Violating Social Norms

Violating Social Norms
AP Psychology
Name ____________________
Solomon Asch demonstrated that most people will yield to the majority opinion even when it conflicts with their own.
Most of us believe that we are different. When asked how we would respond in the Asch experimental situation, we
predict we would resist group pressure and stick to what we know is right. We underestimate the power of social forces.
We especially tend to overlook the power that social forces have over our behavior when it comes to social norms. This
is in part because they are so pervasive and often done with very little thought. Probably the most effective way to see
the power of social norms is by violating one of them.
Stanley Milgram (the social psychologist that conducted the famous shock obedience studies) once asked his own
students to violate a simple social norm – to get on a subway or city bus and ask another passenger for his or her seat.
The students reported back that they found it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to do. Skeptical, Milgram
decided to try it himself. After freezing and failing on multiple attempts, he finally managed to ask someone for his seat.
Much to his surprise, the man immediately got up and gave Milgram his seat. However, the experience wasn’t over for
Milgram, as he reported, “I was overwhelmed by the need to behave in a way that would justify my request. My head
sank between my knees… I actually felt as if I were going to perish.” Milgram concluded two major things from this
experience. First, enormous inhibitory anxiety ordinarily prevents us from breaking social norms. Second, we have a
powerful need to justify our actions after violating a norm. Third, the power of immediate circumstances on our feelings
and behaviors is immense.
Your assignment: to violate a social norm… (see back for details)
Choose a social norm to violate and carry out your plan of action – be sure to take note of your own feelings and the
reactions of others around you
1. For example –get on a bus and start singing out loud, get on an elevator with passengers on it and face the rear,
sit in an empty chair at an occupied table at a restaurant, wear your clothes backwards in public
2. Be creative, but…
3. Use good judgment in deciding upon the norm you are going to violate – don’t do anything illegal, dangerous,
something that will cause emotional or physical harm to yourself or others, or that will get you in trouble… if in
doubt, check with me first
Once you have carried this out, go to the wiki site and click on the link for the social psychology unit page. From this unit
page (not the main wiki page) click on the discussion tab and create a post with your name in the title (i.e. “Joe Smith’s
norm violation experiment”). In the post, respond in about a paragraph or more to each of the following items:
1. Describe the norm that you violated. What specifically did you do? When? Where? Why did you choose this
2. How did the people around you seem to react to what you were doing? Describe any specific behaviors and/or
how you perceived their reaction to you.
3. How did you feel in doing this? Why do you think you felt this way?
4. What did you learn from this?
 Next, read at least two classmates’ posts and comment upon them. (A quality post should be thoughtful and probably
at least a paragraph in length. Do not just post “Cool idea. Good job.”)
 Be sure to look back at how people responded to your post, and feel free to carry the discussion further
if you are interested, but it is not required.
*****Your initial post is due by 11:59 pm on: _______________________
*****Your reaction to at least two classmates’ posts are due by 11:59 pm on: _______________________
*****Your replies to those responses are due by 11:59pm on: ___________________________