Essay: Social Breach

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[. . .] After I asked for assistance without adding "please," the assistant seemed to pause for a brief time before continuing to smile and assist me in a friendly way. In one restaurant, I observed absolutely no change in behavior or pause in the server. He simply continued to serve us without any observable change.

The reaction I received least was open hostility in the form of verbal questioning or scolding, and a refusal to assist me. This occurred only in one of the shops I frequented. When I failed to say "please" after a request for assistance, she stared at me for a long while. When waiting brought no results, she asked me why I was so rude. I simply repeated my request for assistance, upon which she refused and told me that she would not assist a rude person like myself.

My friends' reactions were also somewhat varied. They all displayed some confusion at my observed rudeness. Two of my three friends simply kept quiet, but were visibly somewhat disturbed by my behavior, since I was usually quite the polite person. They displayed their disturbance by avoiding eye contact with me and clearing their throats every time I violated the politeness norm. When I was at a restaurant with my third friend, she finally could no longer handle my rudeness and asked me if I could stop it. She did so in a very calm and polite way. None of my friends displayed any hostility towards me.

Interpretation

It was very interesting to observe the diverse reactions among people who did not know me and those who did. Shop assistants and restaurant servers simply assumed that I was a rude person. My friends knew me better than this and were therefore both confused and dismayed at my lack of adherence to the social politeness norm.

In analysis, my observations all seem to support Garfinkel's observation that a social norm is hardly noticed until it is breached. Indeed, I found it very difficult myself to violate this norm, since it is such a natural part of my daily habits.

Conclusions and Future Possibilities

Since the observed behavior of both those who know me and those who do not supports Garfinkel's theories, I do not believe it is necessary to change any of these. In future experiments, however, it might be interesting to do separate experiments for populations among those who know me and those who do not. I could, for example, spend a day with my family without saying "please" or "thank you" for anything, or violating some other norm of habitual behavior. I could also experiment with other norms, such as certain dress codes for certain environments.

References

Garfinkel (1967). Studies in Ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers… [END OF PREVIEW]

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