Breaching Social Norms Experiment Essay
The proponent of this study attempted to violate a social norm. The social norm that was violated can be described as “invading personal space.” In the Western world and other societies all over the world, there is a concept called “personal space.” In this cultural framework, strangers and to some extent, friends and relatives must learn to respect an imaginary line that must separate two people.Breaching Social Norms Experiment Essay
The best example of respecting personal space can be seen in public areas. For example, it is not acceptable to sit so close to a stranger because this is considered invading the person’s personal space. In this particular social experiment, the proponent of the study sat next to a stranger in public places like malls and parks.
It was a major challenge to violate a particular social norm. The one who attempts to violate a social norm feels uncomfortable. Part of the reason why this negative feeling comes up is due to many preconceived ideas. For example, members of society frown upon violation of social norms.Breaching Social Norms Experiment Essay
These are not legal rules. However, the social backlash is still the same. In other words, there are strong feelings involved when it comes to violating social norms. It will require a great sense of purpose to deliberately violate a social norm. It will require courage because of the anticipation of the negative feedback from strangers.
In this particular social experiment, a significant reaction is expected based on the proximity of two individuals sitting on one bench or sofa. A wooden or metallic bench is commonly found in public areas, such as shopping malls and parks. It is interesting to point out that in a typical bench there are only two people that can occupy it if they do not know each other.
In order to elicit a strong response from the person sitting on a bench or sofa, it is important to occupy the space that is intended for the one who is supposed to sit in the middle of the bench. Thus, if there is already a person occupying the bench, the one that came after him must sit on the farthest side of the bench.
Thus, if the social norm violator decides to sit in the middle area, the one occupying the extreme side will make a glance to make sure that the other side was not yet occupied. If the other extreme side is empty the stranger begins to feel uncomfortable. In most cases, they leave.
The struggle to violate a social norm and the sharp reaction to it is due to the culture that exists in that particular setting. The proponent of this experiment and the uninformed participants lived in a society where the shared culture enabled them to interpret beliefs, values, and norms (Lustig & Koester 28).Breaching Social Norms Experiment Essay
More importantly, this shared culture has affected the behavior not only of the participants but probably every person in the mall or park. Thus, any person who would have sat in the benches and sofas are expected to react the same way.
The hesitation to violate a social norm stems from a preconceived notion that it is wrong to “invade personal space.” It also comes from the unspoken agreement that social norms like this one enables people to know how to act. Therefore, social interactions are consistent, predictable, and learnable (Andersen & Taylor 62). It is through this unspoken agreement and the anticipation of a punishment for breaking the rules that make it difficult to sit close to strangers.
Social scientists pointed out the phenomenon called negative sanctions (Andersen & Taylor 62). There are different types of negative sanctions, ranging from “subtle mechanisms of control, such as ridicule to overt forms of punishment” (Andersen & Taylor 62).
In this particular social experiment, the negative sanctions came in the form of unfriendly behavior such as abruptly leaving the scene without saying a word. In other instances, the stranger will drop hints that there is enough space on the other side of the bench. These hints are meant to persuade the person invading his or her personal space to respect the imaginary boundary lines that no one should cross.Breaching Social Norms Experiment Essay
The desire for personal space is probably the result of the need to relax. It is comparable to a soldier that needed a place where he can remove his armor or lay down his weapon. In other words, people can only feel relaxed if they can let their guard down. However, having a stranger so close means that there is an element of danger that is present.
The element of danger comes from the fear that no one knows what the stranger is thinking or what the stranger will do next. Thus, it is normal to keep the guar up, and when this happens the person cannot relax. The consequence of this negative reaction means that the person cannot enjoy reading a book or sipping a cup of coffee. It is therefore important to respect people’s personal space.Breaching Social Norms Experiment Essay