We know that norms and mundane social structures are difficult to identify since they seem so “natural.” Thus, a way to identify these hidden structures is simple —> BREAK THE RULES.

In this assignment, you will violate a social norm in order to see social structure come to life. You will then record and analyze people’s reactions to your norm violation, present a 5 minutes Power Point and/or video presentation on the process and results and discuss your experience in the context of information from lecture and/or your assigned readings.

Ground Rules:

  • DO NOT do anything illegal or dangerous!
    • Breaking the rules excludes doing anything illegal or of any risk to your and others’ health and safety.
    • Remember that violating a norm doesn’t always mean doing something “bad”—doing good things, like random acts of kindness, also violate norms, as do many things that would simply be called “weird.”
  • This is a GROUP assignment. Make sure your section number and every group member’s name is on the presentation. DO NOT include the names of individuals who did not work on the assignment.
    • If people believe a group of college students is “in on something,” they will respond accordingly and your findings will be invalid.
    • Try to be discrete in doing your observations. If people see a camera or recorder, they will respond differently and your findings will be invalid.
    • Make sure every member of the group has a functional role: violator, recorder, technician, film editor, etc.


  1. Identify a norm you would like to violate.
    1. Describe the norm, how you propose to violate it, and how you think people will reaction this violation.
  2. Carry out your norm violation experiment.
    1. Take notes IMMEDIATELY following your norm violation
    2. Be certain to note the following things:
      1. How did you feel before, while, and after doing the norm violation?
      2. How long did it take people to react to your norm violation? Was the reaction immediate, or did people take some time to notice what you were doing?
      3. How did the observers react?
      4. Did you debrief your “victims” after the norm violation? What was their response after you told them what you were doing?
  3. Analyze your field notes, considering the following questions:
    1. Try to categorize people’s reactions and analyze them for patterns. Why do you think people reacted similarly or differently? Consider characteristics of the “victim” and “violator.”
    2. Why do you think you felt the way you did throughout the norm violation process from beginning to end?
    3. What did this exercise teach you? What are your conclusions?
  4. Visual Presentation of your experiment. The presentation will be in three parts and should be edited to a 5 minute presentation. (Use the Power Point template as a guideline)
    1. Introduction and Expectations (Hypothesis): Item 1.1 of the instructions
    2. Methods: Item 1.1 of the instructions
    3. Observations (Evidence): Item 2.2 of the instructions. These descriptions should be refined examples of the responses you documented in your field notes.
    4. Analysis (Results) Item 3.1
    5. Conclusions: Items 3.2 and 3.3.
  5. You MUST turn in your field notes with your presentation.

Download the assignment description and rubric here.

Download the assignment design template here.

Download the PowerPoint template here.

Download the Group Evaluation here.