social norms



We explain what social norms are, their characteristics, examples and legal norms. In addition, other types of standards.

Social norms, such as helping the elderly, are not mandatory but are widely spread.

What are social norms?

Social norms are a group of rules and provisions determined by the society regarding the conduct of individuals.

These are social considerations that society imposes on us as appropriate or respectful. However, failure to comply does not constitute a crime, but must be followed to enjoy a better coexistence and acceptance.

Social norms include values, traditions, rituals, traditions Y behaviors of all kinds, which may be more or less close to the moral standards or the cultural tradition of the society.

This type of rules They are informal and come from the social consensus, that is, from what a certain society (or sector of it) considers to be of good taste at a certain moment.

Characteristics of social norms

Social norms vary according to their sociocultural context, they are not universal: they depend on the place and time to which they belong. For example, the social norms of Victorian England, famous for its puritanism and modesty, are not the same as those that exist today in the same country, nor were they similar to those that existed at the same time, but in China.

On the other hand, non-compliance with social norms does not entail a formal or legal sanction in itself, but not following them can lead to situations of rejection, since what they seek is to standardize behavior. For example, we may be denied the right to enter a church if we pretend to do so in a bathing suit.

Examples of social norms

Social norms depend on the historical and cultural context.

There are all kinds of social conventions that qualify as social norms. For example:

  • Almost everywhere in the West, he shakes hands when greeting a person unknown. If, on the other hand, it is someone familiar, the greeting changes to a kiss on the cheek or other types of interactions, which in turn will depend on the sex of said person: in certain countries men always greet each other with a handshake, while in others it is normal to kiss on the cheek.
  • In colonial America dependent on Spain, the separation of society by race (Indians, blacks, whites) was usual, and the formal treatment between the subordinate races (Indians and blacks) towards the dominant one had to be given according to certain linguistic formulas: "Your grace" or "Your excellence." The same were to be done by whites when dealing with emissaries from the king or with their own authorities.
  • In some Muslim countries, the code of I respect at mealtime involve the final burp as a sign of thanks and approval. In the West, on the other hand, burping at the table is considered rude and in bad taste.

Social norms and legal norms

Social and legal norms have a similar origin: they are part of the norms with which a society decides by consensus to govern itself and that organize, structure and articulate the daily dealings. However, legal norms have a much more formal, universal and enforceable range, since non-compliance carries severe penalties from the government. Condition.

Conversely, social norms can lead to misunderstandings, offending others, or social isolation, but rarely to riskier situations.

Furthermore, social norms can be respected in many ways, even partially, or they can be replaced by others. While the legal norms are immovable and define the framework of Justice and the coexistence of societies.

Other types of standards

Norms or normative orders can be of many types, according to the authority that issues them or the vital space that they try to regulate or control. Thus, it is possible to also speak of:

  • Religious norms. They arise from religious institutions and regulate the spiritual life of people. They are personal and voluntary. They imply adherence to a code or a philosophy considered as the way to salvation or elevation.
  • Legal norms. They come from a judicial or legal authority and are coercive. Make up the body of laws with which a society governs itself.
  • Moral standards. They govern the behavior of individuals in a society. They depend on what that society considers "good", "bad" or "adequate".
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