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Social Psychology and Breaking Social Norms

In our society, we have a number of society norms that we abide by. For example, there is an unwritten rule of how one should behave in an elevator. For example, it is proper to face front, stand away from strangers, and not look at others. When a social norm is broken people may respond with alarm, humor, fear, irritation, or an array of other emotions. When you think of a norm, you are probably thinking about being normal. But in psychology terms, norm means, a standard or representative value for a group. The norm, that is more common to people is the social norm. Meaning expectations about what behavior thoughts or feelings are appropriate within a given group within a given context. In society today we the people decide what is normal and abnormal. I surveyed five people and asked them two questions about what they thought was normal and abnormal.

The first question was “Do you think dressing weird out in the public eye is normal”? Their response was “No because everybody does that anyway.” My next question was, “Does being rude to an elderly normal?” Their response was “ No, you have to give respect to older people.” Well, I did this survey to get an idea of what people thought of what was normal and what wasn’t. This survey also helped me chose a norm to break. When I broke the norms I actually broke two and didn’t even know it until I was done with my acting. The two social norms that I broke were, wearing pajamas to the movie theatre with my boyfriend and being rude to authority such as older siblings. When my boyfriend picked me up, he just looked at me strangely. I know he wanted to ask why did I have on pajamas but he just kept quiet. By the way, I did bring an extra pair of clothes with me, so I wouldn’t look like an idiot that whole night.

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Well anyway, on our way to the movies, my boyfriend just kept staring at me, but mind you he never said a word. When we went to get the tickets I received many looks from people and heard many whispers around me. There was a couple standing behind us and they were saying, “How could he let his girlfriend come out the house looking like that”? I wanted to turn around and say something but I just kept my cool and said to myself, “This is only a test Vina don’t let them get to you.” Once I finish talking to myself I was relieved and ready to go into the movies. While walking into the movies, I received more looks and heard more whispers coming out of people which really didn’t make sense. All they had to do was just accept me for who I was and that I was wearing clothes. After I got tired of the looks and whispers I changed my clothes and walked back to a movie theatre.

Once again my boyfriend looked at me strangely and said, “ Why did you change”? When I finally broke it down to him, that I was doing a project for psychology he started to laugh. His Reponses towards me was, he was going to love me no matter how I come out of the house. I thought was cute, that let me know that he doesn’t care what people think he was always going to be with me, no matter how I look. When I broke the norm of how I look, I felt really insecure about myself and I really did care about what people were going to say about me. But I did learn this, people are very judgmental of a person that they have no clue about. The other norm that I broke was, going against authority, the authority that I went against was my mom during Thanksgiving dinner. When I did this norm, I really felt bad because I and my mom are so close and I would never have disrespected her the way I did when breaking this norm.

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My mom had asked me to pass her the cranberry sauce for her dressing. I responded and said, “Don’t you have arms to reach for it”. My mom gave me that look like I’m a get you when we get home. Everybody at the table just stopped eating and looked at me like I was stupid. I just kept eating as nothing happened. Once everybody finished their dinner, I had to quickly make an announcement saying, this was just an experiment to see your reactions to my actions of today. Nobody believed me until I showed them the project paper. Once everybody read it, they said my teacher would get me into a lot of trouble doing projects like this. When I broke this norm, I destroyed the relationship between my mother and the rest of the family that was at the dinner table.

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Social Psychology and Breaking Social Norms. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved October 7, 2022, from