Social Research

This was the most consistent pattern observed in connection with this experiment. The researcher concluded that this was a function of the convergence of two independent social norms and expectations: namely, the expectation of politeness with respect to the dependent variable (i.e. door-holding behavior) and the independent social norm and expectation that males will be chivalrous in their interactions with females in virtually all ordinary circumstances, including those involving complete strangers. The significance of this pattern is even greater in relation to the other categories of patterns observed.

For example, generally, the experimenter determined whether or not the relative distance and speed between successive individuals was appropriate to create an expectation that the door holding or non-door holding behavior would be relevant for inclusion. if, in the experimenters best attempt at an objective judgment, the individuals were too far from one another and/or that the second individual was moving too slowly to create a door-holding expectation, the experimenter did not record the failure to hold the door as an instance of non-door holding. In 4 specific instances, male subjects were observed waiting for females who were following them at a distance and/or pace at which the experimenter would not have recorded a non-door-holding event.

Similarly, in most cases, subjects talking on cell phones and individuals engaged in conversations with others as they exited made less of an effort to hold doors for individuals following behind them than subjects who were alone and not using cell phones. However, on two occasions (each) male subjects talking on cell phones and male subjects actively engaged in conversation with others as they exited did hold doors for individuals following them. In all four cases, the individual following was a female or a pair of females.

The Apparent Availability of Plausible Excuses

The experimenter observed that subjects actively engaged in conversations with others and/or using cell phones as they entered or exited the doorway almost never held doors except when: (1) an individual following behind was very close; and (2) the subject was a male and the individual following was female.

Otherwise, the fact that the subjects were engaged in a distraction seemed to significantly reduce their inclination to hold doors. However, the fact that the male subjects who were engaged in those distractions nevertheless held doors for females strongly suggests that the use of cell phones and the involvement in conversations with others provides more of an excuse to avoid holding doors than it actually accounts for reduced awareness. In order for the apparent distraction to have genuinely accounted for a reduction in situational awareness, it would have to have had a similar effect in all situations. Therefore, the fact that male subjects who were distracted still held doors for females indicates that the distractions are most likely relied upon as excuses for suspension of social norms that are ordinarily associated with specific expectations in general.

Apparent Attempts at Excusing Purposeful Norm Violations

The observer recorded several instances where is seemed that the subject did not hold the door despite being aware that someone was following closely enough to create an expectation of door holding. Specifically, on those occasions, the subject seemed to purposely exaggerate the urgency of his exit in conjunction with what seemed to be largely a show of an attempt to be polite by throwing the door open more widely than necessary. On those occasions, it seemed obvious that the subject was attempting to avoid following the social norm that was expected under the circumstances but in such a way as to mitigate any pejorative interpretations by the individual following or by coincidental observers.


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Myers, D..

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