"Role" as a Part of Status
The usefulness of the status concept is increased when a distinction is introduced between "status" and "role." A role is a subunit of the set of understandings that constitute a status including only the understandings concerning relations with others according to the status those others occupy. Thus, if one takes the "arbiter" status, an examination of the behavior of its occupants acting in that status (as indicated by their meeting its identifying understandings) will show that different understandings are involved in guiding the behavior of arbiters in "arbiter-arbiter" interactions as compared to those involved in "arbiter-junior person" interactions. The "arbiter" status, then, is seen to be involved in two distinct roles and may be involved in others provided only that membership in the arbiter, rather than some other, status is what is salient for at least one participant in the relationship.
Turning to arbiters' function in promoting conformity and group operations, it is important to understand that the individuals categorized together as what I am calling "arbiters" rarely, in fact, can be seen to make judgments. As a matter of fairly explicit policy, those categorized in this status almost never say or do anything that might indicate what their assessment of acts or individuals may be. They serve, in fact, as a sort of culturally constituted Rorschach; they are the embodiment of the famous "they" who appear in the "what will they think" heard in many societies.
Chapter 8 makes clear that the arbiters' imagined judgments are not as frequently of concern as are the judgments of what I call the "sanctioners," but the arbiters play a central part in promoting conformity nevertheless. The sanctioners' judgments are concerned with detailed and specific aspects of what one does in quotidian statuses such as spouse, neighbor, or fellow employee, while the arbiters are mainly taken as concerned with one's standing as a group member, man, women, or human being.