What is a breaching experiment? Imagine these scenarios:
Example 1- You are sitting in Starbucks on a crowded morning. Your books are open. Your coffee is hot and ready to drink, and your IPod is playing your favorite study tunes. You are tapped on the shoulder by an individual holding a newspaper who says, “Excuse me, can I have your seat?” What do you do? What do you say? Is there something strange about this?
Example 2- You are standing in line at the registration office to pay for your classes. The wait has been long but you are nearly to the front of the line. Another student walks calmly to the front of the line, cuts in, and is called to the next open window. What just happened? Do you say something? Do other say or do something?
Breaching Experiments: The above examples are adaptations of breaching experiments conducted by famous sociologist Harold Garfinkel. In these cases, the individual who asked someone to move from their seat for no apparent reason, or who cut in the long line, were violating unspoken social norms. Garfinkel and his students designed experiments to test the unstated social rules that we live by, and examine what happens when these unstated rules and norms are violated. A breaching experiment is a controlled social situation in which individuals involved intentionally break social rules and violate basic norms and patterns of behavior (Croteau and Hoynes, 2012).
Your Assignment: Becoming a norm violator for experimental purposes
For this assignment, you will become a social researcher and conduct a breaching experiment in which you violate a social norm to examine individual’s responses.
- First, think of unspoken social rules and norms that govern what, how, and why people do basic, everyday things (dress, talk, eat, walk, shop, work, sit, etc.). Remember that many social rules only become obvious once they are broken. Be creative!!!
- Second, think of how you can violate, or breach, one of these norms in a social situation (at school, work, in the mall, etc.). *Select a norm to breach.
- Third, design and conduct your experiment! Where, when, and how will you conduct your breaching experiment? Take notes on what happens. How do individuals respond?
- Lastly, you will answer all of the following questions thoroughly and academically to explain your norm violation and examine your experiment results.
*** Rules_Be careful. Use common sense. No breaking the law. Do not put yourself or anyone else in danger of any kind. If you think that your experiment/idea is questionable in any way, please consult me in class or via email prior to conducting your experiment.
*** Need Help_Start early. Ask questions. Do some outside research (breaching experiments are a popular assignment; a Google search may give you some good info and ideas, but don’t plagiarize)
Breaching experiment Write up: 900-1200 words (3-4 pages)
Write up should be typed, double spaced, 12 pt. font, and free from grammatical errors. Use paragraph format to answer each question as thouroughly as possible.
1. Introduction: What is a social norm? What are they for? What do they give to individuals and to society? What happens when they are breached? Why do people care? Then, give us the purpose of the experiment and of the paper. What social norm did you select for your breaching experiment?
2. Please explain your breaching experiment: (Be specific, detailed, and scientific)
- a. what did you do to violate the social norm?
- b. where and when did you conduct your experiment? Was there any reason for this place or time?
- c. How many times did you intend to repeat your experiment? How many times did you actually repeat it?
- d. How did you collect data on what happened when your norm violation occurred? Notes? Video? Observation? Explain how you went about this in detail.
3. Results: What happened when your norm violation occurred? Was there a general response or did people act differently? Were there differing responses from people depending on age, sex, or race/ethnicity, etc? How did your own characteristics govern how your behavior was received? You will want to look at reactions in the context of socialization, and think of how each group has been socialized to respond to your behavior.Please explain and use at least two specific examples of responses. *Pay close attention to your own reaction. How do you feel before, during, and after the experiment? What does this say about you and your role in society?
4. Analysis: Why did people respond the way they did? Explain and analyze the responses of individuals. What does this say about your social norm, society, and people? Use your sociological imagination to try and theorize why people act the way they do in micro level interactions. You will want to pick two or more theories from our course to explain how and why you performed, and others responded to your breach. This is NOT the time to include as many terms as you can from the course; instead, select specific theories/concepts, explain how they work in detail, and then apply them to specific examples from your experiment. Some good theories to include in this part come from chapters 3-7.
Note: Your analysis is extremely important to receiving an “A” on this paper. A proper sociological analysis will apply terminology and concepts from this course in an attempt to explain the responses of subjects to your experiment
5. Conclusion: What did you learn from conducting this experiment? What will you take away? Why do even mild modifications of “normal” behavior bother people?