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An Experiment Breaking Social Norms: Invading People’s Personal Space

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The norm I will be violating for this paper will be invading people’s personal space. This norm acts as a mechanism of social control because the accepted behavior in our society is to give people their personal “bubble” when they are around others. Violating this norm creates awkwardness for other people and also goes against the regulation of behavior for rules in our society. To perform my experiment, I will first take a situation that I am already a part of and invade someone’s personal space i.e. if I am speaking to a friend I will take a step closer to them to get closer even when we are already at a very close range. To take it even a step further, when I will be in a social setting such as waiting in line for dinner at Glar, I will stand very close to the person in front of me. Also, walking into class, I will try to find people walking to the same building and walk right next to them invading their space bubble.

There are so many different reactions that are possible in situations such as these due to the fact that all of the “invasions” will be indifferent settings with different people. Reactions that I could come up with are funny looks, comments to other people they are with, people moving away, people asking me to step back, people pushing me away, and people ignoring the situation. I think the most popular reaction is going to be people moving away from me due to that being a natural reaction when you are in an uncomfortable situation. You usually want to remove yourself from the situation or step away so you can act like you are not involved.

The setting of my breaking social norms happened in a few different locations. As previously noted, I tried this out in the line for Glar, walking to class, and also when speaking to other students in my Italian class yesterday. In the first setting in line for Glar, there are about 30 people in line (mostly students), walking to class, students are sparse due to the cold weather, and in my Italian class there are six other students and our Professor.

The first incident, I will be describing in this essay, was when I was in line for dinner. Last weekend I went to Glar without my friends so I would be able to approach as many people in line. I hopped in line and immediately got very close to the person in front of me. I think I got too close too fast because I touched the person too soon. Granted this is still a form of invading personal space, I didn’t mean to go quite so dramatically. The person turned around and looked at me and my natural reflex was to say sorry, so I did. I got out of line and went to the back of the line and tried again. This time I slowly crept upon the person in front of me and my presence must have alerted them because they turned around and saw how close I was standing with them. The subject glared at me and was waiting for me to move back out of their space. I repeated this with three other subjects and got similar results.

The next incident for this essay was when I was walking to my English class last night. It was very cold outside and not many students were out, but I saw a group of three girls that I walked towards. They were walking in the same direction as myself but were going quite slow, so it was easy enough for me to catch up to them. I walked closely behind them as if I was a part of the conversation that they were having. Within three seconds, one of the girls turned around and asked me why I was walking so close to them and I said it was because I was cold and wanted to have the wind blocker. They didn’t seem to think that was a normal response and ceased their conversation but did not say I should back off or go away.

Lastly, in my Italian class yesterday, I chose to sit relatively close to the person next to me. There are only two people in the class who came in as friends and although we are all friendly with each other, we are not on the invasion of space comfort level. Immediately when my classmate came in, he was confused as to why I was not sitting in my normal seat and was trying to figure out where he was going to sit because sitting next to me was not an option. I had invaded his personal space by sitting a desk closer to him. He eventually ended up sitting in the front row since there were no seats in the back with at least one space in between other people.

While doing this and breaking social norms, I felt awkward around other people. It wasn’t the fact that I was doing something different that was awkward, it was that the subjects involved did not know what was going on is what made me uncomfortable. I did feel a little awkward invading these people’s spaces because I know how uncomfortable it is for me when people come into my bubble. I was a little surprised by most people’s reactions due to the fact that nobody really confronted me and told me to back off when I was the one in their personal space. They all strayed away or ignored the situation. I did not have any issues carrying out my assignment because all I needed was another person in a few different situations to test out my theory on and people are quite abundant on a college campus.

From this breaking social norms experiment essay we see the correlation between norms and social control. Norms are the ways that people comply with the rules of our society and they change within each society.

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An Experiment Breaking Social Norms: Invading People’s Personal Space. (2021, January 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from
“An Experiment Breaking Social Norms: Invading People’s Personal Space.” GradesFixer, 25 Jan. 2021,
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