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Culture is the foundation of any society.It tells us everything from how to dress and what to eat to how to interact with others and what is morally right and wrong.Cultural governs innumerable aspects of daily life, and most of the time, we aren’t aware of how much what we are doing is shaped by cultural norms.
In this exercise, you will further consider the importance of culture by breaking one of its basic rules.
Your assignment is to choose a norm governing some aspect of daily life, break it, and observe and evaluate people’s responses to your behavior.(A classic example of norm-breaking would be to enter an elevator with only one other person on it and go stand directly next to that person rather than in another corner.Use this idea as a jumping-off point and be creative in imagining what you could do that would violate the behavior others expect of you.)
Depending on the type of norm you are violating and what kinds of responses you get, you may want to break the norm several times, or try it in different settings or with different types of people, to see how the response varies.
Writing Up Your Findings:
Write up two to three paragraphs (feel free to write more if you’d like) in which you:
- briefly describe what norm you broke and how you did so (e.g., “ The norm in American society is to stand far away from another person when sharing an elevator, unless the elevator is too full to do so.I broke this norm by standing right next to another person on an empty elevator.”)
- describe how people responded to your violation of this norm.What did they say or do?Did different types of people respond differently?
- briefly analyze what you observed from a sociological perspective.What do your results in this exercise tell you about the importance of culture and norms?What do they tell you about how people maintain and reinforce their culture’s norms?