SOCI 1301 Unit 4


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Unit 4: Social Interaction & Structure / Social Groups & Organizations



A.  Read the following selections from the Margin Notes by clicking on each link.


B.  Watch these presentations. When you click on one of the links below, a new screen will pop up. Use the scrollbar on the side of the new screen to navigate. You need Adobe Reader to view PDF files.


C.  (Optional) Read the following chapter from the textbook.

Chapter 05


D.  The following Optional Links will help you do better in your course but they are not required.


E.  Activity #3: A Non-Intrusive Breaching Experiment (10 points)To Do Note

Conduct a non-intrusive breaching experiment, in which you attempt to validate the existence of an informal norm or folkway.

Norms are those socially expected behaviors for which there are no written rules or laws -- we simply follow them because it is the accepted thing to do. For this activity, choose an informal norm you can violate long enough to get reactions from at least three people (the more, the better) in order to validate the existence of that norm. For example, you may think your culture includes a norm that dictates at least 2 feet of personal space but, if you spent all day standing no more than 1 foot away from everyone with whom you were talking and none of them appeared uncomfortable, your research did not validate the existence of that norm. The focus of this activity is on the norm and whether or not your experiment validated it ... not on the behavior in which you engaged. [If you aren't sure what a norm is, go back and review your course material.]


Five rules to guide your research:

  1. During this activity you are taking on the role of a sociological researcher. This is an experiment to validate the existence of a social norm ... not simply a license to act outrageously. It's important to first identify the norm you wish to validate and then decide on a behavior that violates that norm. If you decide on some kind of bizarre behavior first and then try to find a norm to fit the behavior, you'll most likely not do well on this activity.

  2. Do NOT do anything illegal or against written rules. (I do not want to make any jail visits and I will not be accountable for fines, arrests or etc.!) If you are in doubt whether something is legal or not, check into it before doing your activity.

  3. Do NOT do anything which puts you or someone else in danger. (I do not want to make any hospital visits!)

  4. Be courteous to those who are the subjects of your experiment. If appropriate, fill them in on what is going on after you have seen (or heard) their reactions.

  5. Have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

If you have trouble thinking of something, the following are examples of behaviors from previous students. Reminder: Do not choose one of the behaviors below unless you can identify a social norm the behavior violates.

  • go to work with a half-shaven face

  • have a dinner party for several friends and, while acting and talking in a perfectly normal manner, frequently - without comment or explanation - eat food from another person's plate or drink from another person's glass

  • go to work wearing costume jewelry and a tiara

  • follow co-workers around everywhere they go (requires at least three people long enough for each to notice)

  • at school or work, eat breakfast while sitting in the elevator or on the restroom floor

  • randomly stop shoppers by ordering, “Halt!” and then bow to them (as if they were royalty) and casually walk away

  • have loud verbal arguments with self about which items to purchase

  • take spouse shopping and begin to talk baby talk and behave like a two-year-old while in the store

  • walk around a grocery store shopping from other people’s carts

  • wear a prom dress while shopping in the middle of the day

  • (after clearing it with the manager) walk through grocery store, make lunch (removing pieces of bread, meat, squeeze mayonnaise and chips) and eat in the middle of the aisle

  • drive around a large store parking lot with an infant carrier on top of the car as if forgetting to put it inside (Inside the carrier should be a stuffed animal, not a doll.)

  • shop while going down the left side of all the aisles

  • eat spaghetti and meatballs with hands and burp loudly several times while dining in a crowded restaurant

  • laugh and talk very loudly while eating out

  • sit down for lunch at tables with strangers and begin talking to them (requires at least three sets of strangers)

  • (after clearing it with the manager) order food at a deli then spread out a beach mat near the window (on the inside) and have a one-person picnic

  • sing on the bus

  • sing in an elevator

  • don't talk to anyone for an entire day (requires at least three people long enough for each to realize that you are not talking)

  • repeatedly burp loudly in a public place and act as if perfectly normal

  • interject comments in discussions held at adjoining tables in a restaurant (requires at least three sets of diners)

When you've finished your experiment, write a brief summary that includes the following.

  1. what you did (including identification of the norm you were attempting to validate) ... be specific

  2. the reactions you got from the people involved ... be specific

  3. whether or not you believe those reactions validated the existence of the norm you were testing and why

  4. specific and detailed connections to relevant course content. Your summary should be thorough, specific, include relevant concepts from the course material and be free of spelling and grammar errors.


Activity Submission Instructions

By the deadline shown in the Course Schedule on the main page of the syllabus:

  • Send your summary containing the 4 items requested in the body of a new email to

  • Put only your name and Activity #3 at the beginning of your email.

  • Be careful to use the correct subject line.

  • Late summaries will lose one point per day late, including weekends and holidays.



Copyright 1996 Amy S Glenn
Last updated:   07/10/2024 1230

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