Extra Credit Opportunity

  • Extra Credit Opportunity: Breaking Social Norms

    Social Norms are a group’s expectations of what is appropriate and acceptable for it’s members’ attitudes and behaviors in given situations. They may be formal, like laws and rules, or they may be informal, which are unwritten expectations that may get you a dirty look if you act outside the norm, for example.


    For this Extra Credit Opportunity, you must break a norm--i.e., not conform to some social expectation, and write about your experience. It is up to you what norm you break--you can do a behavior that is non-normative across our culture, or something that is non-normative among some smaller group of which you are a member.

    Grade for the 3rd Quarter: Up to 6 extra points on any Assessment category


    Criteria for Success:

    ___1. For this extra credit opportunity, you must break a social norm and write about your experience. Try to be clever in your observations by looking for the non-obvious. Depending on the norm you choose to break, you may want to break the norm several times or consistently for a time period so that you can get a variety of reactions to report. You may choose to include photos or video in order to share with the class, but this is not necessary. Examples include:

    • Break rules of social distance: sit down with a stranger at a restaurant even if other tables are clearly available, speak to an acquaintance at an unusually small distance, stand right next to another person in an elevator when only two of you are there, hold hands with a friend of the same sex, surprise a same-sex friend with a kiss on the cheek, stand too close to someone in line in front of you, ask someone to help you with something you can do for yourself. Go to a movie alone, and sit right next to a stranger (even better, engage the person in conversation).
    • Be unusually helpful: offer to help people at a store, buy a small present and give it to a barely known acquaintance, pass out nickels to strangers on the street.
    • Break rules for eye contact: Make too much eye contact (stare) or too little, talk to others while looking at their forehead or ear, stare at strangers walking past on the sidewalk, blink excessively.
    • Dress inappropriately: dress for a different season, dress too fancy or too casual in a setting where it would stand out.
    • Break norms of social etiquette: cut into the middle of a line, ask someone you don’t know for his/her seat in a public place, randomly greet people as they walk into school with a handshake and a “good morning” Go to a restaurant, order and eat food in the wrong order: desert first, then dinner, finally an appetizer
    • Follow the norms of another culture: try bargaining for the price of something, bow to people or kiss them on the cheek to greet hem, hand people things with two hands, look at the floor when shaking hands with someone.


    ___2. Response (Section headings):

    ___a. Title – think of something clever

    ___b. The Norm. Describe the social norm you broke. Describe the situation, what is normally expected, and what you did that was not consistent with those expectations. If your norm is one that people outside a particular group would be unfamiliar with (for example, you are a member of a sports team that has a certain pre-game ritual that you broke), you may have to go into some detail to set the stage so that people outside the group can comprehend how what you did constituted breaking a norm. (1 pt.)

    ___c. Reactions. Describe other people’s reactions to what you did. Did they behave how you expected? Did they ignore you? Did they sanction you and if so, how –verbally? Non-verbally? (1 pt.)

    ___d. How I Felt. Describe how you felt. Did you “chicken out” at some point? Start laughing? Blush? Was it fun? Exhilarating? Mortifying? Did your feelings change as time went on? How did you feel before, during, and after breaking the norm? If you broke the norm more than once you may either choose one experience to report or describe the experience as a whole. (2 pts.)

    ___e. My Insights. Describe anything else of note that occurred. For example, is it possible that your perceptions of what other people were thinking were biased by the fact that you were embarrassed? Did anyone else follow your lead (i.e., did you set a NEW norm, by breaking an old one)? Upon breaking the norm, did you become aware of the reason for its existence that you hadn’t thought of before? Relate at least three concepts we’ve learned in class (for example, biological responses, conformity, altruism, social influence, spotlight effect? Show me some insight here! (2 pts.)

    ___3. Mechanics and Composition: You should divide it into sections with headings for each section. Each section should be 1-2 paragraphs long. You should proof read your response for grammatical errors and typos. Your response should be clear and interesting.


    Rules for norm violating:

    • Be safe. This rule is more important than all other rules. ****
    • The behavior you choose may be non-normative across our culture or a small group (like your family)
    • You many not harm anyone, including yourself. This includes getting yourself in trouble. It also includes intentionally humiliating someone else. ****
    • You may NOT intentionally disrupt your classes. ****
    • You may NOT break any laws. ****
    • Only break one norm at a time. While violating the norm, act totally normally in every other way. Violating many norms at once simply makes you look like a crazy teenager, thus you aren’t really breaking a norm (people expect teens to act crazy sometimes).
    • Do something you wouldn’t normally do.

    **** Violation of these rules will result in no credit (and possible disciplinary consequences)


If you are having trouble viewing the document, you may download the document.