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For this assignment, I visited and observed the population within a large clothing shop. This shop contained several vendors of popular and expensive clothing brands specializing in men and women clothes. I have attended the place from 5 to 6 PM, during a working day. The shop had a cheerful commercial atmosphere to it, with plenty of artificial lighting, mirrors, and other reflective surfaces placed to make the establishment and the products look better. The majority of the customers were white men and women aged between 18 and 35, with women population being prevalent. Black and Hispanic populations were non-prevalent. Some of the customers had children with them. The majority of the customers were of medium to high economic standing, which enabled them to shop at the clothing shop, as the prices there were somewhat high.
The two social rules that many people in the shop were following were rules on masculinity and femininity as well as rules on employee behavior. Gender roles were particularly obvious among male customers. While female customers were equally present in shops dedicated to both men and women, and freely shopped for what they liked, the majority of male customers avoided to even look at clothing assortments meant for women, visiting shops dedicated strictly to men clothing instead. Another interesting observation is that the selection of clothes available to men was significantly smaller than that available to women. It was particularly restrictive in regards to color. While women shops offered a wide palette of colors, men shops were largely restricted to white, black, gray, green, blue, and brown colors, with occasional red or orange thrown into the mix. Men shops seem to be reinforcing the stereotype that bright colors are “unmanly.”
Rules regarding employee behavior, on the other hand, were largely practiced by the vendors within the shops. Vendors are expected to be tidy and neat, polite, courteous, helpful, and to always smile in order to make their customers feel welcome. Virtually every employee I encountered in the shop followed these rules. While it made them more efficient and made them fit into the societal matrix of human behavior, it also robbed them of any shred of personality, as employees looked, talked, and acted in exactly the same manner.
The two sociological concepts that I observed in practice during this exercise were gender norms and emotional labor concepts. Gender norms are mechanisms developed by societies throughout the course of human history, which still affect the lives of many men and women today. Although initially, these concepts served a purpose of ensuring the survival of the community and species as a whole (men had to be defined by strength, while women by their fertility), as the societies progressed and developed, many of them became unnecessary or obsolete (Lindsey 36). As it was noted in this observation, many men were reluctant to even look at the more colorful unisex clothes found in the female section for fear of looking weak. The behavior of employees, on the other hand, relates to the emotional labor concept. It is a concept stating that people manage their reactions and emotions in order to fulfill a particular role in the society. In this case – a clothes vendor (Gabriel 873).
The findings presented in this observation report were different from what I have seen in my previous observations, as those took place in a different location. People react differently in shifting environments, as the societal rules, norms, and requirements vary for every individual social space. By observing people in such places, psychologists can identify numerous social norms and see how they shape the people and the environments. It enables them to make judgments on whether social norms are harmful or helpful and facilitate change on an individual or group level, based on their findings (Csikszentmihalyi 25).
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow and the Foundations of Positive Psychology. Springer, 2014.
Garbiel, Allison et al. “Emotional Labor Actors: A Latent Profile Analysis of Emotional Labor Strategies.” Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 100, no. 3, 2015, pp. 863-878.
Lindsey, Linda. Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective. 6th ed., Routledge, 2015.