Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Norm Violation Assignment

To explore the power of social norms, you are invited to complete this participant-observation assignment. Successful completion of the assignment will add eight points to your cumulative point total for the semester.


Part I: Violate a Social Norm

As mentioned in the textbook, norms are prescriptions for accepted or expected behaviors. Your assignment is to violate one of the five norms listed below:

  1. Sing loudly on a public bus, subway, or train.

  2. Position yourself six inches from an acquaintance's nose during a conversation.

  3. Stand on your chair in a restaurant and recite the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance.

  4. Continuously jump up and down while waiting in a check-out line at a grocery store.

  5. Get into an elevator that is crowded with strangers, and after the doors close, introduce yourself to the group.

PLEASE READ BEFORE STARTING: You may also violate any other norm you choose, as long as you don't risk harming yourself or others, and as long as your behavior doesn't reflect badly on the University or this class (if you're not sure, please consult with Professor Plous). For example, you should not do anything that breaks a law, disrupts a class or public event, involves sexual behavior or sexually explicit speech, hurts or threatens others, or includes taking or damaging other people's property -- such norm violations will result in a score of zero.



Part II: Write About Your Experience

Turn in a description of the norm you violated, the way you felt, and the reactions people had to you (limited in length to one typewritten double-spaced page using 1" margins and 12-point font). For example, you might describe whether the experience was uncomfortable, fun, liberating, scary, or something else. Or you might discuss the social psychology of other people's reactions to you.

Later in the semester, Professor Plous will share a few of these accounts with the class. If you prefer that your account not be shared publicly, simply make a note of this on the sheet that you turn in.



Important Note

This assignment is intended to be engaging and informative, but you can opt out of it if you prefer. As stated in the course syllabus: "If at any point you prefer not to complete an assignment (or if your attempt to complete it is unsuccessful), you can still receive full credit by turning in a one-page report discussing the barriers that prevented you from carrying out the assignment."

Also, you're welcome to discuss norm violation ideas with Professor Plous, the TAs, or fellow students, and it's fine to ask friends to photograph or videotape you violating a norm, but as with all assignments in this class, you should execute and write up all work individually.



Return to Top

©1996-2014, S. Plous