As we all know I breaching experiment consists of doing something that goes against the social norms we are usually accustomed to following throughout our everyday lives. For extra credit, I had to be perform a breaching experiment where I dressed in my Halloween costume a day after Halloween and notice people’s reactions. My experiment began at 10:00 am and finished at approximately 5:30 pm. I was able to see students’ reactions on campus, people’s reactions during my quick try to Target and even my boss’ reaction. Before I decided to participate in this breaching experiment I thought it was going to be difficult withstanding awkward stares and simply was not highly motivated to do it. I think the presentation of self that Goffman talks about was influencing my decision because let’s face it no one wants to feels to be welcomed by awkward stares as they make their way up to the marketplace or walk in the middle of the quad. People can stare you down making you feel completely vulnerable, you might as well be naked! Goffman talks about impression management, describing how individuals carry out performances that audiences already have expectations for or more or less an idea of what they should look like. Usually people will abide by these social expectations because they do not want to disappoint their audience by creating a bad impression. Therefore, by dressing in my Halloween costume the day after Halloween, I was breaking people’s expectations of how I should be dressed on a regular school day. However, I have to admit that my experience was not as bad as I anticipated. At first I was fully aware that I was wearing my costume but by the middle of the day I was completely comfortable with it and almost forgot I was wearing it. I think the thought that it was an experiment made me feel a lot more confident as I carried out my performance.
If I had to chose where I had a harder time feeling comfortable I would have to say it was while I spent time in the Marketplace and the Green Bean. After class, I headed to the marketplace and encountered three classmates which I usually say hi to when I make eye contact. This time around, I made eye contact with all of them and went out of my way to say hi, as suppose to a simple wave, but they immediately looked away! And throughout the day people would look at me and simply look away or go about their business. While shopping in Target I almost completely forgot I was in costume because I was too busy shopping and checking things off my list. However I was quickly reminded of my attire when I went to work. Here is where I felt I was violating norms the most. My job descriptions asks that you dress semi professional and wearing a costume to work a day after Halloween was pretty inappropriate. Even though I was concerned about the impression I might give off to my boss I decided to pull through and continue experimenting. Fortunately, his response was..” ummmm….Halloween was yesterday….(with a smile)”. After I explained to him my experiment (I did not want the impression he had of me prior to this day to change) he confessed that had he not know about it he would have assumed that I did not make it to my room the night before. I’m glad my boss saw the humor in my experiment but I did get weird looks from other adults coming in and out of the office.
This breaching experiment was quite exciting and out of character for me because I normally would not have the courage to do something out of the norm. Social norms are hard to break because people care about their perceptions of themselves through the eyes of others. Which is why it is easier to follow the crowd and dress accordingly to particular social environments as suppose to doing something like wearing a costume a day after Halloween.
1) Do breaching experiments have a positive or negative effect on the performer? Does the performer’s perception of self constantly change in response to people’s reactions throughout the experiment?
2) After doing a breaching experiment, is the performer encouraged to break social norms more frequently to test people’s reactions?
3) Because breaching experiments are purposely meant to break social norms are they viewed positively at all by audiences?