The norm I decided to break involved pushing all of the buttons on a crowded elevator. This particular building had 22 floors. It was around lunchtime (right around noon). I chose this time in particular as people were in a hurry. As predicted, the elevator was extremely crowded. People appeared to be in a hurry. When I pushed all of the buttons, I could see a few people became visibly angry. One man said, “are you kidding me.” It wasn’t until this man made this proclamation that the remainder of the people in the elevator looked up from their phones. I thought this particular aspect was interesting, as many would not have initially known who took the time to push all of the buttons. Furthermore, it is questionable how long it would have taken everyone to determine that they would be stopping at every floor.
After the man announced that I had pushed every button on the elevator (so it stopped at every floor) some individuals in the elevator sighed. A few of them cursed. Others could have cared less and kept looking at their cellphones. I couldn’t help but think that these individuals were running errands and the extra time gave them more of an opportunity to read their email or send text messages. After a few floors, a few individuals that appeared to be increasingly agitated simply got off the elevator. Although I have no way of knowing if that was the actually floor they were planning on getting off it, their reactions made me think they simply wanted to get off the elevator.
Determining how I felt about the situation was difficult. Some part of me thought that this act was funny. However, another part of me was slightly concerned with how upset a few people on the elevator became. In a sense, it is amazing how angry people will get when things take longer or they become annoyed. I think I felt that way, because some people looked like they were going to hit me. However, it was kind of funny to see how people look when they get so mad over something so simplistic.
In analyzing the behaviors people exhibited, there were two main themes. Some individuals really seemed to care and became angry, while other individuals couldn’t have cared less. It was a strange divide. However, there did not appear to be a difference in terms of demographics as to how people reacted. Women and men were equally likely to appear angry or agitated. Race did not seem to influence behaviors at all. I don’t know if the reactions I received would have varied based on the location. I base this opinion on the fact that people are always in a hurry. Therefore, it is likely that I would have received the same reaction, regardless of where I was. If I had broken this social norm at work, I think I would have been embarrassed or fearful of the consequences. However, since I was not in the workplace, I really did not care how people perceived me.
This experiment helped me to realize how social norms affect our lives. People expect individuals to behave in certain ways based on the presenting situation. In my experience, breaking the social norm caused many people to become angry. Although some did not appear to care about my experiment, I question whether or not their absence of anger was characterized by something else, such as trying to get a longer break. However, the lack of initial knowledge that I had broken the social norm in pushing all of the buttons in the elevator suggests that people are generally not paying attention to details. Despite this observation, one individual that took the time to pay attention to what I was doing took it upon himself to announce it to the group.