Frozen Grand Central
Tags: crime/law/deviance, psychology/social psychology, breaching experiment, ethnomethodology, harold garfinkel, norms, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Over 200 people freeze in place on cue in Grand Central Terminal in New York. This is one of over 100 different missions Improv Everywhere has executed over the past nine years in New York City. In this video, people freeze at the exact same moment in Grand Central Station in order to seek out non-participants’ responses to determine how people understand and define reality. Note that many of the non-participants desperately try to make sense of the situation and construct meaning. The clip can be used in class to demonstrate a typical example of an ethnomethodological breaching experiment, which is typically associated with the sociologist, Harold Garfinkel. As is the case with the "frozen Grand Central" performance, breaching experiments refer to moments when social norms are intentionally disobeyed for the purpose of examining people's reactions. Typically, when assumptions about a situation are breached (i.e., norms are broken), people tend to look for explanations, which reaffirm the continued existence of the original assumptions. Thus when a person freezes in a busy space and engages in "doing nothing," non-participants will attempt to define what is happening in a way that rescues the violated norm, and in this case, reasserts that people should do something in the middle of Grand Central. Another clip on The Sociological Cinema, which examines what happens when people do nothing in public spaces, can be found here.
Submitted By: Ahn
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