VIOLATING Social Norms Project

Violating Social Norms Project
When we violate the unwritten rules for appropriate social behavior, we quickly learn the
surprising power of even relatively minor and usually invisible social norms. The
purpose of this assignment is to make you conscious of how these subtle norms shape
our everyday behavior and the consequences of violating norms, and to give you an idea
of how psychological research on norm violations is conducted.
Instructions: Choose any 2 of the following behaviors:
Cut into the middle of a line by yourself; stay in line for at least 2 minutes
Ask someone you don't know for his/her seat in a public place (e.g., at the commons or in
the library); stay in the seat for at least 2 minutes
Stand in the middle of class (pick a good time!)
Greet a teacher by his/her first name
Go to a movie alone, and sit right next to a stranger; stay there for at least 2 minutes
Applaud at the end of a class after the teacher is done lecturing
Before one of your classes begins (NOT AP Psych!), go around the classroom and shake
hands with at least 8 people; say "good morning (afternoon)" to them or use other words
to welcome them to class today.
Wear unusual clothing to class or another public place (e.g., your bunny slippers to AP
English class; your hooded sweatshirt on backwards; wear shorts to church; at home,
come down to breakfast with your underwear on the outside of your clothes)
Go to a public place and begin talking to yourself
Before, during, and after your 2 different norm violations, mentally observe:
your own reactions (thoughts, feelings, physical responses, behavior)
the reactions of the people around you (your friends may help you observe others'
reactions -- and your friends might have reactions of their own that are interesting!)
After violating the social norms, you may tell the people around you WHY you were acting this way.
Maybe apologize?
Writing Your Paper
Complete a 2-3 double-spaced typed pages, do each of the following:
Describe what 2 social norms you violated and how you went about doing so; clearly identify what
channel factors made it particularly easy or difficult for you to violate the norms.
Describe your own and others' reactions before, during, and after each violation. Describe how the
fundamental attribution error played a role in your situations.
What did the experience of violating norms teach you about the power of the situation? What did it
teach you about the experiences of people who don't "fit in" because they are new to our culture or are
handicapped in some way?
If you were required to violate social norms on a daily basis, how do you think that would change your
reactions to violations as a violator or as an observer or violations?
Evaluation Criteria
Your paper will be evaluated on the following criteria (the paper is worth 45 points). The best papers will
include vivid descriptions of the situations and reactions, and rich insights into the implications of this
Format requirements are met (paper is typed, double-spaced, few mechanical or grammatical errors)
15 points
Violation requirements are met (2 norms are violated)
15 points
All questions / content requirements are addressed in a thoughtful and insightful way
15 points
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