The Social Norm Theory is a widely recognized sociological concept that seeks to explain how social norms are developed and maintained within a society. This theory was first proposed by two prominent sociologists, Muzafer Sherif and Solomon Asch, during the mid-20th century.

Muzafer Sherif

Muzafer Sherif was a Turkish-American social psychologist who played a crucial role in the development of the Social Norm Theory. Born in 1906, Sherif immigrated to the United States in 1929 to pursue his studies in psychology. He later became a professor at the University of Oklahoma.

In his groundbreaking 1935 study known as the Robbers Cave Experiment, Sherif explored how group dynamics and intergroup conflict shape social norms. The study involved two groups of boys who were brought together at a summer camp. Through various activities and competitions, Sherif observed how initial friendships within each group gradually turned into hostility and rivalry between the two groups.

This experiment demonstrated how individuals’ behaviors are influenced by group membership and how social norms can be established through intergroup dynamics. It highlighted the importance of shared goals and cooperation in reducing conflict and establishing positive social norms.

Solomon Asch

Solomon Asch, another influential figure in the development of the Social Norm Theory, was an American social psychologist born in 1907. Asch conducted several experiments that shed light on conformity to social norms.

One of his most famous experiments, known as the Asch conformity experiments, involved participants being shown lines of different lengths and asked to match them with a standard line. However, unbeknownst to most participants, they were surrounded by confederates who intentionally provided incorrect answers. Asch found that many participants conformed to the group’s incorrect answers, even when they were clearly wrong.

This experiment highlighted the power of social influence and the tendency of individuals to conform to the norms and expectations of a group. It emphasized how social norms can shape individual behavior, even in situations where people may have strong personal convictions.

Contributions to the Social Norm Theory

Both Sherif and Asch made significant contributions to our understanding of how social norms are created and maintained. They showed that social norms emerge from group interactions, conformity, and shared experiences.

Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiment demonstrated how intergroup conflict can lead to the formation of distinct social norms within groups. It highlighted the importance of cooperation and common goals in establishing positive social norms.

Asch’s conformity experiments revealed the powerful influence that social pressure can have on individual behavior. They showed how people may conform to social norms even when they contradict their own perceptions or beliefs.

In Conclusion

The Social Norm Theory was developed through the groundbreaking work of Muzafer Sherif and Solomon Asch. Their experiments shed light on how social norms are formed, influenced, and maintained within a society. These studies continue to be influential in various fields, providing valuable insights into human behavior, group dynamics, and conformity.