There are many things that influence our behavior from internal influences to social norms. Social norms are implicit or explicit rules that govern how we behave in society (Maluso, class notes). Social norms influence our behavior more than any of us realize but we all notice when a norm has been broken. Breaking a social norm is not an easy task and often leads us feeling uncomfortable whether we broke the norm ourselves or witnessed someone else breaking it. Sometimes however, you just have to break a norm to see what happens.
One big implicit social norm involves personal space. In our society it is implicitly know that you give people enough space when waiting in line or when sitting next to them as not to invade their personal bubble. I thought it would be particularly interesting to see what people did the moment you crossed that “bubble line.” Periodically throughout the day I would intrude upon people’s bubbles. For varied results, this occurred in classrooms, the elevator, the lunch line, the lunch table, and at work. During classes and at lunch I would move my chair really close to that of the person next to me. While in the lunch line and in the elevator I would stand really close to the person, even if there was plenty of space to spread out. At work, again I stood really close to the person when talking to them.
The reactions of people when you break a social norm can vary quite drastically. Sometimes the reactions are quite large and other times they are rather subtle. The reactions typically vary based on what norm you break and how strong of a norm it is. In the case of invading people’s personal space, I did not receive and intense reactions. All of the reactions I received were subtle. Not many of the reactions included verbalization either. The first participant didn’t move her chair away; she just leaned slightly in the other direction to create a little more space between us. It did not appear that this was done deliberately but more subconsciously. The second participant was one of the only ones to have a verbal reaction; although not an averse one. The participant just turned around and said hello. The only other person to verbalize was participant six who asked “Why are you being weird.” Granted this individual knows me fairly well. In the case of the multiple participants that I stood close to, they took a few steps away to create the space I clearly wasn’t allowing. For those I sat really close to, they would move there chair over a little or lean slightly away. Of course there were also those participants that didn’t take much notice or just stared at their phone until the elevator ride was over.
Not only are there the reactions from the individuals that had their space violated, but there were also my reactions to breaking this particular norm. Breaking social norms is usually makes us just as uncomfortable as those who witness it. However, most of the time while breaking this norm I...