Social Norms of the Society

The contemporary evolution of the society allows thinking about the depth of human relations, which interconnect in the complex system of social roles. In general, people have a significant influence on each other’s behavior and way of thinking. It is impossible to imagine the development of the surrounding world without human communication and active interaction. Social roles set the tone of not only the world’s development, but also the social norms. In fact, the ever-changing structure of the society dictated by the evolution of social norms was followed by people in different periods of history. Social norms comprise people’s expectations and define commonly accepted rules of interaction, activity and communication. There are different social situations, which take place on a daily basis. However, the response of every individual to the situation may be similar to the opinion of the majority, yet it may be different from the image of “proper” behavior. Social norms play a major role in shaping ethical behavior of every individual. Nevertheless, people are the ones who establish ethical norms of the behavior. It is evident that the topic of social norms remains complex and widespread at the same time. The following discussion aims to reflect the importance of social norms in terms of understanding the importance of laws and acts regulating human interactions for the sake of overall welfare. The depth of the question is reflected by the basics of social norms and their role in regulating human relations. It continues to investigate the reasons explaining people’s willingness to obey the law. In general, the topic has a direct connection to criminal justice and supports the need of understanding human nature and behavior of different individuals. In particular, the following passages reflect the basics of social norms, characteristics and functions of social norms, emergence and transmission, psychological theories of social norms, and the connection between social norms and the law. 

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Basics of Social Norms

Social norms represent a significant element of behavior, which distinguishes human from other species. The importance of learning behavioral patterns and construction of social norms varies from one individual to another. However, the overall norms of social behavior remain the same for a vast group of people. The difference of social norms lies in the readiness of every individual to follow the commonly accepted social norms for personal benefits.  Human beings represent the only species capable of generating abstract preferences, which shape the core of the communication. Abstract preferences lead to the formulation of values penetrating every type of communication between individuals (verbal or non-verbal). As a result, it is possible to suggest that norms represent the means of values’ expression. 

Social norms represent rules and standards supported by a group of people. It is possible to refer to these standards as norms of the individuals’ behavior. It is possible to outline formal and informal standards generated by the society. Formal standards take the form of laws, which regulate human behavior and establish its limits. Informal standards do not have a written form but have support within a group of people. Both types of social standards take place in every community and play a significant role in the performance of every individual. Some informal norms do not attract much attention and can remain unnoticed due to their active presence in the routine activities of every individual. For example, it is common to see people shaking hands when they meet each other. It is a polite gesture supporting greetings. Informal social norms have a tendency of being passed from generation to generation. Formal social norms, in their turn, have a legal regulation and can be changed according to the transformation of social behavior. Based on this discussion, it is possible to define social norms as a term coming from sociology. Social norms are rules or standards established and supported by a group of people, which define the way people should and should not behave in a myriad of social situations. 

In general, it is possible to outline some behaviors, which individuals should follow. For example, it is a common social norm to recognize death of the individual in public by holding a funeral. It is also common to follow the rule of keeping clothes clean. However, there are certain social norms, which individual may follow or refuse to act in the way to meet the standards of social behavior. For example, western countries do not have strict social norms regarding clothes of girls and women. Girls are free to choose to wear jeans or dresses according to their tastes. Other social norms, which forbid specific behavior, refer to not telling lies, not running stop signs, or not having sexual intercourse with family members. In such a way, the society becomes a regulator of the development of various social norms, which forbid outrageous behavior contradicting the interests of the community. 

Every social norm, regardless of its nature, has some sanctions in case an individual denies following it. From the legal point of view, it is possible to establish fees and punishments for those who do not follow social norms prescribed by the law.  From the social point of view, it is the question of non-acceptance of individual’s behavior based on the perceived social norms.  In general, social norms would have never changed since the ancient times if there were no individuals trying to behave in another way. The stabilization of new social norms lies in the support of others regarding the new rule. Similarly, it is possible to forget about old social norms and eliminate them from the routine activities of individuals. 

Characteristics and Functions of Social Norms

As long as social norms penetrate every society, it is possible to outline some characteristic features of social norms in relation to the criminal law. First, social norms are the key to social order. It is impossible to find a society that functions smoothly without norms. Every society, regardless of its history or location, creates norms and standards, which establish social structure, social roles and responsibilities, as well as boundaries of the acceptable behavior performed by individuals.  In this way, the society defines limits of the appropriate behavior, which should not be abusive for any individual belonging to the community. Therefore, it is possible to characterize social norms as a universal pattern of regulating human relations and narrowing it to the commonly accepted standards. 

Secondly, social norms also represent a standardized generalization, which means that individuals have a background of appropriate behavior. This behavior is the basis for judging the performance of other individuals. In addition, a standardized generalization often comes from the group of people who evaluate a specific activity according to the norms of social performance. 

Norms also have a relative nature. It means that certain social norms are not applicable to all groups of the society. For example, social norms for adults are not the same as those prescribed for children. In the same way, social norms for teachers do not refer to nurses. It means that people belonging to different cultures, occupations or age groups follow different social norms. 

Social norms are divided into two groups, which depend on the severity of violation. ‘Folkways’ are the rules that can be avoided by individuals without receiving any punishment. ‘Mores’, in their turn, establish a severe punishment for those not willing to follow them. 

Internalization of norms is a natural process, which every individual goes through during socialization. In this way, social norms become acceptable and understandable during the development of a personality. As a result, individuals adhere to the social norms and try to follow them according to the interests of the society. 

As for the functions of social norms, it is necessary to outline several points. First, social norms make it possible for individuals to co-exist with each other. In this way, it becomes possible to continue human development and evolution. Social order, which streams from the main characteristic feature of social norms, creates a favorable environment for every individual based on the limiting factors of the behavior. As a result, social norms perform a regulating function, which influences human relations and interactions. 

Social norms aim to create an internal cohesion within a society, which establishes a social structure. It would be impossible to exist in a chaotic environment without restrictions of human behavior. As long as one of the primary features of the society lies in cooperation and teamwork, social norms become a natural protection from abusive behavior and violation of laws.  ‘Mores’ and their strict punishments commonly accepted in a society aim to protect the society from individuals exhibiting outrageous and aggressive behavior. From this point of view, social norms are interrelated with criminal law. 

Finally, social norms are the key to self-control and discipline. Human nature still has unpredictable manifestations, which require boundaries and limits. Social norms managed to teach people how to behave without breaking the standards accepted within the society. Nevertheless, there are still many public manifestations of terror and violence, which are the brightest example of the behavior contradicting the social norms in all societies at the same time. However, such behavior is severely punished and teaches others that cruelty is the worst exposure of anger. 

Emergence and Transmission

Rulemaking has always been one of the peculiarities of people living in a group. It is one of the first steps of organizing teamwork and collective thinking. The process of creating a social norm does not have a complex structure. In the majority of cases, social norms take an accidental place as a mistake in human behavior. However, such mistakes consequently become social norms as people notice that a specific gesture or behavior brings comfort to their life. In addition, social norms sometimes arise in a formal way. For example, clubs based on the common interest of individuals start their existence from establishing the rules. Individuals set limits of their behavior based on the expectations coming from the experience of human communication. The majority of such social norms aim to provide safety and peaceful environment. In most cases, social norms come from informal communication and continue to spread based on human interaction.  In this way, social norms transfer from one group to another and mingle with other aspects of human behavior based on cultural preferences. As a result, it is possible to emphasize an interrelated nature of social norms. Moreover, this idea supports the fact that social norms can remain stable within a particular area because of the willingness of individuals to pass the set of social norms to the future generation. In general, transmission of social norms from one group to another takes place in a systematic way thanks to the active communication of people based on their needs and interests. In this way, the contemporary business acquires new peculiarities due to active cultural exchange of business ideas and mutually shared projects. This idea is the core of social development and continuous evolution of social norms in every society. Every behavioral pattern comes from the changes in human needs and a desire to introduce a new approach towards routine activity. People have always been looking for freshness and creativity in daily life and social norms are one of the results of human curiosity combined with creativity. 

Psychological Theories of Social Norms

The aforementioned statements reflect the idea that values formulate the core of social norms. In fact, the psychological background of social norms generation lies in the cross-cultural influence that takes place at some point. The development of social norms, rules, and standards may have a territorial predisposition based on the history of the society. For example, it is common to learn more about individuals coming from another culture and pursuing different values, customs and traditions. In this way, it is possible to claim that social norms and culture are interrelated. However, it is difficult to outline the primary position between two elements, which contribute to the development of each other. Psychological models of cultures exceed the boundaries of economic accounts, which can hardly identify preferences, beliefs, and societal responses to the phenomena that take place in the community. From the psychological point of view, every society supports those social norms and standards, which distinguish it from the myriad of other societies on the cultural level. Nevertheless, it is possible to outline several common features of social norms development from the cross-cultural point of view combined with psychological background.

Every society respects its traditions and aims to pass them to the future generations. In this way, social order, customs, traditions and obedience lead every society to embeddedness. Harmony is another element of the establishment of social norms. Every society has a right to choose its own environment of harmony and peace. In this way, people continue to follow those norms, which support patience, peace and comfort. Egalitarianism is another element of the construction of social norms, which means that every individual should understand the principles of equality and social justice.  This is the main point of interrelation between social norms and criminal law. Intellectual and affective autonomies help societies to live their lives to the fullest and feel free to be creative, positive, broadminded, and curious. Mastery and hierarchy fill societies with social norms of authority and ambitions.  In this way, individuals are capable of supporting their self-value and desire to achieve greater success. The essence of all social norms and their triggers finds its explanation from the psychological point of view in the satisfaction with basic human needs. It becomes obvious and undeniable that social norms are the results of human needs, which people strive to satisfy. As for the cross-cultural difference of social norms, it is based on the harmony and peace in the society according to the social norms existing in the history of the community. In general, the point remains the same; social needs consequently lead to the development of values and social norms. 

Connection between Social Norms and the Law

In general, it is possible to outline several institutions of social norms, which regulate the activity of every society. These institutions can be divided into two groups: fast-moving and slow-moving institutions.  A fast-moving institution is related to the government with its judicial branch. Laws can change overnight and change the nature of regulation of human relations. From this point of view, it is difficult to agree with the point that laws have a stable nature of regulating human interaction. Instead, slow-moving institutions represent social norms coming from culture with a myriad of customs and traditions. In general, both institutions co-exist in a single system, which aims to limit abusive human behavior and provide people with a framework of appropriate behavior. In such a way, the framework meets the needs of all individuals sharing the same social norms and values. 

Another connection between law and social norms can be outlined from the points of functional and content consistencies. In the majority of cases, social norms of culture are conceptually compatible with the law with a myriad of principles and acts formulated by the legislative branch.  In addition, there is an undeniable functional compatibility between the law and social norms. From both points of view, the role of social norms remains the same – protection of individuals and satisfaction of their needs within a social group. In this way, it is possible to conclude that social norms are interrelated not only with psychology, but also with the law. It is also another proof that human nature is complex enough to involve different areas of social regulation in the development of social norms. Law became the primary rule, which is derived from the evolution of social norms. In fact, informal institution of social norms, such as culture, provides the law with effective standards and acts, which regulate the performance of people according to their interests. In general, the main idea of social norms refers to mutual respect, equality of rights, freedom, and peace. These aspirations formulate the development of social norms for the majority of societies. Nevertheless, the law differs across cultures due to the differences in values, customs and traditions. Social norms of one culture can be ridiculous and unacceptable for another culture.  It is a natural manifestation of differences between cultures and their way of living. In this way, the law becomes the source of social norms, which people decided to make crucial according to characteristics of the specific period. However, the ever-changing nature of human needs rapidly transforms social norms in case every individual finds it applicable. 


The discussion successfully revealed the essence of social norms and the nature of their establishment. Every society follows its own principles of living and defines the borders of the behavior according to its needs and interests. Individuals tend to acquire current social norms by means of socializing, which means that cross-cultural influence on social needs becomes meaningful in the context of transformation of social needs. Furthermore, social needs have both formal and informal nature. In both cases, social norms still follow the interests of the society and presuppose strict punishments for those not willing to follow them. Social norms also play a major role in shaping a social order, which defines the structure of the society and standards of its performance. It would be impossible to have highly developed societies without social order, which gives people a background for social justice. From the legal point of view, social norms and the law are interrelated. It means that functions and content of social norms are compatible within formal and informal branches of social regulation. The discussion revealed the truth behind the establishment of social norms, which is derived from the natural needs of people. Peace, comfort, equality of rights, and willingness to achieve justice became the main factors contributing to the generation of the social norms. In general, the legal side of the topic lies in the fact that people are more willing to follow laws and acts as long as they can expect severe punishment in case of avoidance. 

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