Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Living Experiment 3: Day of Nonviolence

This assignment is the third Living Experiment of the semester. Successful completion of the assignment will add five points to your course total.

Step I: Participate in the Day of Nonviolence

On Friday, November 21st, our Social Psychology class will observe a "Day of Nonviolence." To participate in this event, your challenge will be to live each minute of that day in as nonviolent and peaceful a way as possible. In other words, for a full 24-hour period you should do your best to live in harmony with others and avoid causing harm.

When carrying out this assignment, leave no behavior unexamined -- from washing your face to talking on the telephone to eating lunch to watching TV. That is, don't just avoid obvious acts of physical or verbal violence; strive for the deepest level of nonviolence in your heart without being phony or insincere. It is up to you to define what nonviolence is and to decide how best to realize it.

Note: To minimize any bias in social reactions, it is best if you do not tell others about the class assignment until after the Day of Nonviolence is over.

Step II: Write About Your Experience

At the beginning of class on November 25th, turn in a social psychological analysis of what the day was like (limited to one typewritten doubled-spaced page using 12-point font and 1" margins). Here are some sample questions you might address:

  • How did you define nonviolence, and what did you focus your efforts on?

  • If your behavior was different than normal, which person did you like more: the "Day of Nonviolence you" or the "normal you"? If you preferred the "Day of Nonviolence you," what are the psychological factors that prevent this "you" from coming out?

  • What are the psychological costs and benefits of behaving nonviolently? In your view, do the benefits outweigh the costs?

  • How did others respond to your nonviolence? Do you think they noticed a difference in your behavior? What attributions did people make for your behavior, and why?

  • If you wanted to encourage others to behave as you did during the Day of Nonviolence, what psychological techniques would you use? How can social psychology be used to foster a less violent society?

  • If you were to predict your behavior one month from now, do you think it will be changed in any way as a result of participating in the Day of Nonviolence? If so, how? If not, why not?

In carrying out this assignment, try to go beyond superficial descriptive accounts and see if you can arrive at social psychological insights that might improve your life, campus, society, or the world. 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, simply make a note of this on the sheet that you turn in.

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