Task: Experience breaching a social norm and analyze its consequences from a sociological perspective.
Purpose: Analyze how the role of norms and sanctions affect deviant behavior.
There are unwritten rules (norms, folkways, mores) that govern our everyday behavior, and most of the time, we do not give them any thought. For example:
When you get in an elevator, what are the rules?
How close should you stand to those you just met?
What type of writing utensil should a college student use (probably not crayons)?
Is it normal to wear a wedding dress to class?
Do you pay for your groceries in pennies?
Personal Space: How Close is Too Close? (2:55 mins, Personal Space: How Close is Too Close Transcript)
For this “Hands-On” assignment, give norms some intentional thought. What happens when we deviate from the norm? Ethnomethodologists term the study of breaking norms “breaching experiments.”
Conducting the Experiment
Think of a norm or folkway you would like to break. It can be anything you want to do (there are numerous suggestions online) but please keep the following in mind.
You must do the breach. You are not observing someone else or calling on past experience.
This breach should be repeated at least three times.
Be sure that your behavior will not violate any laws or “damage” anyone.
Taking Notes about the Experience
Immediately after conducting the experiment, write some informal notes about what happened or did not happen.
These notes can be loosely structured (with sentence fragments or bullet points, if you wish).
They should be casual and written in the first person.
Discuss the experience and its meaning to you in as much detail as possible.
Include a description of other people’s reactions as well as your own thoughts and
feelings before, during, and after the experiment.
Describe your methodology, observations, and results on the attached Data Workshop: Norm Violation Worksheet.
These answers should be based on the main concepts and prompts from this hands-on activity and our text.
Submit your completed worksheet.
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