PAPER # 1: BREAKING A NORM NAME: Nisha Tommy A norm is a principle of right action binding upon the members of a group and serving to guide, control, or regulates proper and acceptable behavior. Social norms are group-held beliefs about how members should behave in a given context. Sociologists describe norms as informal understandings that govern society’s behaviors, while psychologists have adopted a more general definition, recognizing smaller group units, like a team or an office, may also endorse norms separate or in addition to cultural or societal expectations.
The psychological definition emphasizes social norms' behavioral component, stating norms have two dimensions: how much behavior is exhibited and how much the group approves of that behavior. The people living in the society develop social norms. These norms have its importance and pay a vital role in the socialization of an individual and molding of personality. There are some important functions of social norms, which play essential part in the smooth of the society. These are control behavior, harmonize the society, and law and order. I chose to violate a social norm when riding on the elevator.
I did this in a hospital environment where doctors, nurses, technicians, and mostly patients were around me. I monitored the reaction of ten different groups throughout the experiment to get the best result. It is included different nationality and different age group. I rode the elevator ten times but instead of standing the “normal” way which is facing the door an unspoken social norm I stood the wrong way standing by the door looking at the back of the elevator. I felt very uncomfortable for the first few times but, after that I started enjoying people’s nonverbal reactions.
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Still it is hard to break a norm by knowingly breaking it. I got various reactions. Some people stare at me as if I was not normal. Some rolled their eyes and others startled their forehead. Some of them asked me if I was ok. Some couples looked each other and smiled. Some shook their head. Some of them didn’t look at me at all they were looking on the floor. One of the employees asked me “Do you work here? Which department do you work for? ” One person asked me “Do you have elevators in your country”? One person asked me “how long have you been in US”? After my answer she made a facial expression.
The question “Are you ok? ’’ contradicted my hypothesis and proved it wrong which was even if I stand the wrong way in the elevator and go against the social norm then people still won’t really react. This experiment proved my hypothesis wrong. While I had thought I wouldn’t get any reactions I did in reality get many reactions from staring to being asked if I was ok. Many people stared at me as though there was something wrong with me or even felt uncomfortable around me. My hypothesis was proven wrong because clearly breaking a social norm is more significant than I had assumed.
The experiment proved a lot about social norms and breaking them. It showed the significance of social norms how much social norms play a role in society and people as individuals act. The social norm I broke was implicit yet it proved to be so great in how people saw me and how they reacted. I standing the wrong way changed the way some people felt in the elevator they started to feel uncomfortable because my actions went against the social norm which is standing facing the door and anything that goes against the social norm is not normal.
The gesture was small yet it proved to generate greater reactions. This experiment proves that there are such things as social norms that aren’t even formally stated and as a society rules are set as to how once should behave and when broken one is met reactions and seen as different and “not normal”. Even in fast paced places where people tend to be too busy or they are stressed or even too sick to notice, people notice the breaking of social norms and react toward it because that is how people were taught to look at differently those who don’t follow the social norm.
I had believed that in United State where the attitude of minding your business is what people shape their lives around this would not be the case but I was wrong. Adhering to social norms is clearly a big part of people’s lives and shapes the way they act. What surprised me about the results was the way people acted toward me how some people were feeling uncomfortable. This surprised me because they were acting like there might be something wrong with me just because I was standing the wrong way. The man who asked me if I am ok shocked me the most because I didn’t expect anyone to actually ask me this.
All of this also shows how the environment plays a role in a person’s life. The social norms of a place which differ from place to place shapes the society it sets the social code. Especially in the case of the man who asked me if I was ok. His behavior and the rest of the experimental group showed how me breaking the social norm affects not only me but the people around me and changes the way I am seen to the world. He would have probably not asked me this is I was standing the right way. But because I violated the social norm his behavior and reactions changed.
The groups acted differently because of the variable which made all the difference. One can bring in conformity to explain these results. Society as a whole has learned to conform so as not to be the odd one out. The social based rules that were made people as a whole have learned to change their behavior to conform to the universal social code so they aren’t different. And when they see someone who acts differently they see them as “weird” different. People like behaviorists would say have been “shaped” a certain way a socially acceptable which is why people reacted the way they did to me.
I went against everyone the rules of society by not conforming hence I was the odd one out. If it weren’t for the social norms then maybe I would not have gotten the reactions I did because there wouldn’t be anything to conform too. One can infer that some of the reactions showed the following of the social norm of not being rude. While some of them stared they did not do anything as not to be rude which is in its own way following a social norm of politeness. This experiment has taught me basically a lot more about social norms and society. I got to see firsthand how social norms work and how much they play a role in everyone’s daily lives.
I learned how people react toward people who don’t follow the social norms and break them. If this experiment was conducted somewhere else I would say definitely the results would be different, because the place makes the social norms. Every environment is different and society makes rule based on that. What might be acceptable in one place might not be so acceptable in another and vice versa. For example in some place standing away at a decent distance is considered disrespectful that is going against the social norm whereas in America that is not the case. Here standing too close is breaking the social norm.
The results might have been more drastic or there might have not been any reaction at all. This experiment helped in providing the significance of social norms. The experiment also proved to show the difference between following and breaking social norms. After breaking the social norm I got to see many reactions which proved my hypothesis wrong and showed how conformity has a strong impact on society. By standing backwards in an elevator I broke the social norm of standing facing the back of the elevator and hence I became the odd one out. I enjoyed doing this experiment as a whole.
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