Breaking Social Norms

1288 words 6 pages
Alex King

Breaking Social Norms
In our society we have a number of norms that we abide by. For example, there is an unwritten rule of how one should behave in an elevator. It is “proper” to face front, stand away from strangers, and not to look at others. When a social norm is broken people may respond with alarm, humour, fear, irritation, or an array of other emotions. When you think of a norm, you are probably thinking about simply being normal. But in psychology terms, norm means a standard or representative value for a group. A social norm is some sort of an expectation that our society has that is deemed normal by that society; they tell us which behaviors, thoughts, or feelings are appropriate within a given
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At one point during the experiment, a few very young boys came into the elevator and saw me standing with my face to the wall. One of them suggested to the others that it would be funny if they joined me, seeing as it was only me and my “coworker in disguise” in the elevator at the time. All but one agreed, and the one that didn't really want to do it, ended up doing it with them anyways.
After the experiment was over, I happened to run into the group of boys once more while walking through the mall, so I decided to ask them politely if I could ask them a few questions about what they saw and why they did what they did. When I explained that I was doing it as a project for school, they agreed to sit down with me for a minute. I asked the boy that suggested that they join me WHY he suggested it, and he told me that they had heard small talk around the mall of “some weird guy in an elevator,” so they wanted to check it out for themselves and wanted to join in just to be funny. I then asked the one reluctant boy why he didn't want to join with his friends, and why he eventually did. He replied with, “You're a stranger. My parents always told me never to mess with or talk to strangers, so I didn't really want to be near you, or even in a closed off space with you. I even feel a little odd talking to you right now, but we're in a public place with a bunch of people watching, so I guess it's OK.” He


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