Subject: Sociology
Language: English (U.S.)
Pages: 3
Exercise on Violating Social Norms You will complete this assignment in place of coming to class this Wednesday, October 28"". Assignment Due: Monday, November 2", at the beginning of class. Your assignment must be typed and printed. Although everyday norms underlie all we do, they remain largely unnoticed and unquestioned. The best proof of the existence of these norms lies in our reactions when they are violated. The following suggestions for proving the existence of norms are based on an exercise used by sociologist Jodi O'Brien at Seattle University. You must select one of the following norm violations: *Make a purchase in a department store, and offer to pay more than the listed price. Try to convince the clerk that you think the merchandise is worth the price you are offering. *Talk to yourself in a public place. (You will probably want to plan ahead a little in terms of what you will be talking about so that you don't run out of things to say to yourself.) *Stand or sit close to a stranger during the course of an ordinary conversation (such as engaging in conversation while waiting in line to pay for something, while sitting in a commons area on campus). *Select an occasion - going to class, going on a date, going to the library—and dress differently from the expected “uniform.” Treat your attire as absolutely appropriate to the circumstances. (Remember, your clothing has to be noticeably violating the normative dress code.) *In a restaurant offer to pay for your meal before you order it and then order everything in reverse: order dessert first, then the main course, then appetizers, then drinks. It is particularly important that this behavior be neither flagrantly bizarre—such as going to class dressed as a chicken-- nor a violation of the law. Such acts do not address the power of the subtle, unspoken norms that, symbolic interactionism argues, make social life orderly. Also, do not do anything that might seriously inconvenience or humiliate someone else or put you in danger. Finally, make sure the norm has something to do with keeping order in face-to-face interactions. For instance, coming to class 10 minutes late violates a social norm, but it does not disrupt interactional order. Above all, remember to treat your violation as perfectly normal. You must give the impression that what you are doing is perfectly acceptable and ordinary. As you conduct your exercises, record your own feelings and reactions as well as those of the people around you. -A) What were people's initial reactions? -B) What did they do to try to “normalize” your behavior? -C) How did you feel breaching this norm? -D) Was it uncomfortable? If so, why? E) If possible, try also to debrief your subjects afterward: Tell them what you were really doing, and then interview them regarding their interpretations of the experience. You are likely to collect additional information on how people attempt to "explain away” unusual and strange circumstances and how they attempt to restore order to the situation. F) What are the implications of these sorts of “experiments” for understanding human behavior and the nature of social order in this society? What you will turn in to me (must be typed): 1) the norm violation - details of how you carried out the violation 2) time, date, and place the violation occurred 3) answers to Questions A-D above 4) address any/all responses of subjects who were debriefed (Question E above) 5) answer Question F above

Violating Social Norms

The norm violation I chose for this assignment was talking to myself in public. Everyone believes that talking to oneself especially in public is a sign of a mental disorder or insanity. To everyone else, it seems that the person talking to himself is actually conversing with the voices in his head. Society views people who talk to themselves as schizophrenic, or people with multiple personalities’ disorder.

I chose a local restaurant in the town that is always full of people streaming in and out during the evening. I chose to carry out the experiment on Saturday 31 October 2015 because it was the last Saturday of the month and there would be many families and couples in the restaurant enjoying a nice meal out. To make the experiment even more effective, I insisted that I should sit on the table that is in the middle of the room. Here, everyone from all around the restaurant could clearly see me violating the social norm. Once sitted, I began having a chat with myself while I waited to be served.

It seemed like I was basically conversing with another person. I asked myself how my day was and I aptly answered giving details on my lectures, the things I had learned that day as well as the disturbing stain on my sneaker that could not get off. I explained to myself how the stain was really affecting my self-esteem because I thought now everybody was staring at my dirty sneaker.

Before long, I realized that people were shooting glances at me from every direction. Some people were even sneering as they walked past me to their tables. The waiter came to my table, quicker than usual, and asked for my order. I asked for a plate of pasta but after consulting with myself audibly, I changed my order to a plate of fries and a milkshake. I quickly commented to the imaginary person I was talking to that that was an unhealthy choice but we would consume it for the sake of time. One look at the waiter and I could tell that he was completely shocked and frazzled by my actions.

He instructed me to go to another table near the window, far from the full glare of the rest of the diners in the restaurant. I cordially refused citing that my ‘friend’ and I were perfectly comfortable with our current sitting arrangement. I went on to tell him that my ‘friend’ really loved the ambience at the center of the room. He then tried to convince me that I should take the meal home instead of eating at the restaurant because the restaurant was about to close. I quickly refused this recommendation citing that official restaurant closing hours were more than two hours away. Besides, my ‘friend’ and I were fast eaters and would be out of his hair in no time.

All throughout the meal, I spoke to my imaginary friend, even offering him a chip or two to which he politely declined. Breaching the norm was kind of uncomfortable and exhilarating at the same time. I felt very uncomfortable carrying out the experiment because I am not used to the kind of attention I was receiving from the management of the restaurant as well as the other diners. The restaurant was packed with people of all ages and they all could not stop staring at me in between bites of their supper. A small girl even came up to my table and asked if I was mad because that is what her father had called me when I first sat down and began talking to myself. A teenage couple took out a smartphone and began to video record me as I was eating and talking to my ‘friend’. I am sure that video is on You-Tube somewhere by now.

After my meal, I motioned for the waiter to come and receive the payment for the meal. He was a bit apprehensive as he approached my table. I had noticed him gossiping to his workmates earlier about me and constantly pointing to my direction. As I gave him the money, I asked if he  thought I was crazy. He only responded with a grunt. I went on to debrief him about my social experiment to which he breathed a sigh of relief. “So you are not a crazy hobo?” he asked to which I aptly shook my head. I asked him how he felt about having to serve a person who was talking to himself. He explained that he was ‘freaked out’ by the whole experience. He had tried to explain the situation by telling his boss that maybe I was just having a hard day or I was going through some emotional trauma. He also suggested to his workmates that maybe I had missed my dose for the day and that was why I was acting so weird.

One major implication of carrying out this social experiment is that it allows one to see how the society values its norms even when these so-called norms are irrational. It is a scientific fact that talking to oneself is completely healthy and beneficial to one’s brain development. Children talk to themselves all the time and this is how they learn to solve the problems they encounter while in school or when playing. For instance, it is common for a child to repeat constantly to himself audibly how to tie a shoelace or a tie and this is how he finally masters the art.