Extent to Which Norms Influence Behavior
Norms are behaviors accepted by a society and have been defined as general rules that a society or group use for appropriate and inappropriate behavior, beliefs, values and attitudes. Based on these norms our behavior towards others and interaction with others is coordinated for public good and integration within the society or group. Folkways are simply norms whose violation may not be offensive but does not invite any severe punishment or sanctions, but does attract some form of disapproval or warning.
For my violation of a folkway, I chose to belch loudly as I stood and pat my stomach right after eating in a public food service location. I chose to do this in three locations: the school cafeteria, a nearby coffee house and restaurant. Precaution was taken not to seem offensive. The school cafeteria was an ideal starting point at lunch and elicited a few grins from friends who knew of the assignment. Some one asked, “Hey dude are you Tarzan?” This humorous remark brought some laughter a few other comical jeers. Some did stare and as I took note of the reaction quietly went back to enjoying their lunch.
Few students had expressions indicating mild discomfort, sneers, scowls and frown. At this location my behavor did not elicit much negative response although I did not appreciate some comments.I later went to this quiet coffee house on a Sunday morning with three friends. There were thirteen other people including two couples. Breaking such serene environment was not taken kindly and I was frowned upon.
The facial expressions ranged from mild shock and disbelief to utter consternation especially from the elderly adults. My friends who were all not aware of the class assignment friend laughed it off and only one had a noticeable disapproval. “Why did you do that? People are staring at you”, he said. “No one is looking”, I replied to see the reaction. “Hey we are looking and that is not at all alright” remarked a lady behind us with a smile.
Some seemed to ignore me altogether but muttered a few words with low tones. I later got a chance for an explanation and asked them how it felt with my behavior. To this many replied they would feel offended and would tell off the offender. One couple felt that a similar behavior would breach their privacy by disturbing the serenity terming it antisocial. At restaurant some seemed to ignore me but under low tones pointed the silly behavior out to their partners and a few chucklees were shared. Few laughs were shared among couples and one jokingly requested for an encore.
This attracted frowns from two ladies who did not find it amusing but mindless and impolite to others.The attention and subsequent reaction to my violation was much noted in the coffee house and restaurant than in the school cafe. My behavior seemed to be more acceptable by peers than older people, though some found it to be comical. Perception of my young age seemed to elicit milder reaction as opposed to what would have been the case of an adult. Some remarks by elderly adults indicated disapproval and referred my behavior to upbringing. This behavior was not expected of me and clearly went way out of line with the principles and rules generally expected of everyone.
Norms denote the socially accepted dos and don’ts of and this influences ones’ behavior to conform to within the established and favored way of conducting oneself. These change from time to time, between different social groups and classes and between age groups to another. In failing to follow the set rules and principles one risks facing some form of punishment and in my case I got a few frowns, some advice on etiquette and one stern warning.