In each society, there are rules that all members of the society use for appropriate and inappropriate values, behaviors, beliefs and codes of conduct (Kerr, 1995). Disobeying the rules can result in severe punishments, the most feared of which is being allienated from the group. It is not surprising that norms are often passed by non-verbal means, for instance suspicious looks when people violate the agreed norms (Schwartz & Bilsky, 1990). This paper reports on the outcome of a psychological research on the violation of the social norms. It considers two distinct cases of violation of social norms namely; cutting into a line at the cafeteria and shaking hands with everybody you come across at a public location.
It was not easy for me to make my way passed all the students on the line and fix myself just two to three students to the serving cashier. However, inspired by the determination to achieve the results of my research, I cut through the line but it was not an easy task. All eyes were steadily fixed on me, I just could not distance myself from the sudden attention that I had created for the two minutes that I stayed on the line. Some students could not afford to maintain their calm; they kept on murmuring and even pointing fingers. I looked at my friends, they could not hold back their smiles since they were aware of what I was going through.
After staying on the line for two minutes, I moved from it and explained the intention of my action to the students who were on the line. Their contorted faces relaxed and soon regained their earlier composure. Some even went as far as apologizing for their hostile reactions towards me, while some were very sorry even to a point of being unable to face me.
Having accomplished my first assignment, I moved on to the second task that is, shaking hands with everyone I came into contact with along the busy street. I started by monitoring the direction that most of the people were moving towards. It was not long before I had my mind set and hence picked the opposite direction so as to meet face to face with as many people as possible. The greatest challenge here was stretching my hand for the very first stranger that I encountered. I was tensed since it was not something that I was accustomed to. I gathered the confidence and stretched my hand to shake with the first person, unfortunately, he ignored me totally. I got embarrassed but still had to carry on with my mission. The reactions I later received were overwhelmingly mixed up. Some people looked at me with so much surprise, very much visible in the way they stretched their hands. Some even afforded a smile while stretching their hands. My worst embarrassment for the day was yet to come as was eventually manifested in my meeting with my very best friend who in fact thought I had gone nuts. He questioned my conscience behind going about shaking hands with everyone I met. The tension displayed on his faced eased down when I explained to him the cause of my actions.
Social norms are unique in different societies such that when one moves one society to another, he/she has to be careful not to violate the society’s norms which may not be norms in his own society. It should be understood that the society will not judge you lightly for not endeavoring to learn its norms. The society is always ready to punish anyone violating its norms. It makes it clear for the offender to know that he/she has breached a social norm once he/she does.