As a member of my Principles of Sociology class, I was tasked to perform an experiment of a social norm violation. I pondered what sort of norm I should violate along with what venue I should perform it in. My wife offered to violate a norm herself, at a department store and that I could observe it while noting reactions of other shoppers, but I decided that her idea was a bit too mores and we should just experiment using folkway norm violations. My wife and I drove to Menards, a local home improvement store, to violate a social norm.
At this point in time I still did not know what I was going to attempt to violate. As we are walking through the store I am considering my options. I decided that when we were checking out at the cash register, I would stand at the push end of the shopping cart and face the persons standing in line behind me. I had my wife stand at the front of the cart, so that as I needed to move forward in line, she could pull on the cart. I stood there casually as a gentleman, maybe in his mid-fifty’s, walked up with his cart. I casually turned the whole way around, to face his direction.
The gentleman stood there looking around, from one side of my direction to the other. I kind of felt like I was a body guard or maybe some type of security blocking the line. My wife was talking to me nonchalant that she wanted to bring our lawnmower blade in from the car to match it up with new ones. I did not reply to what she was saying and all of a sudden the gentleman behind us, in front of me, said to her “I don’t think he heard you. ” I just kept looking straight ahead of myself, not particularly at him, and said “she always wants to bring that blade into every store we go to. I got the feeling that he was trying to divert my attention from facing his direction to turning around toward my wife. That was basically the end of this situation as I stood the same direction and he didn’t say anything else or look at me until my wife paid for our merchandise and we left Menards. My wife wanted to go to Wal-Mart next, the norm violation capitol, so that is where we went. My wife wanted to try another folkway, so she took off her shoes and we walked around the store while she was in her stocking feet.
We did not get much reaction from that, although we did hear someone from behind comment that she was wearing no shoes. We shopped and then it was right to business in the checkout line. We stood in our previously described positions and a young man, approximately 25 years old, pulled up behind us. As I stood there looking at him, he was hunched over his half-filled shopping cart looking through it. After about a minute he backed out and left the line as if he may have forgotten something. I again turned halfway as I was looking at convenience items in the checkout line.
I did not want to keep anyone from getting into my line by standing there like a security guard. A young woman, maybe mid-twenties approached my line and I tuned toward her as she was entering. The funny thing about this instance is that she stopped her cart with a full length of shopping cart and customer space between us. I stood there facing her the rest of the time in line with no comments and no eye contact on her part, toward me. Until I had all my products on the checkout line belt and everything was bagged, she did not come near me or place any of her purchases on the belt until my wife and I were leaving the line.
As I was walking away, I noticed the same young man that left the line earlier had gotten back into the same line behind the young lady. In reflection, my norm violation experiment has shown me that people become nervous if you are doing something out of the ordinary and won’t say anything to you directly but they may attempt to divert your attention away from them. You may just plainly freak them out and they will just stay away from you. This violation was interesting and maybe I’ll try another sometime.