The Social Norm Experiment Essay
The Social Norm ExperimentThe experiment of breaking a social norm discussed in this essay was conducted and influenced by cultural values, roles and norms of society. The experiment was applied to different concepts throughout this essay. The results demonstrate how, in the given situation, one maintained a standard behavior based on apparent values and norms. In a randomly chosen office building, as people were getting off work, I intentionally stood in the lobby waiting for a male to head towards the exit door. Each time, I walked ahead of a man to hold the door open for him to leave.
Each time I opened the door most males quickly managed to reach and hold it open, signaling for me to exit first. Most times, I did not exit, and stood in place holding the door open for him. The reactions from some males were to make eye contact, smile or thank me for holding the door for them, and quickly moving through the doorway. More than half of them insisted, at least a couple of times, that I would exit first, by making comments such as, “ladies should go first” to “please, let me hold that for you” which I actually ended up conforming to the situation. Very few, did not say anything, did not make eye contact and exited the building without hesitance.
Even though my actions were deliberate, I observed feeling uncomfortable holding the door open for a male, perhaps because of my personal expectations of a woman’s role in society, past experiences, and for considering the act of a man opening the door for a woman to be a polite gesture. I also attributed rudeness to the men who did not acknowledge my action or my presence, and simply exited the door. In the experiment, a norm of gender-role was violated by a female holding a door open for a male to exit. Norms are specific forms of behavior that are maintained and accepted by society (Shaefer 2011 p.
75). Pertaining to the experiment, the norm of gender-role in American society was that men typically hold the door open for women to exit. In sociology, gender roles are defined as expectations concerning appropriate behavior, stance, and actions of males and females (Shaefer 2011 p. 307). By conforming to the men who insisted in holding the door open for me, it describes gender socialization: “the aspect of socialization that contains specific messages and practices concerning the nature of being female or male in a specific group or society” (Kendall 2007 p. 681). Breaking a social norm is a violation of society’s adopted social rule.
Norms are part of all levels of society, but not all norms are of equal importance. Formal norms are normally presented in writing, such as government laws, and specific types of punishment are given to violators.Laws are commonly enforced by sanctions which are penalties or rewards for inappropriate or appropriate behavior respectively. Enforced by police officers and judges, the consequences for breaking formal norms could result from spending a night in jail, to the death sentence (Shaefer 2011 p.
76). The experiment was conducted through informal norms, which are defined as unwritten expectations of behavior, generally understood by a group of people who share common standards. Informal sanctions may apply to people who violate informal norms; however, the punishment is not clearly defined, and can be given by anyone in the group, such as a negative comment, gesture or facial expression (Shaefer 2011 p. 76). The responses or lack thereof, that I considered negative in the experiment, were relatively mild, such as the men who did not make any comments, gestures or facial contact, resulting in me feeling annoyed. In the experiment most man used a positive gesture, by reaching for the door, right as I opened it.
Others used positive facial expressions by making eye contact, smiling or thank me for holding the door opened for them. The experiment was subjected to a relative importance where informal norms can be considerate as folkways. The norm was broken, by the act of a woman opening the door for a man, instead of a man opening the door for a woman. Culturally, folkways represent a pattern of learned behavior that can change from one generation to the other. In past generations, it has been the norm, a folkway, for a man to open the door for a woman as a respectful, polite, and even romantic gesture. Folkways are part of everyday life and customs, based on a common belief, and may become violated without serious consequences (Shaefer 2011 p. 77). I did not experience any type of serious consequences during or after the experiment.
The set of values of contemporary generation may have changed, but most stay rather constant for the duration of an individual’s lifetime, where is demonstrated in the experiment by the man who insisted in opening the door for a woman.Cultural values determine what society considers being morally right or wrong, they are considered to be good, proper and desirable, or it can be the opposite by being bad, improper and undesirable (Schafer, 2011 p. 78). Essentially, values are directly related to norms and sanctions, especially in the process of evaluating people’s actions. As an example, in the United States, the sanction of marriage has a set of values, norms and strict sanctions for one who commits adultery or makes the divorce process difficult. In conclusion, contrary to the experiment conducted, I tend to have a conservative point of view when it comes to change, especially if the change involves values and morals in society.
The structural- functionalist perspective, focus on structures and functions of society, and it tends to reinforce the norms and standards of society (Kendall 2007 p. 86). Therefore, if certain parts of the function and structure work, I see no harm in cultivating it. In my perspective, society does not place the value of being human being as a priority; technology has become human race’s priority. The experiment of breaking a social norm discussed in this essay was conducted and influenced by cultural values, roles and norms of society. The experiment was applied to different concepts throughout this essay. The results demonstrate how, in the given situation, one maintained a standard behavior based on apparent values and norms.ReferencesKendall, D.
E. (2007). Sociology in our times (6th ed.
). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.Shaefer, R. T. (2011). SOCI 1301 Tarrant county college southeast sociology in modules.
New York, NY: McGraw Hill.