Ethnomethodology is a sociological approach that deals with how people formulate social norms. These are the everyday day affairs that people engage in creating social norms. This phenomenon is a result of a study by Garfinkel in 2002.
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Ethnomethodologists are able to tell how such norms come into existence by breaking such social norms. Social norms are the customs that guide human behavior. Most customs, however, are socially constructed depending on the particular culture the rules are in play. This somehow explains the origin of deviance.
For instance, sociologists like Emile Durkheim and Talcot Parsons focus on the social functions of social norms and how they prompt certain behavior. Social norms essentially constrain behavior. They are considered key in generation of social order and coordination.
Any deviation from the expected is considered breaking a social norm. More often norms are unwritten, but they seem to have such a strong hold on people who subscribe to them in terms of their societal background. For instance, for purposes of this assignment I chose to violate a norm of social order. I chose to keep on facing the wrong side of any place I had chosen to queue.
First, I chose to face backward in the middle of a queue at a fast food outlet. As expected, people queue facing forward towards the direction of whoever is serving them. This is unwritten, but by default it happens in most places where such services are offered. I turned to face an elderly woman who was right behind me a few seconds after she had joined the queue.
Her initial reaction was that of surprise quickly followed by an irritated look on her face. She then inquired if I had any problem. In response, I denied having any problem. She scolded me and said that youngsters were ill-mannered.
Everyone else turned to look at me as I had caused some kind of unexpected disruption. It had taken quite a while before I was able to explain to her that I was doing an assignment on social norms. After the explanation, she seemed to understand the reason behind my behavior and everyone continued with their business.
I chose to do the same in a different food outlet a few blocks from the initial one. This time there was a young lady standing behind me who did not respond kindly to my actions. Her response was much more volatile than the older lady in the previous case. I received a tongue lashing with comments like why I could not use my eyes well and do the expected.
Everyone who saw what transpired reacted in surprise, which was evident in their facial expressions. After the commotion, people who had initially paid little or no attention to my presence seemed intrigued. This was evident in their stares.
I would have probably walked in and out of that place unnoticed if I had not done something considered stupid by everyone in the cafeteria. I had actually contravened a norm that made everyone notice that something had been disrupted. My actions were unexpected and seemed to interrupt the normal flow of the queue.
I tried a similar action for the third time in a checkout line in the school cafeteria, and the reaction was equally unfriendly. This time, the person standing behind me was startled and immediately took a step back causing a commotion in the cafeteria.
I could not tell exactly what went on in her mind at that moment, but one certain thing was that she could tell that something was wrong. She least expected that I could turn back in the queue and face her as the norm was to face forward until one was served.
I also tried to face the wrong side of the queue at a grocery store. The reaction was also not pleasant. The man who was standing behind me in the queue was not pleased with what I did, and he inquired what the problem was. That was a clear indication that my actions were unexpected. The fact that the man tried to find out what was wrong could be an indication that there was a certain expectation in the way queuing was done.
Such norms in behavior serve to establish order in social behavior. Maintaining order is a norm most people consciously or unconsciously uphold. Though norms are expected everyday affairs, most people are oblivious to them.
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The term socialization, therefore, agrees with the individual and social expectations in the society as a whole. Behavioral training depends on the social upbringing of a person. Perhaps in a different social setting facing the wrong side of the queue would generate a different meaning and reaction. However, in my social setting this type of behavior is seen as an intrusion into people’s privacy and space.
The reaction of surprise and irritation from the people involved is also included in the cultural dictates of behavior. In the event that deviant behavior is observed, then the expected reaction lies within specific ranges. In such a situation, the expected social reaction is not friendly. As I had expected, most people showed disapproval in response to my actions.
Social control in whichever context restricts what can be done and what cannot be done. An assumption in the theory of socialized actor is that social norms affect an individual since the norms are part of a package. Normative expectation is that given behavior remains at all times.
As a result, a member of the society receives a progressive or destructive sanction for conformity or deviance. For my case, I kept on receiving disapproval for my actions, which in reality are examples of the negative societal sanctions for deviance.
Social norms are the set standard measurements for correctness or incorrectness of behavior. For this reason, they are used in keeping the society at a state of equilibrium. Any contravention like the one I tried causes a state of disequilibrium.
Society has its own way of attaining balance, for instance, the surprised stares and verbal disapproval made me turn back and face the expected direction in all instances where I tried contravening a social norm. This proves the theoretical point that in all situations where the society appears to be out of balance, there is always a way through which the balance is restored.
Due to the need for order in the society, people are expected to conform to queuing in a particular direction. This explains the origin of the social norm and the reaction in the event of a deviation from the expected. The conclusion that deviance and social norms are constructs custom-made depending on societal expectations is very true as was seen in these cases.