What Are Social Norms Psychology?
Social norms psychology is a branch of psychology that focuses on understanding how social norms influence human behavior and thinking. Social norms are the unwritten rules and expectations that govern behavior in social groups. They provide guidelines for appropriate behavior, define what is considered acceptable or unacceptable, and vary across different cultures and societies.
Types of Social Norms
There are several types of social norms that shape our behavior:
- Descriptive Norms: Descriptive norms refer to the perception of what is commonly done in a particular situation. They are based on observations of others’ behavior and serve as a reference for our own actions. For example, if everyone at the office takes a lunch break at 1 pm, it becomes the descriptive norm.
- Injunctive Norms: Injunctive norms are related to what is perceived as socially approved or disapproved behavior. They focus on the consequences or approval associated with specific actions.
For instance, an injunctive norm could be not to talk loudly in a library because it is socially disapproved.
- Prescriptive Norms: Prescriptive norms involve societal expectations regarding how individuals should behave in specific situations. These norms guide behaviors by defining what is right or wrong, regardless of whether individuals agree or disagree. An example of a prescriptive norm would be standing up when the national anthem is played.
- Proscriptive Norms: Proscriptive norms specify what behaviors should be avoided or prohibited within a social group. They focus on actions that are deemed inappropriate or unacceptable by society. An example of a proscriptive norm would be not stealing from others.
The Influence of Social Norms
Social norms play a crucial role in shaping human behavior and thinking. They provide a sense of social order, facilitate cooperation, and maintain the stability of social groups. Here are some ways in which social norms influence individuals:
- Conformity: Conformity is the tendency to adjust one’s behavior to match the norms of a group. People conform to social norms due to the desire for acceptance, fear of rejection, or the belief that the majority must be right.
- Compliance: Compliance refers to going along with a request or command from someone in authority or a person with higher status.
Social norms can influence individuals to comply with requests even if they may not align with their personal beliefs or values.
- Obedience: Obedience occurs when individuals follow orders from an authority figure, often without questioning them. Social norms can contribute to obedience by establishing hierarchies and power dynamics within groups.
- Social Influence: Social norms exert a strong influence on our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors through processes such as social proof (e.g., doing what others do) and normative conformity (e., conforming to avoid social disapproval).
Challenging Social Norms
While social norms serve important functions in society, there are times when they can be restrictive or perpetuate inequality. Challenging social norms can lead to societal progress and change. Some movements throughout history have challenged prevailing social norms, leading to greater equality and acceptance.
The Role of Psychology
Social norms psychology provides insights into why people adhere to certain rules or deviate from them. It helps psychologists understand social influence, group dynamics, and the impact of norms on individual behavior. By studying social norms and their effects, psychologists can develop interventions to promote positive social change and challenge harmful norms.
In conclusion, social norms psychology is a field that examines the influence of social norms on human behavior and thinking. Understanding social norms is crucial for comprehending how individuals navigate their social environments and make decisions. By incorporating principles of descriptive, injunctive, prescriptive, and proscriptive norms, psychologists gain valuable insights into human behavior within societal contexts.