Breaching experiment

One time in college, we were asked to do three breaching experiments in Sociology in relation to our topic on norms. The idea of the activity was to do something that’s not normal to see how people will react and then tell them later that it was an experiment. We were required to covertly video the experiment, but for ethical reasons, I can’t post it publicly. :p

McDonald’s at TriNoma mall

We decided to do the experiment in a mall on a Saturday so there would be more people. (More people equals more potential victims!) The first one we did was at McDonald’s. We were five in the group but only three of us lined up, all in one cashier. After each person gave her order, she pulled out her own plate, cup, and utensils from a bag and asked the lady if she could put the food there. The cashier stopped for a second to see if our first member was serious, gave her a weird look, smiled, and then called on her supervisor to check if it was okay. We were giggling behind our groupmate, but thought afterwards that it was kind of corny and boring because we didn’t get the attention of many.

Inside TriNoma mall

The second experiment was to convince people to take a picture with us. This took quite long because nobody wanted to do it. Because really, if someone isn’t a celebrity, why would he/she want to take a picture with a stranger? As a group, in pairs, and individually, we approached solos, couples, and big groups of friends, but they just laughed off. Eventually, we were able to persuade two guys to an awkward picture-taking. They weren’t exactly handsome, but were so nice and generous that up to now, I still remember their kindness. We debriefed them after the last shot and they said it was okay.

TriNoma Sky Garden

We asked V, our prettiest and well-dressed female groupmate to do the last one. We’ve noticed that there’s been a growing number of people who beg in the streets claiming they’ve lost their wallet and need money for transportation going home. We picked up this idea and did exactly the same–except that our accomplice was elegantly dressed, complete with jewelry and accessories.

So the plan was to ask passers-by for money and make them believe that V lost her purse and can’t go home. We positioned her on a bridge near this pond with another female member sitting on the steps of the same bridge close enough to record the conversation with the potential victims. Meanwhile, the rest of us were sat on the platform just across them, holding the video cam in secret.

The first person who passed by was a woman perhaps in her 40s who looked well-off. But after coming to her and explaining V’s misfortune, the woman just walked away gesturing that she can’t help the poor girl. All the women who came after her also dismissed V and didn’t care. Similarly, the three or four men who came by didn’t believe her and even mistook her for being an accomplice for a popular gag show here in the Philippines. The funniest was someone running away from her, anxious that he’s being caught on camera. Some guys also flirted with V, asking where she lives and that they could bring her home, etc., which she immediately held off. And finally came this guy who, upon hearing what happened, pulled out his wallet and gave a bill without asking any more questions. When the guy was about to leave, V stopped him and began debriefing.

The breaching experiment was actually a fun activity and we thought we could do more on our own next time. For example, we could flash a smile on everyone we come across in the street, wear our undies over our clothes like Superman and go meet our friends, we could dance on a jam-packed venue without music, sing loud in the train while everyone else is quiet, or pay street food with play money then run off. Lol.

Seriously, though, the activity made us realize that those who stand out and make a difference are crazy people who don’t subscribe to the norm, which is not necessarily a bad thing precisely because the norm does not always dictate what is correct, but what is acceptable. Sadly, there are people who confuse acceptability and correctness and live by it. No wonder LGBTs are marginalized, discriminated, and ostracized in many heteronormative societies. Because many people join the bandwagon without asking why and without fully understanding the matter with an open mind.

You, dear reader, how have you strived to go against the norm to do what is correct rather than what is accepted? 🙂 x


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