Social norms are unwritten laws of social behavior that evolve from a group’s shared experiences. These are cultures produced, conveyed, and enforced through informal procedures rather than being controlled by mechanisms. The following are some instances of societal norms to consider.
Conventions that don’t elicit much enthusiasm but are nonetheless social norms are examples of social norms. For instance, there is a custom of wearing socks with specific shoes.
Appropriateness sensation is a unified understanding of what is socially acceptable. Consider a culture where putting shoes on a table is considered impolite.
Sense of consequence is a shared understanding of the ramifications of breaking norms, such as the unwritten rule that job hopefuls who break a professional standard do not deserve to be hired. In many business cultures, an applicant who speaks critically of former coworkers, for example, stands little chance of being hired.
Rituals can be thought of as norms—for example, the custom of honoring someone’s birthday with a cake and gifts.
Norms can create Roles, and expectations can be made based on those roles. For instance, consider a school culture where seniors are expected to take on a leadership role.
Norms can generate responsibilities. For example, it is a local custom to dispose of trash quickly and organized manner. Honor System Norms are frequently based on an honor system, in which violation carries no penalty other than the danger of disappointing others.
This can be highly effective because many people will willingly disregard regulations they believe are unfair if they believe they won’t be caught. When an informal but reasonable expectation is placed on the same person, they may be afraid of disappointing their group. For instance, a student with a high sense of sportsmanship feels awful if they go too far and break the competition’s norms.
Politeness norms govern greetings, apologies, and expressions of thanks in culture. When you move into a new home, for example, it is customary to introduce yourself to your neighbors.
Etiquette refers to a system of norms for dealing with potentially embarrassing social circumstances. A good example can be a courteous method to communicate that you need to leave a table in the middle of dinner.
Following a rule is frequently perceived as a sign of respect, such as in a community where it is customary to keep your property in a reasonable state of repair, including pruning and cutting vegetation. This could represent a desire to join the community, as these seemingly innocuous norms can elicit intense emotional responses.
People typically wish to return kindnesses, and norms often construct strategies to deal with these impulses of reciprocity. Replying to thanks with the phrase you’re welcome is a simple kind of reciprocity.
Norms aid in the development of trust. A homeowner with two neighbors, for example, may place a high level of trust in the one who observes social norms such as friendly greetings and be skeptical of the neighbor who does not.
Norms can be internalized to the point where they become sensibilities, causing individuals to experience powerful feelings. For example, in many cultures, the custom of taking off your shoes before entering a home has been so internalized that it is difficult to adapt to societies where this custom does not exist.
Social standing can be communicated through norms. A gentleman holding a door for someone in a well-mannered manner, for example, may indicate that they are of high socioeconomic status.
Norms may be challenged, or new norms may be attempted. For example, a figure skater who believes that everyone should wear skate guards seeks to persuade others to believe the same thing. Usual Marketing is a type of marketing that tries to portray something as the norm to increase product demand. For example, a fabric softener product that presents not using the product as unpleasant and inappropriate in social situations.
Culture forms norms outside of the direct authority of systems like governments or companies. As a result, these systems may impose new norms through the media. For example, in a certain city, there is a long-established custom of standing on the left and walking on the right on escalators, which the government views as a safety problem and attempts to combat through advertising.
Norms from the past
Individuals who frequently absorb norms may fail to adapt to changes in norms, causing them to fall out of compliance. This can lead to generational divides, with differing norms for various generations. Consider a previously taboo topic that has become widely addressed.
A youngster who participates in youth culture, school culture, traditional culture, and national culture is an example of someone who belongs to various cultures. This necessitates a determination of which norms apply in a given case. For example, at a skateboarding park, teenagers may communicate with their grandmother using different norms than their peers.
Norms from Different Cultures
It is relatively frequent for people from different national cultures to communicate, and they have few norms to regulate their interactions. Some international norms come into play at this stage. If you don’t speak the same language, for example, it’s customary to speak slowly, be patient, use body language, and avoid making unjust assumptions.
Norms aren’t always as black-and-white as rules, and they might offer a lot of leeways depending on an individual’s character and the situation. A socially proficient boss, for example, meets all office norms except for dressing excessively casually. Because of their general professional reputation, their peers may overlook this. This contrasts with a system like a dress code, which may not allow for such freedom.
Norms can be taken too far or too lightly to the point where each has a bliss point. For instance, you might greet a coworker the first time you see them in the morning but not every time you pass in the hall.
Individuals who adhere to social groups yet minimize their contributions are referred to as mediocrity. Because group participation is important to them, the mediocre are frequently careful to follow the norms—a courteous and socially cautious coworker, for example, who prefers to minimize their effort and contributions.
Exclusion vs. Inclusion
Following a set of rules indicates that you are a group member. The norms you follow, for example, may reveal your socioeconomic status. As a result, norms are frequently utilized to include or exclude persons from social groupings, such as a neighbor who their neighbors ostracise after breaking a rule.
Accidental non-conformity to norms is akin to a social mishap. In Japan, for example, bathroom rooms frequently include slippers that must never be removed. It’s easy to forget to take off your slippers, yet this is a serious rule infraction that’s considered rather embarrassing.
Non-conformance with a Purpose
People may deviate from norms to gain independence from the group or express characteristics like originality and intelligence. Because norms are so prevalent in human behavior, it’s common for ostensibly autonomous subcultures to develop their rigorous norms while simultaneously considering members as rebels for defying mainstream norms.
Rules vs. Norms
Norms are a product of culture, and they evolve from communal experiences. They are adaptable and frequently unspoken. Systems have rules that are directed and regulated by a political process. A regular occurrence is for a norm to become a rule or a law. For example, there is a local standard and law about keeping your grass mowed; neighborhood culture and city authority enforce that.
Want to learn more about social norms? Here’s an article on why social norms exist.
Brielle used to write for a pop culture magazine, where she handled a small “good news” section by the back of the print media. Brian and Cynthia took notice and offered her the editor post upon forming Living By Example . Years later and she now leads our pool of writers across the globe