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The Norm in Sociology Essay

“The social norm” refers to “an established standard of behavior shared by members of a social group to which each member is expected to conform” (thefreedictionary. com). Expected to behave, individuals must act a certain way to gain acceptance into society. “Sociologists believe an individual’s behavior and self-definitions are structured by relationships. (The relationships themselves are often structured by institutions – schools, workplaces, courts, etc. )” (O’Connell 32). Failure to adhere to a society’s expectations typically results in some form of alienation and denial from that society or group.

Parents teach their children typical norms at a young age like polite etiquette and behavior. Norms influence how people behave in society. Without a set norm, people have no standard by which to act or behave when interacting with others in society. “Social norms cover almost every conceivable situation, and they vary from standards where almost complete conformity is demanded to those where there is great freedom of choice. Norms also vary in the kinds of sanctions that are attached to violation of the norms” (Socioloyguide. om). A violation of the norm results in alienation from set group and for not following the believed standard. Individuals learn through trial and error and adapt a personality and identity in their selves, accepted by society as a whole. A norm will establish the overall consensus of qualifications for acceptance by that group or society. “Since norms derive from values, and since complex societies have multiple and conflicting value systems, it follows that norms frequently are in conflict also” (Sociologyguide. om). A conflict may arise from someone’s breaking a norm in a scenario that offends others in that group or society. Every detail of a norm its expectations, the individual must learn through experience and examples. Parents can set an example for their children in order for them to see a simple lecture or instructions about how to act will not have the same effect on a child. Social norms in one society may differ from norms in another society or culture.

For example, in Honduras, if a girl keeps eye contact for longer than three seconds, their culture considers this flirtatious to a male, but in the United States men and women need to keep eye contact to promote better conversation because 95% of communication is nonverbal. American culture vastly differs from most of the cultures in the rest of the world. Americans push the envelope in their own culture by constantly changing and trying to come up with a new style or “it” thing which also transfers to the definition of the norm.

Lady Gaga’s racy performances would seem completely against the norm of society and culture for America in the 90’s, yet as she appeared on the scene in 2008 and surprisingly, people have accepted her. Overall, social norms dictate how individuals in a society should behave. These norms must be established by a group and therefore understood for the group to function as a whole. Needed in a society, norms help shape individuals to understand acceptance and within their set group, society, and habitat.


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