Social norm


Social norms are those that implicitly regulate relationships between human beings. Its purpose is to facilitate coexistence between people who share a community.

Social norms are a set of unwritten rules that facilitate harmony and good coexistence between people. They are usually common to a number of people or territories. Some are universally known, others are restricted to a delimited space, such as a region, country or civilization.

These rules vary over time and depend on the context. That is to say, what seems to us now an acceptable and desirable social norm, in another time was not or did not even exist. The opposite also happens, others will have disappeared.

It should be noted that they are very important and also play their role in social control, establishing themselves within the implicit rules. Colloquially, they are often coupled with the concept of having a "good education", that is, they are defining respectful and educated people, who serve as an example to the rest of society.

Characteristics of social norms

The characteristics that go hand in hand with social norms are the following:

  • Unwritten rules: They are not legally collected or reflected in any explicit text. These are actions and behaviors that society has developed implicitly.
  • They regulate coexistence: Their compliance is carried out to facilitate a good coexistence among the inhabitants of a given community. The human being, due to its social character, must be related to other people. These rules help to do it correctly.
  • They are not punishable: As they are not legally collected, their non-compliance is not sanctioned. For example, not giving the seat to an elderly person in public transport; or not saying hello when you get to a closed place with more people is not a reason for sanction. But yes, society can exercise other types of punishments.
  • They depend on the context: They weren't the same rules a few centuries ago as they are now. Nor do the same apply in Asia as in Europe. Each space and time has certain social norms.

Examples of social norms

There are a large number of social norms, among which we can highlight the following:

  • Greet when entering a closed place with more people.
  • Shake hands in greeting or give two kisses on the cheek.
  • Giving the seat in a public place to an elderly person or pregnant woman.
  • Listen to someone when they speak without interrupting them.
  • Do not throw garbage out of the containers on public roads. Even less in natural environments such as forests, beaches or mountains.
  • Not solving problems through violence, or what is known as “taking justice into our own hands”.
  • Treat yourself and respect older people.
  • Adapt our clothing to the appropriate occasion. How to wear a suit at a wedding; go in a swimsuit to the beach; or not to go badly dressed to meetings and formal events.
  • Maintain proper personal hygiene.
  • Do not yawn or sneeze without covering your mouth.
  • Be punctual when you have stayed with someone in a certain place.

As we have mentioned, these rules do not usually carry a fine or sanction supported by law. It is the people, the rest of society, who punish in one way or another the breach of these social norms.

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