Violate A Social Norm Assignment

Identify a common social norm and then construct an experiment in which you violate this norm. You should observe how others react to you and also how it makes you feel.  You may want to have some helpers who can help observe others’ response, but the experiment should ultimately be your own.

  1. Before you begin the assignment, pay attention to the people around you or in the situation where you plan to violate a social norm. How are they acting? Observe how this changes when you break the norm. 
  2. Connect your observations and findings to course concepts.  This is worth 20 points of your grade.
  3. Use correct grammar and spelling.  This is worth 15 points of your grade.
  4. Answer three questions from the list below; each answer is worth 10 points
  5. If you fail to conform to assignment limitations, you will receive a 0 for this paper.
  6. Submit your paper to Smartthinking or to a fellow student for comments; this is worth 10 points of your grade.
  7. Turn in five pages and an additional cover page
  8. Remember include a title page and page numbers.  This is worth 8 points of your grade.

To get you started, here are some norms you might violate:

  1. Social Distance Norms
  2. Conversational Norms
  3. Gender Norms
  4. Volume Norms

PLEASE NOTE: A man who decides to grow a beard has not violated a norm, even if he has never worn a beard before.  A man who decides to grow a beard and dye it pink has violated a norm, because it is normative for the males of this era to avoid dying their beards.



After doing your experiment, answer at least three of the following questions.


    1. What social sanctions resulted from your norm violation? Who created and/or enforced them? How?
    2. How do race, class, and/or gender affect your deviance (others perception of it, your ability to do it, different sanctions that might be brought against different groups or person engaging in the same act)?
    3. What theories best explain the deviance that you have engaged in?
    4. What if you could not change your norm violation? How would others see you? How would you cope? How would it affect your life and those around you?
    5. During your time as a “deviant,” how uncomfortable were you? What normally keeps you in line? How hard is it to break an unspoken rule? How are the unspoken rules enforced?


        - Don’t do anything that is likely to elicit aggressive responses from others.

  1. Don’t crowd people using a bank machine or credit card.
  2. Don’t follow anyone home 
  3. Don’t yell fire in a crowed room
  4. Don’t scream racial/prejudice slurs
  5. Don’t threaten or menace other people

- If people become visibly upset, back off. Apologize. Explain your behavior.  Have the assignment handy. 

-This is not a free pass to be a menace or make people cry.

- Avoid being overtly rude to people, there are many norms to violate and I will be happy to suggest something for you to do.

-Be creative and humorous.  This is meant to be fun!  If you want to be the punch line of a joke, that's okay!  If you don't want to do something overt, that's okay!  If you have a great norm violation and you want to involve your friends in trying it out, that's okay!

One of the interesting norms of our society is how people should dress in given situations. Factors such as modesty, weather, flamboyancy, gender, and many others, all contribute towards what is ‘appropriate’ attire. So, for my social norm violation, I decided to disobey the rules of dress.

When me and my friends went out for dinner, I donned a Greek toga instead of ‘normal clothes’. I wore an over the shoulder greek toga with gladiator sandals. I also had a leaf crown, though I did not wear it the entire time (it was uncomfortable). This outfit was slightly immodest, too breezy for how cold it was, and incredibly flamboyant/out of place in the restaurant. In other words, it was a clear violation of the norms of dress.

A lot of people stared. Okay, everyone stared. Everyone who saw me shot me a questioning glance. This sometimes was followed by a chuckle, sometimes a high-five or congratulations on my clothing, or a look of disgust. Some people seemed so perplexed that they just couldn’t stop staring, with no visible reaction at all. Most of all, I was surprised by the amount of complements I got. Many people said they liked my outfit. It was not exactly the ‘violation’ I expected–I expected it to be a little more controversial.

Despite the majority of positive feedback I received, I still felt a bit uncomfortable. I have never been a big fan of many eyes on me at once. So I felt a bit hot and out of sorts throughout the evening. Every so often I would let out a nervous laugh when given a compliment. However, I eventually enjoyed it. I may not be an attention seeker, but I definitely enjoy going against the norm. It was hard to think up what to do for this project because I so often go out of my way to be ‘different’ (in a good way, I hope). I am a low social monitor, so I probably violate norms quite often. But this was such a big, intentional, and odd display, that it helped me feel that discomfort I used to feel when I was younger. When violating norms meant more to me. It got me thinking that we all have our comfort zones, and unless we push past them, violating a norm won’t bother you much. But this did push past my comfort zone, and I could not help but feel a little embarrassed.



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