posted on Jun, 22 2012 @ 01:04 PM
In my freshman year of college I wrote an ethnography about bus riders at the University of Kansas. They have a large bus system that runs through the
city and through the campus. Its actually a very nice and easy way to get around. I thought with the recent bullying video that went I would post the
paper, as an example for how spread conformity is, and how it works. All citations are from academic journals.
A Guide for Surviving the Bus
Busses are a common site on the University of Kansas’ campus; they are for some the sole transportation to and from destinations. For others they
are a safety net after an intoxicating night. Regardless the reasons for riding the bus, people must take note of the strange behaviors exhibited on
the bus. The bus is a socially awkward and silent experience, an experience that forces an individual to quickly conform to the environment that the
bus exudes. When people conform to the nature of the bus they become silent and seclude themselves in their own little worlds. That is because an
established behavior has been created on the bus, due to the behavior that has been established we all must then conform to the behavior that we all
see now. Or face being singled out and feeling socially awkward. Simply put, the bus is socially awkward and we subconsciously conform to that
I observed the riders of the Bus route 42 blue, over the course of two days. The times observed varied from 1-5 P.M. So, immediately the time frame
might have created an unfair observation, in the fact that there are fewer riders on the bus at those times. I however doubt that the time frame will
create that big of discrepancy for the observations to be able to be claimed as credible evidence for a pattern. So even though the observation times
aren’t at peak hours I still believe that the behaviors observed would be observed at any time on the bus.
The most common site on the bus was an individual sitting alone with something digital like a cellphone, or an Ipod, or something in print like a
newspaper or a book. This behavior is in an indication that the riders like to effectively isolate themselves into their own worlds, possibly to avoid
the feelings of social awkwardness or possibly to conform to the nature of the bus. Both are effectively plausible because they go hand in hand, the
bus is awkward to avoid creating a scene, or breaking the normal nature, isolation actually conforms to the normal behavior on the bus.
So, essentially the normal behavior is created immediately when an individual walks onto the bus, much like many other of the observations. Once an
individual walked onto the bus they immediately became quiet. Even people that were cheerfully talking at the bus stop would immediately stop once
they stepped on the bus. They also would remain silent the entire duration of the bus ride, only speaking once to ask a question to each other that
was answered promptly. Thus, the friends would be expanding upon the behavior on the bus that was already established by previous bus riders. They
were subconsciously forced to conform to the normal behavior that the bus has. That is because people have an innate psychological need to conform to
a societally accepted behavior.
Therefore, by conforming basically to the silence that the bus promotes those individuals avoided the backlash from the group that is the bus riders.
Once a societal norm has been established it is difficult to change or effectively eliminate. Therefore when a person would a person would rebel
against the norm they were noticed and from observations they were stared at or given strange looks. Individuals that would break the norm would vary
from the very basic of talking out of turn, to the brazen complete rebellion of having a full conversation without regard of any individuals around
them. A person talking on a cellphone was a very egregious example of a person breaking societal constructs of the bus. The individual talked on their
phone for the duration of their ride loud enough that everyone on the bus could hear her talking. However the need to conform did not seem to affect
this individual. That is due to the fact that on the bus no one would actually enforce the norm that exists on the bus, other than with nonverbal
cues. A study from Australia concluded that childhood bullies would bully other students to make them conform to the societal norm. That is evidenced
on the bus with the glances and glares that a person would get when they would talk on the bus.
People can and do break the norm on the bus but it was rare to see on the bus during observations. During one observation most of the bus riders were
conversing with someone outside of their phones. It was a very interesting phenomenon to watch people were breaking what was an established behavior
almost at will. I was even questioned while observing as to what I was doing. The rebels had no true differences between the non-talkers on the bus;
the only difference was that the rebels had gained a newfound courage. That newfound courage gave them the ability to overcome the social anxiety
promoting aura that bus exudes.
“Social anxiety refers to nervousness or discomfort in social situations, usually because of fear about doing something embarrassing or foolish,
making a bad impression, or being judged critically by others.”
What those rebels did for that trip was create a new norm, even though it was difficult to break a long standing norm, a new norm had been established
by the rebels. A new norm that wasn’t as negative as social anxiety or social awkwardness. A study from the Society for Personality and Societal
Psychology , concluded that when a group conforms it creates individual emotions that can be associated with the group. Hence when the group conformed
to the silence of the bus the emotions dealt around social anxiety and awkwardness. When the group rebelled against the norm in the one observation
previously mentioned the group dynamic changed to become a friendlier environment.
The bus riders of the bus route 42 Blue through no fault of their own have created a norm that promotes behaviors of seclusion and social anxiety.
With the norm being successfully created on the bus it makes it extremely difficult to change, except for the aforementioned case. That creates a
problem one unsuccessful rebellions occur on the bus, the individuals are quickly reacted to with non-verbal communicative methods that are enough to
stop an individual for the most part. These non-verbal methods include: glances, glares, pointing, and staring. They are adequate methods to stop an
individual from breaking the norm on the bus. These non-verbal methods are in fact providing validation to the riders of the bus.
Validation can be claimed for an individual in a non-clinical setting if the behavioral changes are up to the socially acceptable levels; this is
from a study from the journal “Behavior Modification.” This is important because it helps answer why many of the individuals would not rebel
against the norm on the bus. They had in fact reached a point of validation and were effectively assimilated into the group, thus needing no need to
rebel because they were accepted. Which helps explain why most people have a psychological need to conform to a group. There is a need for validation
and acceptance; some people have an extreme need for this validation. Those that do have a psychological disorder called normotic illness which will
keep a person from being at peace unless accepted into a group norm.
From this then a claim can be made that some individuals do not need this validation which would fit into the observations noted. Some people can
exist without the need to conform into a group norm and can change a group behavior as hard as it would be to accomplish that. That was again an
observed behavior on the bus.
Those that rebel against the social norm are called social deviants, or just simply those who do not conform. A study from the Nation Science Agency
concluded that in criminals the recourse for breaking the norm had to be very severe to curtail the threat of a person breaking the norm. On the bus
it seems that the social anxiety threat and the non-verbal methods are enough to curtail many would social deviants and is severe enough to stop a
person while they are rebelling. However it is clear that the social anxiety and non-verbal methods are not a one size fits all solution, and thus it
is why people can still work up the courage to break the norm on the bus.
Even though few will break the norm on the bus, the threat of being singled out and thus suffering social anxiety is enough to stem the thoughts of
rebelling. People do not want to be singled out on the bus, they want to simply isolate themselves in their own worlds and keep to themselves for the
duration of the ride. That fits the description of social anxiety, essentially a person fears embarrassing themselves in public. So that also shows
people on the bus care what the others think about them, because the people that judge them will be the ones that attempt to correct the behavior.
This is called peer pressure which is the outside pressure to conform to a group’s behavior.
Peer pressure is a common term and is a normal occurrence for every person every day, however on the bus peer pressure can be used again to force
conformity and negate social deviance. In a study that dealt with 6th-12th graders it showed kids were more likely to follow the peer pressure to do
positive behaviors, and less likely to follow the peer pressure for negative behaviors. On the bus a negative behavior would be to go against the
norm, so if the behavior shown in teenagers is allowed to be stretched to fit the bus riders. Then a claim can be made that riders are less likely to
become social deviants on the bus due to nature of peer pressure. So essentially some people not conform and become social deviants because it is
The busses at the University of Kansas are incredibly more complex psychologically then a person may think. They are complex system of conformity and
social deviance, the silence is the established behavior for the bus. However, individuals can and will rebel against the norm, because some people do
not react to positive peer pressure, or do not find the repercussions serious enough. It is a small amount of people but that small amount of people
will always exist in a group. That was evidenced on the bus during observations and those rebels changed the norm temporarily on the bus. Though once
they left the bus, it returned to its normal state that is because the bus has an established behavior which creates a societal norm. When the norm is
created many people will conform for social validation.
In the opinion of this author the peer pressure, and social validation seem to be the most plausible reasons for why people on the bus conform to the
conditions on the bus. Mainly due to the fact that social anxiety is a major deterrent for possible social deviants, people on the bus don’t want to
be singled out and thus will avoid a situation that will do that. Therefore people on the bus conform to the established silent behavior because the
threat of social anxiety is high enough to curtail social deviance.