Sample Sociology Essay on Deviant Behavior in the Elevator

Deviant Behavior in the Elevator


Social norms become part of the human right from childhood. Parents and teachers form example of groups that train children on the acceptable ways of behavior especially in public places (Meier 1). The social norms and conventions embody the unwritten rules that govern social interaction. As people grow up, the social norms integrate into their system. This means that they automatically behave according to the norms of the particular social setting (Clinard& Robert 6). This is because every time someone displays any single indication of otherwise behavior, the public never takes it for normal. It is important to note that every culture displays some degree of difference in social norms.

Deviance refers to the word coined to describe the act of acting contrary to the social norms in any given set up. Deviant behaviors mostly occur in actions with some occasions in speech. This includes behaviors such as unconventional dress codes and picking of noses. In other cases, it might mean interrupting occasions such as church sermons by picking a phone call. The use of the toilet has also attracted deviant behavior from people. In many occasions, deviant behaviors bring feelings such as disgust or surprise on people (Henry 45). This means that people react differently when exposed to a deviant behavior with some registering anger while others registering amusement. However, the reactions mostly depend on the kind of deviant behavior they come across (Clinard& Robert 7).

Deviant Behaviors in the Elevator

The elevator has become one of the unavoidable things in the modern world. This is because of the existence of tall buildings where it becomes unhealthy to access floors using the staircases on a regular basis. The elevator has therefore evolved into one of the social places that have strict norms to govern people when under its use. The expectation of every person while using the elevator includes walking into the cable machine and facing the door once inside(Meier 1). Social norms of the elevator lay expectation on the users to press only the button of their floor of destination. The elevator is the last place to pick a phone call. In addition, the elevator proves a wrong place to smoke or even fart. Picking conversations in the elevator also leave question marks on the faces of the people sharing the machine with the deviant person(Meier 1).

This means that the elevators have evolved into anti-social places for purposes of good socialization. Issues such as eye contacts easily make the victims uncomfortable and they might exit on the next stop without reaching their intended destination. This further remains the most preferred move when a person gets to close in an uncrowded elevator. Surprisingly, the victims rarely ask the subject of deviance why they have behaved in such a manner(Meier 1).

However, this paper particularly concerns the deviant behavior of pushing all the buttons in the elevator in the company of strangers. The research aims at finding the underlying issues in such social deviance acts.

Theory/ Literature Review

As indicated above, riding on the elevators has evolved into a strictly regulated social affair. This is because the elevator proves one of the perfect places where people become more sensitive to their personal space. It is important to note that the restrictions on personal space of people highly depend on the place and their relationship to the people infringing their space. Since most elevators carry people with no relationship, their personal space tends to increase. Given the restrictions people place on their personal space, they expect people to behave when using the elevator. However, the restrictions rarely apply in the case where the occupants have an established relationship. This further depends on their domination of the population in the elevator.

Numerous prank experiments conducted to test on the deviance and reactions of people in the elevator indicate a strong stigmatization arising from such deviance. The most commonly carried out experiment concerns facing people while in the elevator. The social norms of governing the elevator demands that any person using the machine faces the door or stares at the floor. Therefore, looking at the opposite direction proves a deviant behavior. In addition, the deviance becomes more noticeable when the subject of the experiment decides to maintain eye contacts with the occupants of the elevator. Deviants who decide to pick a conversation with the victims often sound more ridiculous.

Pranks or deviants who choose to ride the opposite direction often find a surprised lot stealing glances at him or her. This this spurs a smile on the faces of the people in the elevator. It is especially interesting when a new person is entering the elevator in another floor. The whole drama of having to find his or her way because the deviant has blocked the way and is unavailable to approach for purposes of asking for a way intensifies at his point. The unavailability results from the person facing the inside of the elevator instead of the door. In many occasions, the person outside chooses to wait for another elevator

Research indicates that in circumstances where the person conducting the experiment chooses to maintain eye contact with the occupants of the elevator, reactions become more emotional. This is because the victims, in more than one occasion, choose to exit the elevator in the next immediate exit point. This is especially true when the elevator has a small population of people such as three to four people. This stems from the immediate belief that the deviant might have further intentions of harming the victim. This means that people choose to exit as a precaution or preventive measure.

In the cases where the subject of the research releases bad odor to the elevator, most people chose to exit the elevator at the next available exit (Andersen et al. 167). People cursing in their native languages often accompanied this. This was especially in cases where they perceived that no other person understood the native language. In addition, no one ever chose to ask who did that since it was another indication of deviance. In many occasions, people chose to implicate the first person to speak up or even exit the elevator. This is the complete opposite of what happens when the subject of the experiment chooses to indulge the people in light moments such as cracking a joke or picking a funny conversation. In as much as people still consider it a deviant behavior, they do not mind such uninvited company in a world that at times proves boring and routine oriented.

However, little research has taken place on the deviance of pushing all the elevator buttons with strangers present on the elevator. This is closely attributed to the rare occurrence of such deviant behavior. In addition, it is a deviant behavior predominantly present among people of young age. This often comes from their inquisitive and curiosity on the possible outcomes of such behavior. Therefore, this the inferences from this research will prove significant in understanding the deviance of pushing buttons in the elevator. This includes the reactions it elicits from the people this behavior affects(McGraw-Hill Answers 186).


The methodology of this research involved carrying out an experiment to find out more on this theory. The experiment involves going out to designated areas and performing the deviance act. The deviance act involved getting into an elevator pushing all the buttons. This would cause he elevator to make a stop in every floor of the building. For purpose of diversity in terms of inferences, the experiment spans different setups. This includes busy commercial buildings such as hotels and shopping malls. In addition, the experiment takes place in residential buildings. The purpose of this requirement involved enabling the inferences collected have a diverse and an all-inclusive nature. This would help in drawing a well-informed conclusion through the analysis of the data collected.

Another aspect of the experiment involved the identity of the deviant person. The research required that the experiments in half of the elevators in busy and commercial buildings must have had had at least two people who knew the deviant person. This applied on the elevators in the residential areas as well. The other half of the experiment had to take place in areas where the identity of the deviant person was unknown to any of the occupants of the elevator. This further included the elevators in the residential buildings. The purpose of this requirement was to find out the difference in reaction from the people who know the deviant person and the people who do not know the person(McGraw-Hill Answers 187).

The experiment further required the involvement of two researchers. This was because of the need to make a detailed observation on the reactions of the victims of the deviant behavior. Therefore, the first person had the duty of performing the deviant behavior. This had to come out naturally instead of looking like a stage-managed script. This is because the experiment had to capture the reaction of the victims in their natural habitat or self. Therefore, the experiment did not take any inferences on the foiled attempts. Foiled attempts in this case refer to the attempts where the victims realized that this was an experiment or a stage-managed event.

The second person on the other hand had to behave like one of the people just using the facility. This means that the person did not have to aid the first person in carrying out the experiment. However, he had the sole duty of making observations during the experiment. This means that he had to remain very keen and observant on the different reactions of people in the elevator. This would involve initiating a reaction conversation where it was necessary. In addition, the situations where the authorities permitted, the experiment would make use of a hidden camera. The first person also could help in making observations during the experiment.

The experiment would further involve a short question and answer session with the people involved in the experiment. This would solely depend on their wiliness to participate in the session. Those who indicate no willingness must not face any coercion whatsoever by the experimenting team. The questioning of the willing people would depend on the situation of the environment and outcome of the experiment. This means that the experiment did not have structured questionnaires. However, it is important to note that the questions generally pointed towards gathering information on the perception of people on the deviant behavior in question(McGraw-Hill Answers 185). The information gathered from the experiments would then undergo analysis. The analysis would major on finding out the difference in levels of reaction of people towards the deviant behavior. In addition, the analysis would try to find out the informing factor of the difference in reactions.


The observations made in this experiment provide a lot of information on the nature of social norms in the society. This analysis focuses on the two main sections of the experiment. The sections include the audience known to the deviant individual and the audience that did not know the identity of the individual. This classification of observations proves significant because of the difference that identity brings to the idea of personal space. People who know a person with a deviant behavior tend to have more toleration towards the person as compared to those who do not know the person (McGraw-Hill Answers 184). Therefore, this experiment would also find effect of this kind of a concept.

Reactions from The People Known To The Deviant Person

The reactions in this category had two reflections. These reflections greatly depended on the setting of the experiment. This means that the reactions from these people greatly varied in terms of the location. In the case of the person acting out the deviance in a public elevator such as a shopping complex or a hotel, the people who knew the deviant person mostly chose to ignore the deviance action(Meier 1). This is despite noticing that the person had intentionally pushed all the buttons. In trying to understand this behavior, it is important to note that the people might consider it rude and antisocial to cause further drama especially in public places. Therefore, they choose to play safe and mind their own business. In one of the occasions, the people behaved as if they did not know the deviant person anymore, an act of disowning the deviant person. This was an indication of the feeling of embarrassment.

In the informal setup, which involved experiments on the residential buildings, the people known to the deviant person in many occasions interrupted the person (McGraw-Hill Answers 187). This proved predominant among the male victims. They out rightly expressed their anger to the deviant person and turned to the people present for approval. This was accompanied by the attempts of the victims trying to shove the deviant person from the buttons area and reversing the action. However, a quarter of victims known to the deviant person opted to enjoy the show. They actually laughed the whole issue off and walked away without much of drama.

This contrast in behavior indicates the levels of personal space that different personalities allow others to tamper with in their daily lives. People allow their personalities to play out without fear in the presence of familiar people. This becomes more apparent when the people are relatives or close friends. In addition, these people had no problem in approaching the deviant person and explaining the importance of observing social norms(Meier 1). The victims who did not bring out any negative reaction towards the deviant act could fall under the category of deviants. This is because despite their knowledge of social norms insofar as elevators are concerned, they still did not bother but rather felt amused. Nevertheless, this reaction can find explanation in the non-committal nature of some personalities. This means that such people prefer minding their own business.

Reactions from People Unknown to the Deviant Person

People unknown to the deviant individual generally assumed a uniform behavioral pattern across the board. The victims in all the occasions failed to react outwardly. Over three quarters of the population had a frown on their faces. This automatically indicated possibilities of anger from within. Their failure to react outwardly might stem from their recognition of the need to maintain their cool. In addition, elevators are not a good place to pick a quarrel given the limited space and population. However, in all the locations of the experiment, angry people chose to exit the elevator before their designated destinations (Chekroun 1).

In other scenarios, the victims decided to find fun in the whole affair. It is important to note that such people managed to influence the others to enjoy the situation as a light moment. This was particularly easy if the victim influencing others had an acquainted company. Therefore, it is apparent that the reactions of people could greatly change courtesy of influence (McGraw-Hill Answers 185).


Social deviance remains one of the issues that one has to live with in their everyday lives. This is because of the occasional unconventional patterns of doing things that people decide to adopt. In addition, it is important to understand the whole concept to avoid unnecessary confrontations when such cases arise with deviant people. Understanding deviance in the social setup of the society gives someone the ability to handle such situations as pranks positively. However, it is important to understand that people just to get away from the norms of the society at times use social deviance. Therefore, social deviance does not necessarily mean that someone has mental illness(Meier 1).

In this experiment, it is clear that social deviance elicits different reactions from different people. In addition, the experiment revealed that the reactions greatly depend on the relationship between the social deviant and the victim. In cases where the victim knew the deviant, the nature of reaction depicted more violence involved. This is because of the tendency of interactions to find influence in how much people know each other. The reaction from victims that did not know the deviant depicted a society where people do not easily erupt to such provocations. They rather choose to mind their own business, which includes leaving the deviant to himself in the elevator. This is likely to play out in other areas where the common factor of association such as elevator does not belong to the victims.

This therefore means that people should learn to understand and interact with social deviants without losing their tempers. However, social deviance remains one of the issues that people should work towards eliminating. This proves important in cases where the deviance brings discomfort to the people around the deviant.

Works Cited

Andersen, Margaret, and Howard Taylor. Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society, Updated.Cengage Learning, 2007.

Chekroun, Peggy. “Social control behavior: The effects of social situations and personal implication on informal social sanctions.” Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2.6 (2008): 2141-2158.

Clinard, Marshall, and Robert Meier. Sociology of deviant behavior.Cengage Learning, 2010.

Henry, Stuart. Social deviance. Polity, 2009

McGraw-Hill Answers:Deviance, Crime, and Social Control.” 18 Apr. 2014, 19 Apr. 2014.

Meier, Robert F. “Deviance.” The Encyclopedia of Theoretical Criminology.