The Effects of Social Norms on Society

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Dr. Kenneth Hoffman
Sociology 200-302
2 January 2013
The Effects of Social Norms on Society
In a world where routine is dominant and change is difficult to adhere by, social norms have become major assets for a smoothly functioning day. With the experiment of breaking normative behavior I wanted to do something subtle yet startling. Sometimes the smallest changes in behavior receive the toughest adjustments. First impressions have a strong influence on a person’s relationship with someone else. With that being said, I decided to change the way I went about greeting people. The opening greeting of shaking hands and smiling has become so common it has lost value and become routine. The subtle change I made to my greeting was that I decided to only say my name in a monotone voice and shake hands with the wrong hand, leading to responses of surprise, unease, and sometimes anger.

With most people being right handed, I have made the assumption that this could be why the common greeting is to shake with one’s right hand. The “normal” greeting is to smile, say hello, and shake with your right hand. People have taken what use to be excitement to seeing each other to going through common motions repeated multiple times. This greeting is a sign that one may have come from a proper upbringing and family, possibly middle to upper class. It is also taken as a common sign of acceptance to strangers meeting for the first time.

My sample size of people ranged from people of all ages and relationships to me. I decided I would greet with a plain face and state my name and reach out with my left hand with all introductions. People who did not know me well believed I was unpleasant and felt awkward. My new greeting was taken with surprise, as people who know me well believed I was in a bad mood or having a bad day. If I don’t do the norm I’m considered upset and negative. From the experiment I learned that people commonly receive me as joyful and energetic....
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