Group Norms

Date: Sat, 26 Dec 92 19:30:03 EST
From: warren-matthew at cs.yale.edu (Matthew S. 'Opie' Warren)
Subject: Overeager Achiever

A true story; happened right here, not apocryphal.

In my college dorm we play 'Assassin,' like lots of students. Unlike most people, though, we use Silly String(tm) instead of water pistols, so that if you hit your target there's never an argument about whether you really hit them because, well, they're covered with Silly String(tm).

But for those two weeks you carry your Silly String(tm) everywhere, even into classrooms where you're automatically safe. So, there I was in this Psychology class with my friend, and we were kind of holding our Silly String at the ready while the professor lectured.

The class was Psychology of Group Behavior, and the professor was talking out our next assignment, which concerned group norms. (Group norms are the unspoken rules of a group, i.e. you don't grab someone else's dining-hall tray and start eating off it). She was telling us the project, which is to violate a group norm blatantly and intentionally, and then write a little two-page paper about it.

And my crazy friend gets up, walks down the aisle and gets up on the stage with the professor, and proceeds to cover her in Silly String(tm). Needless to say everyone figured out what was going on, and the applause brought down the house.

He only got a B-plus on the paper, though. Go figure.


Edited and converted to HTML by Dan Bornstein, danfuzz@milk.com.