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Violating Personal Space Essays

Unformatted text preview: Norm Violation Paper: Violating Personal Space From the beginning of civilizations, all societies have created culturally accepted norms, and established a set of unspoken guidelines, expecting the adherence of every member within the society. But what is a norm? Social norms are defined as specific behaviors, practices, and beliefs that groups use to define as “normal” and separate from those considered deviant. These guidelines include everything from what clothing and exterior appearance is approved by society, to the behaviors that could not only result in rejection from a group but severe punishment as well. I chose to study the expectedly adverse reactions to one norm in particular, that of the violation of personal space, especially during conversation. As a society, we have grown to expect and value a certain amount of personal space, depending on the context in which these conversations take place and with whom. The idea of respecting one’s personal space, or “bubble,” falls under the category of a Conventional norm, meaning that a violation would not result in the stigma of a “bad person” reputation, however exclusion from the group is still very possible, and the formation an abnormal perception of the individual is extremely likely. These customs are relatively simple, unwritten, and mindless behaviors followed by and agreed upon as appropriate by the majority of society. We begin to develop a sense of personal space around the age of 3-­‐4 years of age, according to several different studies. Though the exact amount of space we tend to reserve only for close friends and family varies from individual to individual, the average range of at least one foot in diameter around us remains quite constant. The respect of this norm is shown in how much room we allow a person, especially in conversation when individuals are most aware of their more intimate space. In general, it is most common that strangers are not allowed within this personal bubble, and most people often feel somewhat disrespected if this space is violated within specific contexts. To confirm that this space really only applies to strangers or acquaintances more unfamiliar to us, I wanted to test it out on my roommate first. We have become close friends and share a living space, so it was important to confirm that if two people are more comfortable and friendly with one another, this norm does not apply. I decided to ask her about her day and just walk over to where she was sitting and stand approximately 8 inches away during the conversation that transpired. She showed no signs of any reaction, and I concluded that a certain amount of this space is acceptable for close friends. Next, I needed to test the reaction of a stranger in a public place, so I chose to talk to a girl standing at the same bus stop at which I was waiting. When I first approached her, I stood at a reasonable foot and a half or so away, however as I talked to her about what a nice day it was and how long the bus was taking, I continued to move closer to her. I would reach about six inches away, facing her, before she would take a big step behind her to regain this personal space. I would continue to move closer with each of her steps back, and eventually, she positioned her body more right of me and ended the conversation. She hastened her pace to get well ahead of me once the bus arrives a couple minutes after, and it was clear that she tried to sit a sufficient distance away from me once on the bus. Finally, I wanted to test the violation of this norm in a different environment to see whether or not context plays a role in the acceptance of this norm. I engaged in a conversation with a girl at a CU party on the hill, standing initially at about one foot away. As the conversation continued, I slowly got closer, reaching about six inches away. She never stood back or even showed any reaction to the violation of space, leading me to believe that an setting in which there are a lot of people in a space disproportionate to the amount of space each person is typically used to. Additionally, I think that in this type of atmosphere most people come to expect closer encounters with others, and therefore the space in which we held the conversation was acceptable. This experiment led me to many different conclusions regarding the convention of carrying out conversations with strangers with at least a foot of space in between the two individuals. First, I learned that this norm does not necessarily apply to close friends, primarily just strangers and acquaintance and that this norm is specific to the context of the violation. Finally, it was confirmed to me that the reactions to invasions of personal space during conversation are not harsh punishment or blatant exclusion, rather the negative reactions that are not intended to reject, but rather to reach a place more fitting of the norm in a somewhat polite way. Individuals tend to respond to this in a manner that would be acceptable, while still putting an end to the uneasiness and anxiety the violation caused. This experiment proved how significant and prominent these social norms are throughout society, and ...
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Sociology 101: Introduction to Sociology Professor: Dr. Tracy Scott Department: Sociology SOC 101: Breaking Norms Writing Assignment (5-7 Pages) Breaking Social Norms: Personal Space In American society, personal space is valued and is seen as a right that is expected to be given to everyone. The physical closeness allowed between individuals is determined by the degree of their relationship. In a public environment such as restaurants and other eating establishments, people sitting together in a table often are familiar and comfortable enough with each other to allow themselves to be near in proximity to other people. Those people sitting together may be family members, friends, or acquaintances willing to get to know one another. Because of this norm that we carry in the United States, rarely do we in real life see someone voluntarily sitting with a total stranger in randomness without the other finding the person to be strange or irregular. This was always intriguing to me, so I chose to do an experiment on the significance of personal space in public. As part of my research, I decided to break this social norm of personal space in a public eating area at Emory. I experimented with this three times when I was at the Dobbs University Commons, more commonly known as the DUC cafeteria where many Emory students would eat throughout the day. The social norm in this environment was much like any other eating establishment: people sat with others that they knew close enough to open their personal space to them. If they did not see anyone that they recognized, then they tended to sit by themselves. I broke this social norm by sitting with three different types of people that I did not know, two of those strangers that I voluntarily sat with as part of my experiment and the third as an accidental occurrence where I was the victim that had

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