Posts Tagged ‘Imitation’

Breaking Social Norms

March 30, 2012 8 comments


The other day in class we noticed a funny thing: almost all the database annotations were titled “Database Annotation: (Database Title).” It wasn’t in the instructions to title our annotations that way, yet we did it without talking to each other or deciding that was how every group should title their pages. Do you remember the first day of class when we had to introduce ourselves? By the end of the introductions everyone was following the pattern that had come up on how to introduce ourselves.

Why did this happen?

We all know that humans follow certain social norms that allow us to interact “properly” within the society we live in. But do we consciously realize how much they affect us on a daily basis?

One blog post I came across (titled The Cost of Social Norms) described social norms from a behavioral economics perspective. When is is appropriate to give money to people for things they have put effort into? As an example, the author, Dan Ariely, describes how a husband’s offer to give money to his mother-in-law for cooking Thanksgiving dinner is met  with gasps, embarrassment, and glares from other family members. With this example he compares how social and market norms interact in separate ways, and how “when social and market norms collide, trouble sets in.

Another aspect of social norms are trendsetters; who creates the social norms and trends? According to this article a question researchers ask is whether there is always a leader that sets or changes the norm, or whether norm change occurs organically over time, even in the absence of a strong leader. Fashion statements, apps, technology or colloquial language get spread in society enough to become social norms by being recognized by trendsetters and then spread through society by different group leaders who help to spread it.

What do you think of social norms, and how do you think they affect your life? How do you think social norms are created? Can social norms have negative effects on society, positive effects, or both?


Writing Imitation Practice and Discussion

September 26, 2011 2 comments

I have been enjoying imitating different pieces of writing in class, and have decided to post another example of this. I thought it could be good practice for all of us to imitate a passage from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I will also post a sample imitation, and you’re welcome to write your own! I would suggest writing about science (an artifact, article, fact, random piece of information etc.), our class, the Scientifically Speaking essay or any other topic of your choice!

Passage from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks:

“The rest of the day was a blur. As we drove to clover, each time we stopped, Deborah leapt from her car, clutching the new photo of her sister and thrusting it into the face of every person we met; a woman on a street corner, the man pumping our gas, a pastor at a small church, our waitresses. Each time, she said, ‘Hi, my name’s Deborah and this is my reporter, you probably heard of us, my mama’s in history with cells and we just found this picture of my sister!’” (277)

My imitation, written about writing our first essay: Scientifically Speaking.

The whole essay was just confusing. As soon as I got an idea, which wasn’t often, I tried to write, using all of the skills I’ve acquired and all of the sources I could think of; memories, books, articles, personal stories. Every time, I thought, “I hope I can put all of this together, while implying a thesis, so that I have written a good first essay in college!”


There’s my example, I hope that you won’t be too harsh in judging my writing skills and just look at this as a fun practice! I think it’s interesting to try on different styles of writing and see what you can do with them. What do you think of imitating other peoples’ writing styles?