Project Psychology 312

Project Psychology 312
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.
Violating Norms
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
Acting otherwise completely normally, hold hands with a same-sex friend (who is "in" on
the project) while you walk across campus
Surprise 3 of your same-sex friends with a kiss on the cheek.
Applaud at the end of a class after the prof is done lecturing
Before one of your classes begins (NOT social 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
Philosophy class; your hooded sweatshirt on backwards)
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.
Reading Research
Now that you have conducted your own research on norm violations, you can better relate to other
researchers who have studied this topic. For this part of the assignment, read the Milgram et al. (1986)
article Do not worry about understanding every word or concept -- the goal is to have you become familiar
with reading a scholarly research article and to understand how psychological research is conducted. Note
that your own paper will not be structured like an APA-style research report.
Writing Your Paper
In about 3-4 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 (e.g., you
picked on a freshman instead of a senior)
Describe your own and others' reactions before, during, and after each violation. Describe how
the fundamental attribution error played a role in your situations.
Compare and contrast the methods and results of your own norm violation study with that of
Milgram et al.'s. Even though you may not have studied their particular norm violation, you can
still relate to the norm violations aspect of what they did.
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 50 points). The best papers
will include vivid descriptions of the situations and reactions, thorough comparisons of one's own with
Milgram et al.'s research, and rich insights into the implications of this experience.
Format requirements are met (paper is typed, double-spaced, few mechanical or grammatical
Violation requirements are met (2 norms are violated)
All questions / content requirements are addressed in a thoughtful and insightful way