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Observing Norms Societies are governed by laws and rules that were made by its participants to regulate and maintain behavior in a said group or society. They act as social controls and they are maintained by social sanctions. When one is in a group, it is expected that he/she would follow, or at least act acceptably, the rules of behavior in the said group as they represent the do’s and don’ts of a society. Failing to do so would mean deviance. Deviance is “nonconformity to a set of norms” (Appelbaum). Sometimes, when nonconformity is too much, it is stigmatized. Social stigma is a reaction to someone who is differing in norms. Sometimes, when the violation is too intense, the deviant is outcast in the society, or worse, punished. However, there are also norms that can be irrational. They can be even pragmatic. Most manners are like this. For example, in Asia it is polite not to look someone directly in the eye while talking, but not so in the United States. However stringent sometimes norms are actually highly contextual and variable. They change according to the society’s needs and interests. They often change from one generation to the other (hence, the generation gap) or from one social class to another. Norms vary from place to place. However, there are some universal norms. These taboos are usually prohibition of certain kinds of human activity. They usually relate to sex and death like adultery, incest, murder, cannibalism, etc. These taboos are exceptionally useful is keeping harmony in a society as it keeps deviant acts like crimes from happening. For this activity, I am required to observe two norms and break one. This would entail being in a public place and observing the participants in it. This would include observing the norms and the patterns of the people in it. Along with the norm-observation is the norm-breaking. Basically, anything that opposes the norm is breaking it. This activity would note everything from the people’s behavior on that said norm, to their reaction to the norm-breaking. To ensure safety, the norm I chose to break does not involve the law. For this, I went to the local public library. A library is one place where it has so many rules, most of them nonverbal as it were handed down from generations, as norms. Like societal rules like falling in line in a shop and saying thank you after a favor has been done, library rules are there to maintain the order of the establishment. Breaking the rules would mean social sanctions, whether it would be by the visitors in the library or the librarian as well, would be a question. The library has many implicit and explicit rules. For me, the major thrust of having rules in the libraries is this: having people enjoy a piece of silence and calmness that they would not get in the comforts of their own private spaces. Eating is strictly prohibited to preserve the integrity, cleanliness of the place and also not to distract other people. Being silent is upheld so that other library users could concentrate. Thus, distracting people would be the ultimate symbol against the order of the establishment. The manner in how to distract them is where the norm breaking comes in. Norm breaking usually distracts people because of the different behavior. Difference is the key. It could be anywhere from not wearing shoes inside the library or to smoke cigarettes in the library. For this activity, the norm to break is keeping silent in the library. Not only it is an explicit norm, it is also an injunctive norm and it hasn’
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