Sometimes You Gotta Break the Rules / Nonconformity Project 20 % of grade
Social norms are the invisible glue that keeps societies together. As implicit rules for social behavior, norms are only noticed when they are violated. This assignment asks you to do just that: Break a social norm that everyone typically obeys. See Ch 8 on Conformity, or Ch. 6 on cognitive dissonance.
You should observe a variety of social norms in action for a few days, then choose one to violate. You should break the norm several times (2-3 times, at a minimum), and in a variety of settings involving different people (i.e. not just your family members.) Examples of some norm violations are: sitting right next to a stranger in an otherwise empty movie theater; violating gender roles, such as a man wearing a dress; raising both hands simultaneously to ask a professor a question; looking at other riders rather than the floor numbers in an elevator; facing backwards in an elevator, singing out loud in public; conspicuously taking more than the maximum number of items to the grocery express check-out lane; impinging on someone’s personal space; asking a stranger to take her or his seat on the bus; being overly helpful in response to a stranger’s simple request. When possible and practical, debrief (explain your actions) with your subjects and ask them for their reactions both during and after the exercise.
It is completely acceptable to experiment with a norm breaking prosocial behavior. See chapter 11.
Here are the ground rules. First, you should not do anything illegal, unethical, dangerous, or obnoxious; pointless antics that waste other people’s time or money, or that might be threatening to others, are not allowed. Second, you should choose an actual social norm to violate; bizarre behavior is not necessarily violating a social norm. For example, taking (stealing) items from a shopper’s grocery basket is unethical (and illegal), bothersome and possibly threatening to the other. The point of the exercise is for you, as a researcher, to note others’ reactions, not merely to bring attention to yourself. If you are uncertain about your choice, test it out with a classmate and/or ask the professor.
If you like, you may do this activity with a partner. Both partners should be engaged in the norm breaking and the observation. Each student, however, must write his or her essay completely independently. Be sure to state your partner’s name at the beginning of your essay. Once again, pointless antics meant solely to bring attention to yourselves are not acceptable.
In your written paper on this project (typed; 2 full pages at a minimum), you should address these components. The paper must be an essay, not numbered or bulleted points:
1. Describe the norm you chose to break.
2. Describe the function of your norm in society, e.g. How does this norm keep human interaction
3. Discuss how you broke the norm.
4. Describe the different settings in which you broke norm.
5. Describe the reactions of other people as you broke the norm. Did someone speak to you;
communicate displeasure through body language or gestures; ignore you, etc.?
6. Describe your feelings before, during and after you broke the norm. e.g. How difficult was it to
complete this assignment?
7. Are there cultural factors involved in your norm breaking?
Your paper must make at least two direct ties to concepts in the textbook, and you must state where in the textbook these concepts are found and give a brief definition of that concept. It is not enough to simply say,
“The norm I broke violated the unwritten rules of CONFORMITY”, for example. Dig in a little deeper and explain what social behaviors people are usually expecting. Look around in your textbook at the sections on cognitive dissonance, stereotyping and prejudice, automatic thinking and heuristics. Also consider prosocial behavior.
Recall that there is a helpful glossary in the back of the textbook. You may also wish to cite concepts & terms in the slides. You must CAPITALIZE the term or concept when you use it in your paper. Provide an APA style citation in the body of your paper, and a Reference page.