Society has its way of functioning; it has a set of rules it follows to continue into the future. Social norms are group-held beliefs about how members should behave in a given context. For individuals to successfully be normal in a society, they must follow certain procedures, rules, and actions. These conditions are called societal norms; essentially a normal action that does not make an individual think twice about it.
However, what really makes an action normal? Is it waving hello to someone when greeting them? Is it wearing your right shoe on your right foot, and the left shoe on the left foot? Nonetheless, I wanted to test my hypothesis of breaking a societal norm. If I acted in a strange and abnormal way, then people would act confused and possibly frustrated with me. I wanted to observe the reactions of individuals when society does not act in a normal manner. Imagine, like any other day, you decide to go shopping. Out of nowhere someone enters the store wearing nothing but underwear, a tank top, and one sock. The person enters the store confused and asks, “What year is it”? After telling them the year, they respond by saying “Oh my God, it worked” and runs out of the store. Would this leave you thinking, or would a situation like this be normal to you? Would you just continue on like nothing happened, or would you continue to ponder over what the person did? What if I told you, that the person dressed in underwear and a tank top, was me? One afternoon I decided to test the reactions of people by breaking a societal norm.
On a Friday afternoon, I went from store to store frantically asking the year dressed in a tank top, underwear, and just one sock. Prior to doing the experiment, I expected bewildered faces, hesitant answers, and surprising reactions. I did however get the results I was expecting. Upon completing this absurd action, the expressions the people conveyed were inevitable. One can infer based on the reactions that I did act in an abnormal way that no one would have expected. One man looked at me confused and shocked when I asked him what the year was; a woman asked if I was ok and needed help; another woman conjectured that I had built a time machine. In a sense, I did break a norm. I did not act in a normal fashion while going to a grocery store, or store in general. Usually people go to stores to buy things. Most importantly, people are dressed in pants and shoes.
Although some can argue that a lack of clothing is not really breaking any social norm because there are some stores that post signs saying that a person must have shoes on, or clothes. However, coming to a store and frantically asking the year and not wearing much clothing is not normal. This action can be categorized as awkward, for both myself and the individuals I had asked. This was awkward for myself and a bit strange because I was going out of my normal element. I never go out of my home in my underwear, let alone my room. Also, it must have been awkward for the men and women I had spoken with. They had probably never seen a man in his underwear in a store.
Furthermore, it seems that abnormal actions that a society is not used to, are conveyed through movies, which then give people the idea that things do not always happen in reality. If it were not for movies, the woman would not have asked me if I had built a time machine. How is it completely possible to relate a man asking the year and dressed abnormally, to a time machine? Even though this was my intention for performing this action—to see if people would react the way this woman did. Television does influence the way a society views things and actions as normal and abnormal.
Although the people did act the way I had intended them to act, in another society or possibly in a different country, this attire might have been a common factor. Social norms seem strictly isolated for a specific community or population. Ergo, any behavior that is not seen or acted upon on a daily basis by most individuals seems odd and out of the ordinary; thus allowing people to react in an appalled manner. Social Norms are beliefs about what is acceptable in a social context. Social norms are rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit. People often associate the most memorable behavior with the majority behavior and hence the rules about that is normative in that social context. This assignment relating to societal norms shows us that anytime someone or something happens out of the ordinary, people will react. Whether they will react nicely, angrily, or shocked depends on the societal norm that is being broken.
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