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***FIRST POSSIBILITY: EXAMINATION OF A SOCIAL NORM****This writing assignment asks you to identify some kind of social norm and then examine that norm based on the criteria we talked about during lecture. Here are those criteria:1. To what extent is the norm known and recognized?2. What is the mode of transmission? How do we learn about the norm?3. How much and how often do we conform to the norm?4. Does the norm apply equally to all groups?5. Is the norm severely or lightly enforced?6. What is the mode and consistency of enforcement?Please be clear about what specific norm you have identified and then examine that norm along each of those criteria. Your write up should be between 700-900 words. ****SECOND POSSIBILITY: BREACHING EXPERIMENT****This writing assignment requires you to conduct a breaching experiment and write up your findings.The written document you submit must have two parts:For the first part, I want you to describe your breach in as much hard-boiled detail as you can. This is the “who, what, where, when” part of your assignment. Who did what? What happened? Where did it happen? When did it happen? How did it happen? In other words, how did you create some trouble in a familiar scene of life? That’s what you should describe for Part I.For the second part, I want you to discuss how other people responded to your breach of the norm. How did others sanction you — or not? What kinds of tactics did others use to let you know your behavior was “out of line” and/or not customary for what is expected in that social environment? Why do you think they used those tactics and not others?The first and second parts of this assignment must each be between 350-450 words. That means the total length of this assignment = 700-900 words. Here is a link to an article that provides a tidy summary about the methods and goals of breaching experiments: http://wiredcosmos.com/2012/06/07/sociology-in-action-the-breaching-experiment (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.For the breaching experiment, you can work with a partner. One of you can be the person who conducts the breach, and the other person can record people’s reactions to the breach. If you are working with a partner who is also enrolled in this class, make sure you indicate that fact in your written response. You can work with only one other partner, and both of you must individually submit the essay. **Remember, if you decide to conduct a breaching experiment, do not do anything illegal. That is critically important, because a good breach does not hurt anybody or do damage to property, etc, etc. Breaches are done in the spirit of “serious play.”**
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Social norms are the informal rules or understandings that govern behavior in social
groups and some can differ depending on the social group. Social norms are the stable features
that exist in society as a societal expectation. A societal expectation is a principle or rule of
social life that people are expected to observe. Those principles and rules include prescriptions
on what one “ought to” think and feel in a given situation, and how members of a group “ought
to” behave. With social norms being adopted into society t hey all have origins stemming from
behavior that people disliked, deemed wrong, or unacceptable to society’s thoughts and actions.
Forces that hold society are often invisible to the human eye and unless there things are
broken we can’t see them. This is very true when applied to the common social norm that is
when someone is to sneeze it is considered normal to cover their mouth. Covering the mouth as
someone is sneezing can be done with an elbow, by cupping your hands, a handkerchief, or a
tshirt.
This norm is established all over the globe as a social standard. Covering someone’s mouth
when they sneeze is common decency or etiquette and it is also an aspect of maintaining a
healthy environment. Sneezing is a common way that people share airborne germs or viruses that
cause others to get ill. So when not covering your mouth people may think it is gross or rude
because they can get sick from your sneeze and the germs that come out from your mouth when
you sneeze.
Most people at a young age have older persons, either family members or teachers. that
teach them the importance of covering your mouth when sneezing. They explain that when you
don’t cover your mouth you can spread germs and get other people sick. After the norm is
learned as a person grows up they do not need to think about having to cover their mouth
because the action becomes innate. Some people do not practice this norm from a young age and
develop the action and if they do not cover their mouth when they sneeze their action can have
attention brought to it because it is not something they “ought to” do.
Internalizing this norm may be difficult for young children. It also may have difference in
applying this social norm between most social groups around the world. Men and women both
have adapted this social norm equally and it is viewed as polite to those around you if you cover
your mouth when sneezing. Some cultures want to hold their sneeze in because when sneezing it
is related to having religious values behind it that can be very negative. Children are often ones
to learn the norm in school with other people because teachers explain that it will protect others
from getting ill.
The social norm of covering your mouth when sneezing is a very commonly accepted
social norm for peoples’ everyday life. Higher pressures of this norm are applied in social setting
because there are other people around who could give you odd glances or say to cover your
mouth next time if you do not cover it. Sneezing etiquette can help people withhold their dignity
because it can stop snot blowing out peoples noses or the looks of other people when someone
doesn’t cover their nose.
Covering your mouth when you sneeze is a pretty enforced social norm because people
will look at you differently with sometimes looks of disgust or people will tell you to cover your
mouth. It is an enforced norm because there are health risks that are related to the action of it
which makes it important for those to withhold this standard. There are no severe penalties but
that person may feel slight embarrassment if they become sanctioned. Sanctions are known
commonly for keeping people in line and they are to preserve social order and just similarly to
breaking laws there are panelists there are some for breaking social norm. Sanctions matter
because they reconstitute social order when there has been a breech of normal expectation in a
person’s actions. Enforcement 3 of this norm can be done by having signs around buildings like
schools, office buildings, and hospitals that remind people to cover their mouth if it is not an
innate action for some people.
Sneezing is not a graceful action and there can either be negative or positive reactions to
the way someone goes about their sneeze. Sanctioning is a response to a break in the social norm
developed for an action and in this case it was covering a sneeze. Social norms are learned
through the process of life and they can be learned early or or later into adulthood. These norms
determine and constitute the social structure and are an invisible set of guidelines. Social norms
are perceived as important for societal maintenance or just keep it organized. Norms are knowing
to provide structure within society and they can have negative or positive feedback from persons
around them that depend on the action of the person. Around the globe there are different
cultures with contrasting perceptions of the world that develop into altering social norms but
most social norms, like covering a sneeze can be viewed as a global social norm.
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My breaching experiment began when I headed towards the Courtyard Study Lounge in
between my classes during the afternoon on Tuesday. Since my gap is around 2 PM, I knew
there would be students entering and leaving the lounge in order to study or leave for class, but
I did not know if I could muster up the courage to actually go through with it. There were a
couple of times I missed my chance to breach the social norm, because I did not want to be
exiled by other students. Since I was fully aware of the social consequences that would meet
my resistance of society’s expectations, I knew I would be the center of attention, and the object
of hate. As someone who has grown up only in California, Western culture has trained me to
perform certain duties for others even if it might inconvenience me at times. The lesson was to
never be an annoyance or a bother to someone else, and I lived by that rule for twenty years, or
however many years it took me to understand conformity. So in order to convince myself to go
through with this experiment, I had to go by Professor Avery’s words, which said to question
what was obvious in order to see society through a sociological perspective.
To start off, I entered through the second floor doors that lead to the Courtyard Study
Lounge and made my down the stairs to the first floor. At the base of the stairs, there are a set of
doors, and I had to wait for someone to be a few steps behind me to pull this off. So, I began to
slow my pace, acting as if I was texting someone the whole time, totally engrossed in a virtual
conversation so I did not seem conspicuous. After I heard the door open behind me, I knew my
first victim walked into a trap. I was prepared to strike. I walked down the steps casually, and I
swung open the set of doors at the bottom, but I did something unexpected: I closed the door
right in their faces after I passed the threshold and looked at them to gauge their reactions.
Unsurprisingly, I was met with reactions of utter confusion and annoyance for simply not
opening the door for them. It was actually quite eye-opening to see how much our society has
stressed the idea of being courteous, and that anyone who does not adhere to those standards are
immediately regarded as rude or uncultured. The backlash I witnessed proved that.
My test subjects acted predictably. People expected me to hold open the door for them, as
if there was a silent agreement amongst us that one must hold open the door if a person behind
them is at a reasonable distance to reach the door in a few steps. To start off, my first victim had
her arm extended to grab the door handle as she made her way to the door, assuming I would
hold it open for her long enough to catch up. She was very surprised when I did not, and she
blinked in confusion and timidly reached for the door and opened it herself. Another person I did
it to did not even seem to notice since they were too busy looking down at their phones, but
when I attempted again with the second pair of doors further inside the building, the girl threw
her hand up in bewilderment, as if nonverbally shouting, What do you think you are doing? The
responses were mostly the same, and how they acted after they entered the threshold was
important too. After they opened the door, they steered clear of me as if I carried a contagious
disease. I occasionally felt eyes on me, and they surely were not from the eyes of a secret
admirer. The social isolation and judgment I felt once I strayed from society’s standard of good
behavior is one I have always been afraid to experience. The shackles of sanctions chained me
down, and collective expectations overwhelmed me and made me feel dumb for even trying. As
stated in “What Makes Sociology Different?” by Emile Durkheim, “If I don’t conform to
ordinary conventions […] the social distance at which I am kept, produce, although in a more
mitigate form, the same results as any penalty” (20). In other words, Durkheim felt the alienation
whenever he, too, performed actions that went against the grain of society. It is basically
inevitable to be outcasted, because sanctions are set into place to protect society from social
chaos.
To reiterate, we have built a social structure for centuries: a skeleton that guides our
behavior and becomes second nature. We do not even question why we do the things we do
within our cultures, because it has become a part of who we are as citizens of a society.
Typically, these societal forces are not even obvious, but now that I have done this project, I
have seen for myself how an overarching external force controls us all and makes us conform.
People just want to be accepted, and the only way to do that is to conform. Society might affect
us, but in the end, our need to belong shapes society.
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Works Cited
Durkheim, Emile. “What Makes Sociology Different?” The Rules of the Sociological
Method. The Free Press, 1982.
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