What is a norm?  How important is it that we follow them?  And what happens when we break one?

Nathan Palmer, a lecturer at Georgia Southern University and founder of the blog Sociology Source, recruited his entire class of 262 students to go into the world and do nothing (an idea he borrowed from Karen Bettez Halnon).  It was sort of like a flash mob in which absolutely nothing happens.

Palmer’s aim was to reveal a norm (in this case, that we all must always be doing something), expose his students to the feelings one has when breaking a norm (even a consequence-less one like this), and show them the range of reactions that observers have to norm breaking.  And he recorded the whole thing for us:

Read Palmer’s entire write-up of the experiment at Sociology Source.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.