sociology: Paper


Breaking The Norm!
Your first paper assignment requires you to break a social norm! Norms are simply the expected rules
of behavior in society. Hopefully we all have an understanding of what norms are at this point. If you
have any questions, please be sure to get in touch with me.
Please keep in mind that you are not required to break the law or do something crazy to break a norm
(although those behaviors are often norm-breaking!). Some of my favorite activities are very subtle.
Try to be creative and think of something that is often taken for granted. Here are a couple of ideas to
get you started:
– Elevator: the norm is to become completely silent as soon as you walk through the doors and
maintain ‘elevator eye contact’ (which is to pretend no other humans exist in that small box!). You
are supposed to stand facing the door and quietly stare at the ceiling or your cell phone!  Try talking
to other people, stand facing other riders instead of facing the door, etc…
– Walking: the norm is to speed up or slow down your pace if you find yourself walking in step with
another person. Try intentionally keeping pace with a stranger as you are walking. *Please don’t
intentionally harm or scare anyone!
– Holding doors: the norm is to hold the door for the person behind you as a courtesy if they are within
a pace or two of reaching the door. Try holding the door for someone who is much farther away from
the door! Do they wave you off? Run to catch the door? Comment?
I hope these give you some ideas of how you can be creative and have fun with this project. The key is
cause a response
from people around you so that you can observe their reaction. If you normally
drive to school and decide to take Trax instead, you would be breaking your norm, but no one on Trax
would notice and you would not be able to observe any responses.
Please answer each question as clearly as possible! A sentence or two may be enough to answer some
of the questions while others might require a paragraph or two. Let me know if you have any questions
along the way!

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Norm Breaking Project Rubric 

Define ‘norm’.

(20 points)

Please provide a clear and concise definition of what norms are. Feel free to use your intro text book 

as an example of how to provide a simple definition. 

Define/Describe the norm you are breaking.

 (20 points)

Please walk me through the basic details of what the ‘normal’ behavior is. Assume that I have no idea 

what behavior is considered the norm. For example, you might say something like: the norm when 

riding an elevator is to push the button and wait for the doors to open. As soon as you enter the 

elevator the norm is to maintain ‘elevator eye contact’ and to pretend that no other people exist in that 

little box! You might make a small gesture or ask in a small, polite voice if someone will push your 

floor’s button if you are not able to reach it. You should then face the door, avoid eye contact, and 

pretend to look at something interesting on the ceiling or your phone. This ensures that no human 

contact needs to be made! Once the doors open you can step off of the elevator and go back to reality 

talking, making noise, or whatever you would like to do! 

Describe your activity. What did you do?



(10 points)

Please provide a clear and concise description of what you actually did. 

Describe the reaction of people who witnessed your behavior.

 (10 points)

Please describe the reactions of people who witnessed your behavior. They might not have reacted at 

all – which would tell us something! They might react in all sorts of ways. The idea is to simply observe 

their reactions and then document what happened. 

Why did they react this way?

 (20 points)

Please explain why you believe people reacted in the way that they did. 

Is this the reaction that you expected?

(10 points)

Yes or no. 

Why or why not?

 (10 points)

Why was this the reaction you expected? OR Why was this not the reaction you expected?

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