Examining Interactions with Dominant Social Norms


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The social process of marginalization is maintained through social norms. Dominant norms favor some people and disenfranchise some people. Disentangling social norms is complex because there are always multiple norms operating at the same time in any situation. A process model is provided, explained, and used in this lecture and discussion to assist students in untangling and analyzing the norms. The model focuses on three common ways of interacting with social norms. The most common way of interacting with social norms is to collude with them. Collusion is compliance. The second way of interacting is colliding with a social norm. Collisions are common too. The third way of interacting with social norms is contending with them. Contention, here, means to engage with the norms in a way that pushes for changes to it. In any given situation, a person may be colluding with several norms, colliding with some, and also contending with some. The model assists in the identification and critical analysis of dominant social norms. Students have responded well to using this model because the model itself does not imply a value judgment about any specific norm. While any social norm can be analyzed using this model, recently, it has been successful in assisting learners in their analysis of reactions to actions taken by the executive branch of the U. S. federal government by understanding those reactions as collisions with dominant social norms. Recognizing that shock,...


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity 
Jennifer L. S. Chandler 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Class Level:
College 400 
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

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Instructors are encouraged to review the Background Information and the video before using this lesson. Minimum time needed is 2 hours.

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
1. Students will reveal and analyze dominant social norms using the model.
Assessment 1:
1. Students will describe in an essay, a dominant social norm, explaining common situations in which it can be observed.
Goal 2:
2. Students will identify and describe behaviors that reveal the three interrelated ways of interacting with dominant social norms: colluding, colliding, and contending.
Assessment 2:
2. Students will describe, in the essay, behaviors that demonstrate (1) collusion with the dominant social norm they identified, (2) collision with it, and (3) contention with it.

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