Face (sociological concept)

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Face is a class of behaviors and customs operating (active) in different countries and cultures, associated with the morality, honor, and authority of an individual (or group of individuals), and its image in social groups.

Definitions[edit]

Although Chinese writer Lin Yutang claimed "Face cannot be translated or defined",[1] compare these definitions:

  • Face is an image of self,[2] delineated in terms of approved social attributes.
  • Face is the respectability and/or deference which a person can claim for himself or herself from others.
  • Face is something that is emotionally invested, and that can be lost, maintained, or enhanced, and must be constantly attended to in interaction.
  • Face is a sense of worth that comes from knowing one's status[3] and reflecting concern with the congruence between one's performance or appearance and one's real worth.
  • "Face" means "sociodynamic valuation", a lexical hyponym[4] of words meaning "prestige; dignity; honor; respect;[5] status".

By country[edit]

Face refers to a sociological[6] concept[6] in general linked to the dignity and prestige that a person has in terms of their social relationships. This idea with different nuances is observed in many societies and cultures such as Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Malaysian, Laotian, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai.

Face" has more meanings based on Chinese culture[7] context.

Chinese 臉面 and 面子[edit]

In China, in particular, the concepts of mianzi, lian, and yan play an extremely important role in the fabric of society.

In Chinese culture, "face" refers to two distinct concepts, although linked in Chinese social relations. One is mianzi ( Chinese: 面子), and the other is lian ( Chinese: 脸), which are used regularly in everyday language although not so much in the formal writings.

Two influential Chinese authors explained "face". The Chinese writer Lu Xun[8] referred to the American missionary Arthur Henderson Smith's (1894:16–18) interpretation.

The term "face" keeps cropping up in our conversation, and it seems such a simple expression that I doubt whether many people give it much thought. Recently, however, we have heard this word on the lips of foreigners too, who seem to be studying it. They find it extremely hard to understand, but believe that "face" is the key to the Chinese spirit and that grasping it will be like grabbing a queue twenty-four years ago [when wearing a queue was compulsory] – everything else will follow. (1934, 1959:129)

Lin Yutang considered the psychology[9] of "face".

Interesting as the Chinese physiological face is, the psychological face makes a still more fascinating study. It is not a face that can be washed or shaved, but a face that can be "granted" and "lost" and "fought for" and "presented as a gift". Here we arrive at the most curious point of Chinese social psychology. Abstract and intangible, it is yet the most delicate standard by which Chinese social intercourse is regulated.[1]

Miàn 面 "face; personal esteem;[10] countenance; surface; side" occurs in words like:

  • miànzi 面子 "face; side; reputation; self-respect; prestige, honor; social standing"
  • miànmù 面目 ("face and eyes") "face; appearance; respect; social standing; prestige; honor(only used in ancient Chinese prose. Now it only means appearance)"
  • miànpí 面皮 ("face skin") "facial skin; complexion; feelings; sensitivity; sense of shame"
  • tǐmiàn 體面 ("body face") "face; good looking; honor; dignity; prestige"
  • qíngmian 情面 ("feelings face") "face; prestige; favor; kindness; partiality"

Hsien-chin Hu says,

can be borrowed, struggled for, added to, padded, — all terms indicating a gradual increase in volume. It is built up through initial high position, wealth, power, ability, through cleverly establishing social ties to a number of prominent people, as well as through avoidance of acts that would cause unfavorable comment. (1944:61)

Liǎn 臉 "face; countenance; respect; reputation; prestige" is seen in several "face" words:

  • liǎnshàng 臉上 ("face on/above") "one's face; honor; respect"
  • liǎnmiàn 臉面 ("face face") "face; self-respect; prestige; influence"
  • liǎnpí 臉皮 ("face skin") "face; sensitivity; compassion"

Hu (1944:51–52) contrasts méiyǒu liǎn 沒有臉 ("without face") "audacious; wanton; shameless" as "the most severe condemnation that can be made of a person" and bùyào liǎn 不要臉 ("don't want face") "shameless; selfishly inconsiderate" as "a serious accusation meaning that ego does not care what society thinks of his character, that he is ready to obtain benefits for himself in defiance of moral standards".

Yán 顏 "face; prestige; reputation; honor" occurs in the common expression diū yán 丟顏 and the words:

  • yánhòu 顏厚 ("face thick") or hòuyán 厚顏 "thick-skinned; brazen; shameless; impudent"
  • yánmiàn 顏面 ("face face") "face; honor; prestige"

English[edit]

The English semantic field for "face" words meaning "prestige; honor" is smaller than the corresponding Chinese field. English face meaning "prestige; honor, respect, dignity, status, reputation,[11] social acceptance, or good name. The lose verb in lose face means "fail to maintain", while the save in save face means "avoid loss/damage". The country begins to feel that Government consented to arrangements by which China has lost face; the officials have long been conscious that they are becoming ridiculous in the eyes of the people, seeing that where a foreigner is concerned they can neither enforce a Chinese right, nor redress a Chinese grievance, even on Chinese soil. (1901:225)

Loss of face occurs in The Times (August 3, 1929): "Each wishes to concede only what can be conceded without loss of 'face.[12]"

Save face was coined from lose face applying the semantic opposition between lose and save [tr. Chinese 保面子/bǎo miànzi/guard/save face; when successful, it's called "保住面子/bǎozhu miànzi /saved/guarded face "].

OED defines Save 8 "To keep, protect or guard (a thing) from damage, loss, or destruction", and elaborates,

8f. to save one's face: to avoid being disgraced or humiliated. Similarly, to save (another's) face. Hence save-face adj. = face-saving ... Originally used by the English community in China, with reference to the continual devices among the Chinese to avoid incurring or inflicting disgrace. The exact phrase appears not to occur in Chinese, but ‘to lose face’ (diu lien), and ‘for the sake of his face’, are common.

Among the English words of Chinese origin, lose face is an uncommon verb phrase and a unique semantic loan translation. Most Anglo-Chinese borrowings are nouns (Yuan 1981:250), with a few exceptions such as to kowtow, to Shanghai, to brainwash, and lose face. English face meaning "prestige; honor" is the only case of a Chinese semantic loan. Semantic loans extend an indigenous word's meaning in conformity with a foreign model (e.g., French realiser "achieve; create; construct" used in the sense of English realize). The vast majority of English words from Chinese are ordinary loanwords with regular phonemic adaptation (e.g., chop suey < Cantonese tsap-sui 雜碎 "miscellaneous[13] pieces"). A few are calques[14] where a borrowing is blended with native elements (e.g., chopsticks < Pidgin chop "quick, fast" < Cantonese kap "quick" + stick). Face meaning "prestige" is technically a "loan synonym" owing to semantic overlap between the native English meaning "outward semblance;[15] effrontery" and the borrowed Chinese meaning "prestige; dignity".

When face acquired its Chinese sense of "prestige; honor", it filled a lexical gap in the English lexicon. Chan and Kwok write,

The Chinese has supplied a specific "name" for a "thing" embodying qualities not expressed or possibly not fully expressed, by a number of terms in English. The aptness of the figurative extension has probably also played a part (1985:61–62).

Carr concludes,

The nearest English synonyms of the apt figurative face are prestige, honor, respect, dignity, status, reputation, social acceptance, or good name.[16] explains how "face" is a more basic meaning than "status", "dignity", or "honor". "Prestige" appears to be semantically closest to "face", however a person can be said to have face but not prestige, or vice versa. Prestige is not necessary; one can easily live without it, but hardly without "face".[17]

Arabic[edit]

In Arabic, the expression hafiẓa māʼ al-wajh (حفظ ماء الوجه), which literally translate as save the face's water, is used to mean save face. The entire Arab culture of social and family behavior is based around Islamic concepts of dignity, or "Face", which has its basis in the social and family ranking system found in the Treatise of Rights,[18] Al-Risalah al-Huquq, Islam's primary source for social behaviors.[19]

Persian[edit]

In Persian, expressions like "Aab ro rizi" (آبروريزی) literally – losing the face's water, is used to mean save face and "Dou roi" (دورويی) (lit. two-facedness), "Ro seyahi "(nq) (lit. Black-facedness) meaning "ashamed and embarrassed" and "Ro sepidi" (روسپيدی) (lit. White-facedness) meaning "proud" (opposite of Ro seyahi) are used. In Iranian culture the meaning of linguistic face is much closer to the meaning of "Personality". So Persian speakers use some strategies in saving the face or personality of each other while they communicate.

The entire Iranian culture of social and family behavior is based around Islamic concepts of dignity, or "Face", which has its basis in the social and family ranking system found in The Treatise of Rights.

South Slavic[edit]

Among South Slavs, especially in Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian, the word obraz (Cyrillic: образ) is used as a traditional expression for honor and the sociological concept of face. Medieval Slavic documents have shown that the word has been used with various meanings, such as form, image, character, person, symbol, face, figure, statue, idol, guise and mask. The languages also have a derived adjective bezobrazan (Cyrillic: безобразен) "without face", used to associate shame to a person.[20]

Thai[edit]

The Thai word for face is หน้า, meaning literally face. There are basically two main ways of expressing loss of face. One, เสียหน้า, [sia naa] translates literally as 'lose face.' Another term, ขายหน้า, or [khai naa], means sale of face – actual connotation is that the person who lost face did so through fault of self or through the thoughtless action of another. As in China and other regions where loss of face is important, the Thai version involves sociodynamic status.

Korea[edit]

The concept of "face" or "chemyon" (Hangul체면 hanja: 體面, Korean: [/t͡ɕʰe̞mjʌ̹n/]) is extremely important in Korean culture.

Academic interpretations[edit]

Sociology[edit]

"Face" is central to sociology and sociolinguistics. Martin C. Yang[21] analyzed eight sociological factors in losing or gaining face: the kinds of equality between the people involved, their ages, personal sensibilities, inequality in social status, social relationship, consciousness of personal prestige, presence of a witness, and the particular social value/sanction involved.[22]

The sociologist Erving Goffman introduced the concept of "face" into social theory with his (1955) article "On Face-work: An Analysis of Ritual Elements of Social Interaction" and (1967) book Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior.[23] According to Goffman's dramaturgical perspective, face is a mask that changes depending on the audience and the variety of social interaction. People strive to maintain the face they have created in social situations. They are emotionally attached to their faces, so they feel good when their faces are maintained; loss of face results in emotional pain, so in social interactions people cooperate by using politeness strategies to maintain each other's faces.[citation needed]

"Face" is sociologically universal. People "are human", Joseph Agassi and I. C. Jarvie (1969:140) believe, "because they have face to care for – without it they lose human dignity." Hu elaborates:

The point is that face is distinctively human. Anyone who does not wish to declare his social bankruptcy must show a regard for face: he must claim for himself, and must extend to others, some degree of compliance, respect, and deference in order to maintain a minimum level of effective social functioning. While it is true that the conceptualization of what constitutes face and the rules governing face behavior vary considerably across cultures, the concern for face is invariant. Defined at a high level of generality, the concept of face is a universal.[24]

The sociological concept of face has recently been reanalyzed through consideration of the Chinese concepts of face (mianzi and lian) which permits deeper understanding of the various dimensions of experience of face, including moral and social evaluation, and its emotional mechanisms.[25]

Marketing[edit]

According to Hu (1944), mianzi stands for 'the kind of prestige that is emphasized...a reputation achieved through getting on in life, through success and ostentation', while face is 'the respect of a group for a man with a good moral reputation: the man who will fulfill his obligations regardless of the hardships involved, who under all circumstances shows himself a decent human being'.[26] The concept seems to relate to two different meanings, from one side Chinese consumers try to increase or maintain their reputation (mianzi) in front of socially and culturally significant others (e.g. friends); on the other hand, they try to defend or save face.[citation needed]

Mianzi is not only important to improve the consumer's reputation in front of significant others, but rather it is also associated with feelings of dignity, honor, and pride.[27] In consumer behaviour literature, mianzi has been used to explain Chinese consumer purchasing behaviour and brand choice[28] and considered it as a ‘quality’ owned by some brands. Some consumers tend to favour some brands (and their products and services) because of their capacity to enable them to 'gain' mianzi, which does not mean simply increase their reputation but also to show achievements and communicate these achievements to others in order to be more accepted in social circles, especially upper class circles.[29] Chinese consumers tend to believe that if they buy some brands it is easier to be accepted in the social circles of powerful and wealthy people. Connections are particularly important in Chinese culture as people use social connections to achieve their goals.[citation needed]

However, mianzi has also an emotional facet.[29] Consumer feel proud, special, honoured, even more valuable as individuals if they can afford to buy brands that can enhance their mainzi.[29][30] Therefore, some branded products and services, especially those that require conspicuous consumption (e.g. smartphones, bags, shoes), are chosen because they foster feelings of pride and vanity in the owner.[28][29]

A brand that enables an individual to achieve such goals in life, in branding literature, it is labelled as 'brand mianzi', which is the capacity of a brand to provide emotions and self-enhancement to its owner.[28][29]

Scholars have proved that brand mianzi affects consumer purchase intentions[28][29] and brand equity.[27]

In summary, mianzi is a cultural concept that relates to the social, emotional and psychological dimension of consumption and has an impact on consumers’ perception of their self and purchase decisions. Purchase and consumption of brands (but also other activities, like choosing a specific university), in Chinese culture, are profoundly affected by mianzi and different brands can be more or less apt to enhance or maintain mianzi, while others can cause a loss of face.[citation needed]

Politeness theory[edit]

Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson (1987) expanded Goffman's theory of face in their politeness theory, which differentiated between positive and negative face.[31]

In human interactions, people are often forced to threaten either an addressee's positive and/or negative face, and so there are various politeness strategies to mitigate those face-threatening acts.[citation needed]

Communication theory[edit]

Tae-Seop Lim and John Waite Bowers (1991) claim that face is the public image that a person claims for himself. Within this claim there are three dimensions. "Autonomy face" describes a desire to appear independent, in control, and responsible. "Fellowship face" describes a desire to seem cooperative, accepted, and loved. "Competence face" describes a desire to appear intelligent, accomplished, and capable.[32]

Oetzel et al. (2000) defined "facework" as "the communicative strategies one uses to enact self-face and to uphold, support, or challenge another person's face". In terms of interpersonal communication, Facework refers to an individual's identity in a social world and how that identity is created, reinforced, diminished, and maintained in communicative interactions.[33]

Facework[edit]

Facework[34] represents the transition from the real self of the individual to the image he or she represents to society for the communicative or leadership purposes. This concept is all about presentation of the dignified image which soon will become as an authority[35] for other individuals. Facework is a skill of constantly maintaining the face in order to deserve the respect[5] and honor[36] from it. For instance, Individualistic cultures like United States, Canada, and Germany are standing for the position of protecting the self-face of the individual while collectivist[37] cultures such as China, South Korea, and Japan support the idea of maintaining the other-face for self-dignity and self-respect

There are also exist other facework strategies not always basing on the culture strategies like face-negotiating,[38] face-constituting, face-compensating, face-honoring, face-saving, face-threatening, face-building, face-protecting, face-depreciating, face-giving, face-restoring, and face-neutral.[34]

Intercultural communication[edit]

Face is central to intercultural communication or cross-cultural communication. Bert Brown explains the importance of both personal and national face in international negotiations:

Among the most troublesome kinds of problems that arise in negotiation are the intangible issues related to loss of face. In some instances, protecting against loss of face becomes so central an issue that it swamps the importance of the tangible issues at stake and generates intense conflicts that can impede progress toward agreement and increase substantially the costs of conflict resolution. (1977:275)

In terms of Edward T. Hall's dichotomy between high context cultures focused upon in-groups and low context cultures focused upon individuals, face-saving is generally viewed as more important in high context cultures such as China or Japan than in low-context ones such as the United States or Germany.[39]

Face-negotiation theory[edit]

Stella Ting-Toomey developed Face Negotiation Theory to explain cultural differences in communication and conflict resolution. Ting-Toomey defines face as

the interaction between the degree of threats or considerations one party offers to another party, and the degree of claim for a sense of self-respect (or demand for respect toward one's national image or cultural group) put forth by the other party in a given situation. (1990)

Psychology[edit]

The psychology of "face" is another field of research. Wolfram Eberhard, who analyzed Chinese "guilt" and "sin" in terms of literary psychology, debunked the persistent myth that "face" is peculiar to the Chinese rather than a force in every human society. Eberhard noted

It is mainly in the writings of foreigners that we find the stress upon shame in Chinese society; it is they who stated that the Chinese were typically afraid of "losing their face". It is they who reported many cases of suicide because of loss of face, or of suicide in order to punish another person after one's death as a ghost, or to cause through suicide endless difficulties or even punishment to the other person. But in the Chinese literature used here, including also the short stories, I did not once find the phrase "losing face"; and there was no clear case of suicide because of shame alone. (1967:119–120)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong social psychologist Michael Harris Bond observed that in Hong Kong,

Given the importance of having face and of being related to those who do, there is a plethora of relationship politics in Chinese culture. Name dropping, eagerness to associate with the rich and famous, the use of external status symbols, sensitivity to insult, lavish gift-giving, the use of titles, the sedulous avoidance of criticism, all abound, and require considerable readjustment for someone used to organizing social life by impersonal rules, frankness, and greater equality. (1991:59)

Political science[edit]

"Face" has further applications in political science. For instance, Susan Pharr (1989) stressed the importance of "losing face" in Japanese comparative politics.[citation needed]

Semantics[edit]

Linguists have analyzed the semantics of "face". Huang (1985, cited above) used prototype semantics to differentiate lian and mianzi.[citation needed] George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's Metaphors We Live By (1980:37) emphasizes "the face for the person" metonymy. Keith Allan (1986) extended "face" into theoretical semantics.[citation needed] He postulated it to be an essential element of all language interchanges, and claimed: "A satisfactory theory of linguistic meaning cannot ignore questions of face presentation, nor other politeness phenomena that maintain the co-operative nature of language interchange."[40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  17. ^ 1993:87–88[full citation needed]
  18. ^ "Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq)". Al-Islam.org. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  19. ^ The Treatise of Rights, see various Chapters https://www.al-islam.org/treatise-rights-risalat-al-huquq-imam-zain-ul-abideen
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  27. ^ a b Filieri, Raffaele; Lin, Zhibin; d'Antone, Simona; Chatzopoulou, Elena (2018). "A cultural approach to brand equity: The role of brand mianzi and brand popularity in China". Journal of Brand Management. doi:10.1057/s41262-018-0137-x.
  28. ^ a b c d Filieri, Raffaele; Lin, Zhibin (2017). "The role of aesthetic, cultural, utilitarian and branding factors in young Chinese consumers' repurchase intention of smartphone brands" (PDF). Computers in Human Behavior (Submitted manuscript). 67: 139–150. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.09.057.
  29. ^ a b c d e f Filieri, Raffaele; Chen, Wenshin; Lal Dey, Bidit (2017). "The importance of enhancing, maintaining and saving face in smartphone repurchase intentions of Chinese early adopters". Information Technology & People. 30 (3): 629–652. doi:10.1108/ITP-09-2015-0230.
  30. ^ Filieri, Raffaele; Lin, Zhibin (2017). "The role of aesthetic, cultural, utilitarian and branding factors in young Chinese consumers' repurchase intention of smartphone brands" (PDF). Computers in Human Behavior (Submitted manuscript). 67: 139–150. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.09.057.
  31. ^ Miller 2005[full citation needed][page needed]
  32. ^ Miller 2005[full citation needed][page needed]
  33. ^ Oetzel, John G.; Ting‐Toomey, Stella; Yokochi, Yumiko; Masumoto, Tomoko; Takai, Jiro (2000). "A typology of facework behaviors in conflicts with best friends and relative strangers". Communication Quarterly. 48 (4): 397–419. doi:10.1080/01463370009385606.
  34. ^ a b Fletcher, Vail (2016-04-05). "Facework and Culture". Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.165.
  35. ^ "AUTHORITY | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary". dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  36. ^ "HONOR | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary". dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  37. ^ "COLLECTIVISM | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary". dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  38. ^ Rofiq, Hasniar. "an Overview of Face Negotiation Theory".
  39. ^ Cohen, Raymond (1977). Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy. United States Inst of Peace Pr (September 1, 1991). ISBN 978-1878379085.
  40. ^ Huang 1986:10[full citation needed]

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