In all our ordinary judgments about the qualities of things, we can recognize and describe deviations from a norm very much more clearly than we can describe the norm itself.

This statement is clarified by Schon to mean the judgments and actions we take subconsciously, without knowing the reasons behind the decisions and without being able to explain them well. He goes on and uses examples like throwing and hitting a ball, doing a math problem, riding a bike, walking and crawling, and how those are all the most simple ways we practice the skills whose processes we are unable to clearly define. However, when I first read this statement, I immediately thought of my studies in sociology and how relevant many of the terms are to this query. For example, social scripts are the rules that we seem to live by without knowing why or without knowing that we are following any at all. For instance, when a man opens the door for a woman, is he doing so because he genuinely wanted to help her or because he has been socialized to do so in a way that has affected only his subconscious? To stray from certain scripts such as a man opening a door and paying on the first date are considered wrong or out of the norm, but we are unable to really state a reason why and how this came to be.

I tend to believe that it does take cognitive ability and decision making processes to come to a conclusion about which social scripts are right for you (normative beliefs). However, I have a problem calling this “intelligence” as Schon does, because it is in human nature to develop normative beliefs and carry out social scripts based on our imitation and socialization techniques that are present since birth.

Another thought that came to mind when I read this passage was how deviations are common only because we are more likely to put a definition on them. When do we actually define what “normal” is in various situations? In most cases, we don’t, but there are multiple examples of what type of behavior, person, lifestyle, etc., are deviant from those social norms. This is a message that has really started to bother me as I take more and more classes in which I realize the problematic nature of such classifications.

Leave a Reply