Breaking Social Norms Assignment
Social norms are what groups use for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. They are often transmitted by non-verbal behavior (getting a dirty look when you act outside the norm, for example).
For this assignment, you must break a norm–i.e., not conform to some social expectation. It is up to you what norm you break. You can do a behavior that is non-normative across our culture, e.g., facing the back rather than front of an elevator when riding it, or something that is non-normative among some smaller group of which you are a member.
Examples of social norms in the US:
Leaving at least 15% tip for a waiter/waitress
Not burping in public
Say “please” and “thank you”
Washing your hands after using the restroom
Waiting your turn in line
Brushing your teeth every day
Don’t pick your nose
Leaving personal space
You must break this norm in the presence of others and it should be something that you don’t normally do. Rules for norm violating:
Be safe. This rule trumps all other rules. ****
The behavior you choose may be non-normative across our culture or a small group (like your family)
You many not harm anyone, including yourself. This includes getting yourself in trouble. It also includes intentionally humiliating someone else. ****
You may NOT intentionally disrupt your classes. ****
You may NOT break any laws. ****
Only break one norm at a time. While violating the norm, act totally normally in every other way. Violating many norms at once simply makes you look like a crazy teenager, thus you aren’t really breaking a norm (people expect teens to act crazy sometimes).
Do something you wouldn’t normally do.
**** Violation of these rules will result in a failing grade (and possible disciplinary consequences)
You must break 5 social norms and write about your experience. Try to be clever in your observations by looking for the non-obvious. Depending on the norm you choose to break, you may want to break the norm several times or consistently for a time period so that you can get a variety of reactions to report. Examples include:
Break rules of social distance: sit down with a stranger at a restaurant even if other tables are clearly available, speak to an acquaintance at an unusually small distance, stand right next to another person in an elevator when only two of you are there, hold hands with a friend of the same sex, surprise a same-sex friend with a kiss on the cheek, stand too close to someone in line in front of you, ask someone to help you with something you can do for yourself. Go to a movie alone, and sit right next to a stranger (even better, engage the person in conversation).
Be unusually helpful: offer to help people at Best Buy, buy a small present and give it to a barely known acquaintance, pass out nickels to strangers on the street.
Break rules for eye contact: Make too much eye contact (stare) or too little, talk to others while looking at their forehead or ear, stare at strangers walking past on the sidewalk, blink excessively.
Dress inappropriately: dress for a different season, dress too fancy or too casual
Break norms of social etiquette: cut into the middle of a line, ask someone you don’t know for his/her seat in a public place, randomly greet people as they walk into school with a handshake and a “good morning” Go to a restaurant, order and eat food in the wrong order: desert first, then dinner, finally an appetizer
Follow the norms of another culture: try bargaining for the price of something, bow to people or kiss them on the cheek to greet them, hand people things with two hands, look at the floor when shaking hands with someone.
Pretend to have gas in public.
Skip everywhere you go, instead of walking.