Sociology experiment tests ‘norms’ at Vandegrift

Chloe Strader, Staff Reporter

I spent this past semester in Mrs. Legg’s sociology class. We spent the early half of the school year studying the social structure of Vandegrift and the roles we play in that social structure. Once we learned the basics we had to repeatedly test the effect of breaking some of the norms that we ritualistically practiced during the school day. I have decided to share one of the experiments that I conducted and its results. Enjoy!


If I don’t raise my hand in class I risk being reprimanded by my teacher and being judged by those around me. If I decided to go into the boy’s restroom I would be breaking the gender separation norm, I would likely have my gender identity questioned or be reprimanded for violating the boy’s privacy. If I didn’t abide by dress code the consequences would be that I have to change or leave school. Not speaking English at school would create a barrier of communication I would not be able to converse with most of the people and would be ostracized and questions. If I don’t listen to my coach during practice I will not be allowed to participate in the games or any of practice, so basically excluded from all interactions.


When I went to Barcelona, Spain I noticed several abnormal “norms” in their society. One being that most young girls wore very little clothing, like very little… They would wear very short shorts and very cropped fitted tops. They were around the ages 7-11 so very young. This was appropriate and socially accepted their, but in the U.S. it is not typically accepted. People greet each other with a kiss on either cheek, they are very intimate people, with little fear of PDA. This is more widely recognized but not a norm in the U.S. It is also common to see teenagers hanging outside of hotels and restaurants in rather touristy areas. They are usually unaccompanied by adults or parents. This is not typical in the U.S. you are much more likely to see teenagers at a fast food joint or someone’s house then downtown outside of hotels.


I greeted my teachers at the beginning of class with an 11 second hug instead of a simple hello. The teachers were taken off guard but were generally very sweet and welcoming of the hug. The first group of witnesses were the “intellectuals” of the class seated at the very front of the class studying for the exam that we were about to take. There reactions were confused at first. Their facial expressions alluded to a confused contortion. They then looked at each other and began to ask their neighbors why I gave the teacher a hug. When I conducted the experiment again in a different class I got a more surprising reaction. I was in my class and walked up to the teacher and again gave her an 11 second hug. I was surprised to find that 5 other girls joined in on the hug and it ended up being an awkward huddle of bodies. I knew these girls well and they assumed that I was playing a joke. I thought it was interesting that this group was so open and lightly affected by the experiment. They are a more “popular” group and often more judgemental but they were very light hearted. The final experiment was held in the lecture hall in front of a random selection of students. I walked in and all the students were preparing for the lecture ahead. I walked in a went to greet the teacher with an 11 second hug for the final time. The entire room went quiet and began to stare at me in questionable unison. They assumed that something was wrong with the teacher and one-by one throughout the lecture asked is she was ok. After the lecture they realized that all was fine and went on with their day with no severe aftermath, the same end result occurred with the other two experiments.


The spotlight effect is when people tend to believe that they are being noticed more than they actually are. I will say that I fell victim to this. I likely thought that I stood out much more than I did especially in the lecture hall when everyone went silent. I only felt this way because I was acting out of the ordinary. This experiment taught me that people that stand out know they stand out and can sometimes feel awkward and at other times they feel special or unique. It isn’t an easy thing to be a deviant, you have to separate yourself from what is normal and the only option is to stand out as a deviant it is not as easy to be “low key.” Many celebrities act as social deviants and set a sort of trend that is chain reaction in their circle of influence. Justin Bieber is a very popular social deviant. He has deviated from his good boy image and has started committing deviant acts such as racing his cars and dressing like a “bad boy.” Prince was also a very known deviant. His more flamboyant and feminine fashion sense pushed the gender boundaries and changed what it meant to be a man. Miley Cyrus is probably one of the more recent and more famous poster children for a deviant. With her crazy outfits and open choice of words she has deviated from social norms and her once childlike persona.