STOW: In the United States, it is considered correct manners for one to use utensils such as forks, knives, spoons and napkins while eating a meal. While in other countries, such as in Malaysia, one will usually use his or her right hand as a utensil for consuming food.
Those who desire to fit into a society demonstrate comparable social norms in the culture, which they live in. According to dictionaryreference.com, a social norm is a rule of standard behavior shared by members of a particular social group. Social norms are required to obtain to fit into a society.
Stow-Munroe Falls High School's AP Psychology class has been studying current and past social norms of the United States culture and cultures across the world.
To look deeper into the study of how one acts and reacts to society's behaviors, Laura Payne, AP Psychology instructor, devised a project so her students may have a better understanding of social norms.
The criteria for the project consisted of a group of two students working in breaking a social norm. One student demonstrated the ‘incorrect’ behavior, while the other recorded the reactions of bystanders from a distance. A one-page summary was required for the project explaining the actions completed to stand out from society.
“I think this project is an excellent way of understanding the cultural norms for today,” Payne said. “This project is engaging and it will give students a chance to do something outside of class that applies to their learning.”
The scientific method was used on students' summaries to explain the experiment and the results.
“I found it very interesting to see who was phased by my behavior and who wasn't,” junior Maggie Marten said. “Some people reacted very strongly and others maintained an attitude typical to how they would treat any other normal person.”
Social norms broken by students ranged from not making eye contact with others while in conversation, to singing dramatically in Chapel Hill Mall in front of dozens of bystanders.
The social norms broken by students left witnesses with an interesting experience to hold onto. Students were able to grasp the ideas of what is considered normal and what is not.
“For my project, I went to a few stores and pretended to be a cat, crawling around on all fours and meowing,” senior Kristen Cannon said.
“People were pretty freaked out, which proved the whole point of the project.” Cannon added. “Our culture has a certain expectation for the nature of our daily interactions, and these expectations often dictate what we choose to do or not do. If it were socially acceptable, I might be a cat more often!”
One female student even decided to stop shaving her legs and to record the actions of others viewing her “not-so-femininity”.
“People can tell you how much you are influenced by society to act a certain way, but you never truly understand how much of an impact society's standards have on you until you purposely try to break a social norm,” senior Anushka Patel said.