Social Norms and Self Presentation

The following sample essay on”Social Norms and Self Presentation “: discussing theme of self presentation and normal behaviors in society.

Norms are the rules of behavior that are acceptable within members of the community. In other words, norms are unwritten rules about how to act in certain situations. They are the expectations that must be followed by a group or community. Unusual norms are adjustable according to the circumstances. Norms help outline what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Typically norms change when different beliefs, social groups, and social classes come into effect.

For example, it is not acceptable to be loud and boisterous in a library or classroom. Although this sort of behavior would not be acceptable in a library or classroom does not mean it is unacceptable at a park or birthday party. Norms provide order and safety in the community and without them, our society would lack guidance and control. We expect students to arrive to class on time and complete their work.

We expect people to take showers, stay on their side of the road, clean up after themselves and be on time to work and other important events. Norms have a lot of unity, they help us make sense of our social world, and community norms predict how others might act in a given situation, they give us guidance and peace.

In sociology, a breaching experiment is one that evaluates the reaction of people to violation of accepted norms. People go to the mall and only sit with people they know, and for some reason sitting at a table full of people you do not know is not allowed.

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Therefore, for our breaching experiment, we decided to break this social norm by going to the local mall and sit at different tables by random people and act as if we do not see a problem with it. Some of the reactions were shocking, but others were not. The response we received made us think about how important personal space can be for people. Once you have invaded a person’s personal space they become standoffish toward the intruder and their actions. While performing the experiment, the subjects facial expression changed abruptly and displayed signs of discomfort and awkwardness. Therefore, the experimenters were informed by these changes that the subjects were disturbed.

The reactions of the subjects seemed to vary depending on their characteristics, for example, the women were more welcoming and talkative during the experiment and after the experiment, which gave the experimenters a sense of comfort. On the other hand, the men were the most standoffish while the experiment was in progress and afterward, they remained this way even during the examination. The older subjects were more understanding of the situation and they also were willing to give advice to the experimenters after they were informed about the experiment, they believe starting a conversation with the subjects would improve our results.

However, the younger subjects were not as understanding, they made sure that our conversation was brief, and showed signs of irritation due to the interruption, even after they were informed about the experiment the signs of irritation still remained the same. One of the subjects left the experimenters with a sense of failure because the experimenters ran into a language barrier. Which made the experiment challenging, due to the fact the experimenters weren’t able to understand her nor continue the interview. The many of the subjects felt uncomfortable because they were in the middle of eating when they were interrupted by a stranger during the moments that they planned to spend with their family, and it resulted in the subjects having an overall negative outlook on the experiment. The subjects were not the only ones who were uncomfortable, there were several experimenters that declined to participate in any experiments.

This decline of experimenters happened in the early stage of testing the initial experiment, which was to have an experimenter interact with customers in a Starbucks, but we could not get the authorization needed to conduct the experiment. The decline continued into the final stages of the experiment were most of the experimenters dropped out because the experimenters that felt uncomfortable with experiment, they believe that experiments like this would head toward trouble specifically a fight or even an arrest. So by the end of the experiment, the group was left with only two of the original experimenters and one volunteer.

The two theoretical analysis that would best relate to our experiment is Charles Horton Cooley’s Looking-Glass Theory and Erving Goffman’s Presentation of the Self. Cooley’s Looking-Glass Theory is how we learn who we are by interacting with others and our view of ourselves comes not only from our own contemplation of our qualities but our impression of how others see us. According to the looking glass theory, we use people as a reflector to see ourselves and we assume what people think of us next we include those imaginings in our self-concept.

In our experiment, the main focus to see how people reacted to the invasion of space. The experimenters were always concerned about how they looked and what we thought of them form their faces to their outfit. When we performed our experiment we have seen a change in our behavior, we noticed that our reactions change when interacting with someone who is unfamiliar and according to the Looking-Glass Theory we tried changed ourselves in ways that would best fit the expectations of others in three phases: first, we tried to present ourselves as passive and/ or friendly; then, we attempted to predict the feelings that the subjects had toward us were sympathetic; and finally, we as experiment progressed one experimenter developed a sense of shame for being bothersome.

Goffman’s Presentation of Self refers to when you learn to adapt the presentation of the self in order to create distinctive appearances and satisfy a particular audience. Goffman makes so many parallels to the theater that his view has been termed the dramaturgical approach which describes the world as a stage, and the front stage refers to performing because you not alone while the backstage is where you prepare to perform when you are alone. Using the perspective of Goffman’s Presentation of the Self you could say that we exposed the actors that were in the backstage area to the front of the stage without warning. During the experiment, there were subjects that did some face work to maintain a proper image of the self in order to have interaction to continue.

One of the subjects tried to remain backstage by leaving to pick up his food, and during this, he tried to figure out what the experimenter intentions were from a distance before returning to his table and recovering some of his composure. There were two attempts at the experiment, and the first was a spur of the moment decision to grasp strangers’ hands at a coffee shop. This lead to some complications mostly due to a lack of communication on our parts, as well as some issues receiving authorization to perform the experiment at the intended location, but we were given some advice as compensation which we used to improve our results in our second attempt at the mall. We performed this project because we believed that it would help us get out of shells while being able to experience the reactions of others that are not fully in control of their situation and who are out of their element, but we also made sure that this would not lead to trouble.

After the experiment, we debriefed the subjects and asked them if they knew that we were doing an experiment and they told us that they did not know, although some even told us that they thought that the experimenter seemed as if they were lost or waiting for someone. The amount of unusual activity that people are willing to except will depend on a few factors: gender, location, group size, etc. and by breaching these norms, we dissolved the expectation that everyone follows social cues and knows what is expected of them. Many are bothered by the uncertainty that comes out individuals who do not care for rules because they believe that it is simply unfair that a rule only applies to them and they also fear the actions that one is willing to make when they are not behaving similar to each other. We all take for granted the fact that in most cases there is not anything that physically stopping people from consistently breaching norms. When talking about norms we found that the behavior that we see as normal is this way to make sure that life goes by smoothly and seeing how the subjects of the experiment had reacted to being out their element shows us how society can self-correct as if something out of the ordinary did not happen and how important it is to have life meet many of the basic expectations that we have it.

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Social Norms and Self Presentation. (2019, Nov 29). Retrieved from

Social Norms and Self Presentation
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