed most about learning to play guitar is learning about guitars themselves, and all the different ways musicians interpret these objects. How does a guitar become an iconic element of a musician’s act – and indeed, of their image beyond that act? How do people assign meaning to their guitars? In a dramaturgical sense, what does these objects signify to people using them and / or witnessing their use?

There is perhaps no more suitable case to start such a conversation than Willie Nelson’s undying, singular devotion to a specific guitar. Since the beginning of his career, Nelson has played his beloved

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Genres Revisited

Symbolic Interaction Music Blog

About a year ago, I wrote a post on this blog exploring the meanings and nuances embedded within musical genres and categorizations. After discussing examples of variations and debates concerning different types of music and the meanings people attach to musical forms, I closed the piece by asking what analyses of genre creation, maintenance and change might reveal about social interactions, society, and popular music.

As a result, I was rather intrigued when a few friends this week alerted me to a blog post about a recently published study examining genre usage and structuring via musical profiles and interactions on a social media site. Rather than a monolithic structuring of musical tastes and categorizations, the authors found musical tastes and genres structured in forms of multiple, interlocking components that effectively revealed multiple – rather than a monolithic – musical worlds experienced by site users and marketed by musicians…

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The More I Write

An old Hungarian song “the clouds are gathering over the forest”,
Judy Collins “Both Sides Now”, Bob Dylan “Every Grain of Sand”.

Symbolic Interaction Music Blog

“Well if I have one, I’ll have thirteen” is a lyric from a Blake Shelton song called “The More I Drink” from his Pure BS album. Although I do not happen to drink much if at all for the most part, I found myself regularly thinking about this line in my academic life over the past couple years.

The reason I often think about this line is because if you change the word “have” to the word “write” it provides the best answer I have yet to come up with in response to an increasingly common question I receive from colleagues – “how do you write so much.” Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the question itself, and why people ask it so often when they run into me at this or that function. I see nothing wrong with the question, and as someone who regularly contributes to…

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Don’t Say My Name

Don’t say my name

Over the weekend, my life partner and I caught a concert put on by the Sarah Mac Band. The show was quite a bit of fun, and the music – an Americana sound with storyteller style lyrics – was very similar to a lot of my broader collection of tunes. Overall, it was a fun show, the band was in good spirits and celebrating headlining at a venue where they played as an opener earlier in their career, and I had a good time. I could use this space to review the concert itself, the experience in the space, or the night my life partner and I had before, during, and after the show while discussing music and our impressions of the show. Instead, however, I want to focus on a particular song that caught my attention as I drove back to Tampa the following day.

As I often do when I’m enjoying a concert, I spent some time at the merchandise table and picked up a couple new cds of music. On the road the next day, I played these cds as I drove and thought about the week, life, and the show. While I enjoyed the bulk of the music contained on the discs (always a welcome result of blindly buying new tunes), I came across a track on one of their records that I found myself playing over and over again. I honestly cannot recall if the song was played during the show, but it struck a chord in me each time it flowed through my speakers. The song is called “Say my name” and it can found on the band’s album entitled “Florida.” The song caught my attention because the following verse kept getting stuck in my head each time I heard it:

Don’t say my name

            I never gave you

            Any right to

            Call me that

            Don’t say my name

            Its not the same as

            When my mother

            Gave it to me

            When it leaves your lips

            It sounds so brittle and cold

            And unfamiliar 

As someone who does a lot of work on identities, the work people do to define themselves and their situations, and the experiences of sexual, gender, and religious minorities, these words resonated with me, and I found myself thinking of all the many social contexts and experiences they could apply to in a given life. In the song, the person appears to be talking about a failed relationship, but these words speak to wider social processes and definitional endeavors people experience in a wide variety of ways as they seek to claim new selves, adjust existing selves, and / or leave aspects of the self behind.

The experience got me wondering about both (1) the importance of names for given people whether such names are personal monikers, social labels or a combination of the two, (2) the difficulties people face when others call them by labels or names they no longer or never did identify with personally, and (3) the issues, conflicts, and processes that arise when one person’s desire for identification conflicts with the identification practices of other people in relation to that person.

These are each common questions Interactionists wrestle with and analyze in many contexts implicitly and explicitly, but the question I kept returning to involved what might be learned by Interactionist studies about the way people describe and make sense of shifting labels and names over the course of their lives. In what varied situations might the phrase “Don’t say my name” be especially relevant to identity transformations, and what might Interactionists learn from explicit focused attention on such turning points and transformations?

While there has been tremendous focus on such dynamics over time, studies typically focus more on broader labels (i.e., racial, classed, gendered, sexual, religious, and subcultural labels) rather than on actual personalized names.  Especially as more and more people define themselves in fluid terms over the life course, change names for a wide variety of social and political reasons, and experience tensions between how they may appear in a given circumstance and how they see themselves, I wondered what might be gained from Interactionists analyses of times, situations, and circumstances wherein the line in the song – “don’t say my name” – may become especially relevant to personal and social evaluations of given selves and realities.

J. Sumerau

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Gary Alan Fine’s Work

Gary Alan Fine has traditionally published books, each one on a different topic. I had begun to do longer reviews and appreciations of these during 2015: Shared Fantasy (Nov 19th 2015), Morel Tales (3 August 2915), and the introductory post on Fine’s published books (July 27 2015) are the recent posts in My Symbolic Interaction on his work. His interest in Anselm Strauss’ negotiated order theory has particularly inspired me, as I have written on this extensively in the years before I retired.

But Fine’s focus has shifted markedly since then from books to jointly authored articles and he has published a stream of articles on a wide range of topics. The most interesting has been his transformation of Sociometry into Social Psychology Quarterly after a period as editor of Sociometry. See my post of 10 June 2014 on this. Others I will discuss in later posts, which will only be dips into his more recent work. Some of these are:

Fine’s Presidential Address to the Society for the Study of Social Problems on the Chaining of Social Problems.

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