Camilo and Joe
Violating Social Norms Project
Mr. Nelson 6th (period not grade)
We attempted to deviate from proper etiquette when eating at a restaurant. We attempted this breach by conducting a typically personal affair in a public setting - clipping your nails. Our aberrant behavior was exacerbated because we were simultaneously breaking hygiene norms.
We were each assigned a task. Camilo was assigned the role of breaking the social norm. Joe was assigned the role of observing and documenting the reactions of bystanders.
We intentionally chose a central table to ensure maximum exposure. We began to eat our food slowly and waited until the room was sufficiently populated. Camilo then commenced his role. It was originally difficult to hear the clipping sound over the chatter of customers and cooking equipment, but Camilo then waited until the noise had died down to clip his nails. Yet, it had primarily gone unnoticed. We then devised a plan to make his actions more overt; rather than clipping his fingernails, he clipped his toenails. He stretched his leg out off of the booth partially obstructing the walkway. Joe watched as people from nearby tables began to notice Camilo. One group actually relocated in an attempt to escape this putrid act. Others seemed to angle themselves away from Camilo’s table. When nobody was looking, Camilo would take a discarded clipping and throw it into the walkway. When people noticed him doing this, they became a bit more concerned. They looked around, as if to see if anybody else was seeing what they were. If they were eating with someone else, they would mumble something under their breath. Still, no one said anything directly to Camilo.
After a while once Joe realized that no one was going to do anything, he went around and explained the situation to different groups of people and interviewed willing participants.
One observer commented: “I thought he was just trying to get attention.” Another said: “It didn’t bother me much, but I can see how others were affected.” Another commented: “I was fine until he put his foot out in front of everybody.” Finally, the last person said: “His mother didn’t raise him correctly.”
One way to explain this norm violation would be to say that Camilo’s toenails were getting to be so long that they were bumping into his shoe and causing discomfort. Another explanation is that Camilo is extremely concerned with his appearance and temporary discomfort and social norm breaking is worth the avoidance of a cosmetic disaster.
An onlooker may experience some cognitive dissonance. This is because it may be difficult for an onlooker to coincide the violators’ actions with a vacuous motive. If any explanation was thought of, it is most likely covered in the paragraph above.
We concluded that breaking social norms can cause a decent amount of distress for some people while others are not bothered as much by it. We found that people have a seemingly innate trepidation for breaking norms which is why society seldom deviates from its set point. We learned that, while breaking a norm may be easy for the violator, it is puzzling and almost disconcerting for onlookers.