About appearing Normal, and being different (or not), and independence – Patricia Churchland has a telling little illustrative story in Braintrust. In a section of chapter 6, “Skills for a Social Life,” she discusses mimicry as a social capacity – it’s reassuring because it makes prediction easier.
As social sizing up develops over a few minutes, assuming I got the preliminary signals I needed, I may be motivated to reassure you. So I play my part in mimicry so that you do not start anxiously watching me, making me even more uncomfortable. [p 160]
There’s an endnote there. It’s the illustrative story. When she was a grad student in Oxford she was expected to go to the sherry parties
that my tutor at Balliol College held for his male undergraduates. I was always uncomfortable, because as a colonial, and a country bumpkin to boot, I did not have the slightest idea how I should behave. Trying to assimilate the ways of young Englishmen educated at British “public” (private) schools was, quite simply, beyond me. Needless to say, with the exception of a very awkward Irish lad who was comparably handicapped socially, no one ever talked to me for more than a minute. [p 230]
It’s a depressing little tale, because surely the tutor could have and should have managed things better. The English do love to play their little exclusion games though.