Social Norms

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Social norms are an essential part of living in a society; they guide us towards appropriate behaviors. Norms are the social behaviors that are expected and acceptable of a group. When you think of a certain behavior, if words such as typical, usual, or standard apply to it, then it is most likely a norm.

The social norm that I studied for this particular experiment is the norm of paying for something with paper money. Whenever most people pay for items, whether it is at a grocery store, shopping mall, or restaurant, they typically use paper money rather than coins. This makes sense because it takes much longer to count out all the coins, and is generally quicker and easier for both the cashier and the customer. Obviously sometimes people use coins if that is all they have or to make exact change, but I rarely see someone pay more than a few dollars solely in coins. In fact, if you owe, for example, $5.01, many clerks will accept just $5.00 so that they do not have to make ninety-nine cents in change. To do this assignment, I went to CVS two times and each time gathered a couple items so that my total would be around $15. The first time I went, I followed the social norm and paid with paper money. The second time, however, I paid the $15 in all coins. Mostly quarters, but I also used nickels, dimes, and pennies.

When I paid for my items the first time, no one thought anything of it. I handed the clerk my money and she gave me the correct change back. She smiled at me and said, “Have a good night” and then called the next patiently waiting customer up to the register. Even though this seems like such a simple encounter, there were positive sanctions. The store clerk being cheerful and polite towards me is a positive sanction, as well as the other customer waiting patiently in line. Although I did not have much interaction with the person in line behind me, the fact that he waited patiently, rather than tapping his foot or sighing heavily, is a positive...
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