Norm-Breaking Experiment Essay

Introduction            My friend and I dressed and acted like tourists in a mall as we planned to take pictures with complete strangers. My friend is tasked to handle the camera and shoot the photographs while I pose with the strangers for a picture. One of the norms involved in the situation is the reluctance of others to have their pictures taken with or by people who they barely know. It can also be the other way around where we are hesitant to have our pictures taken with others who are total strangers. Another norm involved in the experiment is the impatience of strangers to wait for a picture to be taken with others.            The normal interactions in the situation presented would include strangers not agreeing to the request of another stranger to have a picture taken with them and strangers easily losing patience when asked by another stranger to wait for their picture to be taken. The specific characteristic which distinguishes the normal reactions is that strangers are not keen to engaging another stranger in any form of interaction.

Experimental manipulation            The experiment consisted of three subjects: the strangers, the person whose picture is to be taken with the stranger, and the photographer. The setting for the experiment is a mall on a weekday in an area where there are many people like the main lobby. The norms involved were broken by showing that there are strangers who are nonetheless willing to have their pictures taken with and by complete strangers and who are patient enough to wait for their pictures to be taken. These goals were done by randomly selecting the stranger in the mall and approaching the stranger without hesitation as if the stranger is no stranger at all.            My friend and I wore casual dresses that are quite typical among tourists: flat shoes, jeans, shades and a t-shirt with a printed design of the locality where we pretended to be a visitor of. The digital camera we used was a typical traveler’s camera with the basic functionalities such as simple zooming features. The mall was moderately crowded on the day of the experimentation and the people were generally walking across the lobby, pausing every now and then to look at the merchandises being offered in every stall.

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The mall was a bit noisy as the voices of people talking and the background music in the mall blended together.            We assumed that the crowd in the mall was composed of about a majority of local folk which we found out later on was partially untrue because there were many ‘fellow’ travelers in the mall. The crowd in the mall was mostly adults who appeared to be in their mid-thirties while a few others were teenagers and young adolescents in their mid-twenties. There were a few children running around every once in a while in the lobby of the mall.Responses of the subjects            My friend and I randomly approached three separate subjects (strangers) after an interval of 30 minutes. The first subject was a female who was about thirty years old and was a traveler who spoke simple English having been a tourist from Saudi Arabia.

We approached the first subject while the latter happened to stop by a stall approximately 5 meters away from us. We immediately asked her if I could have a picture with her taken by my friend. The subject did not hesitate nor showed any signs of hesitation at all. She immediately made a pose with me while flashing that big smile and embracing my right shoulder with her right hand as she stood beside me.

After a few seconds, my accomplice friend told the subject that the battery of the camera has run empty and that he needs to check for a spare battery in his backpack. My accomplice friend took about two minutes before he was able to change the batteries of the camera and took the picture.            Even after waiting for about two minutes, the subject stayed with us and waited before we were able to finally have a picture taken with her. After the photo was taken, the subject even smiled at us and greeted us a “pleasant day” before finally parting ways. The first subject walked away after the experiment.            After 30 minutes, my friend and I decided to look for our second subject.

We saw a white male about in his mid-twenties wearing geek glasses, shorts and a collared shirt who was walking past us. My friend and I immediately approached the subject and told him about our request for a photo to be taken with me by my friend. At first, the subject smiled at both of us and did not say a word.

After I repeated my request for a photo, the subject replied with a quick “no” while maintaining his cheerful countenance as if to show us that he meant us nothing harm after denying the request. I repeated my request for the third time and the subject said that he was in a hurry and was about to buy something important. He said he had no time to grant our request and that he could have accepted if only he had the time to spare us with.            The second subject of the experiment told us that he lived just a couple of blocks away from the mall and that he grew-up in the locality and has been living here ever since.            The second subject of our experiment thereafter walked away in a fast pace while waiving his hand in the air in a short and quick manner.            After another 30 minutes of waiting, my accomplice friend and I chose to randomly select the third and final subject for the experiment as we walked in a normal pace in the mall lobby while pretending to look like tourists who knew little about the place. After a short while, we saw a bald male in his late forties who was standing still while looking at a display window of a store just two meters in front of him. He was carrying with his left hand a small paper bag with a few items in it while his right hand was inside his right pocket.

He was wearing faded jeans, rubber shoes, white collared t-shirt and a golden necklace while his skin looked a bit reddish in color.            We approached the third subject and immediately told him about our request to have my picture taken with him by my friend. The subject looked surprised at first then immediately followed with a smile at us and told us that he will be more than pleased to allow us. I asked the subject if he lived in the locality and said that he was living here for almost ten years now after moving in during his thirties. He said he found a job here and decided to move in for good and have his own family. He also said he was a father of two young children, both of whom are boys who are in their preschool years.

            After posing, my friend told us that the camera’s batteries were empty and he had to look for the spare batteries in his backpack. The subject smiled and continued to narrate his life in the locality while my friend took about two minutes to look for the batteries and place them in the camera. After having the picture taken, the stranger immediately told us that he was on his way home and bid us farewell and thanks for the photo opportunity.Analysis and conclusion            Based on the reactions given by the three subjects, it is enough to say that norms were broken and that it not impossible to do so. It can be said that the second subject did not agree to have his picture taken with because of three possible things: one is that we were strangers to the second subject and vice versa; two is that he grew and lived in the locality for all his life and is wary enough of those he barely knew; and three is that the subject is busy and had no spare time to grant us our request.On the other hand, the first and third subjects in the experiment showed that the two norms stated can indeed be broken.

The reaction of the first subject can be attributed primarily to three things: one is that she was a traveler and lived in a place far from where we were, thus giving her the impression that she had to deal with people in a foreign territory like the mall in a friendly way; two is that, being a traveler, the subject had the spare time to allow us to have a picture taken with her; and three is that the subject was kind and trusting enough to allow us who were complete strangers to her.As for the third subject, it can be said that he reacted positively with our request for three main reasons: one is that the subject has enough time to spare us with; two is that the subject is friendly and trusting; and third is that the subject is not an original resident of the locality and is, thus, carefree enough to allow our request just like the first subject who was a traveler.The experiment showed that the norm of strangers naturally inclined to resist requests of having their photos taken by and with another complete stranger does not always hold true in all cases and, hence, can be broken. The experiment also showed that it is also likely possible for strangers to stay and wait for a few minutes before their pictures could finally be taken with another stranger. Nevertheless, it does definitely tell us we can formalize a generalization which says that for every three people two of them can break the norms while only one will not break the norms for some reasons.


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