Behavior Iceberg


Key Concepts:

Body language


Point of view


To some extent, all individual and social forms of behavior are political in the sense that they reflect "some personal or group interest. Such interests are encoded in what are called ideologies, or worldviews that express the values and opinions of those who hold them" Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon, Signs of Life (10).

Analyzing social and individual behavior in texts (poems, novels, advertisements, films, songs, plays, etc.) involves probing, perhaps, a great many personal beliefs and values that we do not always recognize as beliefs and values. Instead, we tend to think of them as truths, "givens," the natural order of things  (i.e., "Men aren't supposed to cry or show emotion.")

These values are part of systems of belief called cultural mythologies. Cultural myths guide our behavior and have a profound (though often unknown to us) effect on the way we view reality, on our most basic values, what we hold to be true and right.

Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken," for example, positions the reader to embrace an individualistic social mythology, an American ideology that prizes individual choice and self-expression over conformity and groupthink. Such cultural myths reflect the values and ideological interests of not simply the individual (or author) but the culture and ideologies that shape the individual.