Study Notes on Social Norms!
Social norm refers to rules and regulations of the society indicating how individual should behave and respond in specific situations in the society. Social norms in simple words, indicate how one should behave. Norms are formed when the usual rules to the routines of daily life are not applicable.
A norm means a standard which serves as a reference point for showing any response in a social context. Social norms serve standards for a person to show a behaviour in a new situation.
A child who does not know how to greet seniors, gets this information from a social norm which sets a behaviour for the child in this situation. The norm of his culture guides him to say “Pranam” with folded hands or he my bow down and touch the feet of his seniors as a mark of respect. Rules of the society known as social norms can be descriptive and injunctive type.
Descriptive norms say what most people do in a particular situation and also what are the appropriate and accepted behaviour one has to show in that situation. Injunctive norms indicate what should or should not be done under a certain situation. For example the descriptive norm is not to urinate here and there. But when it is specifically mentioned “Rs. 100/- fine for urinating.” it becomes as injunctive norm.
Different types of norms are developed in a society for different types of social behaviour. Social norms play a great role in the process of socialization and making a person to conform to the standards set by his society and culture. Conformity to group norms is also essential.
Group norms include:
(a) The frame of reference for perceiving relevant objects.
(b) Prescribed right attitudes or behaviour towards that object,
(c) Affective feelings about the correctness of these attitudes and
(d) Positive and negative sanctions by which proper behaviour is rewarded and improper behaviour is punished. Social norms vary from culture to culture and society to society. This is why people of different cultures respond differently even to the same situation and also to different cultures.
In the fast changing society of today social norms are also changing. Those people who are not able to adjust with changing social norms face problems at different levels. There arises communication gap between the old and the young and hence familial and social discord.
A person who conforms with the changing social norms is accepted by that culture as an accommodative person. But those who cannot conform face adjustment problems. Changed social norms should be such that they should not clash with existing social values otherwise it will create conflict in the process of socialization.
Due to the influence of modern civilization, luxurious life style, fast foods, club life, pobs and night clubs on modern youths, late night sleeps, the mental and physical health of youths have been deteriorating day by day. If the social norm of a culture is to live a good and luxurious life, it also means living a short life and worst is living a diseased life tinged with illness, suffering, pain and no body to take care of.
Obesity, heart diseases and serious ones like AIDS, various sexual dysfunctional diseases occur due to unhealthy life style influenced by social norms. In a culture or society where attending a party or, night club, having luxurious anti healthy foods are social norms, they should be changed, because though not from the moral stand point, atleast from the physical and mental health point of view they are harmful and dangerous for happy and healthy living.
Thus efforts should be made on priority basis to change these types of social norms. For the development of a healthy life style the social norm should be developed in the similar direction.
People conform to bad and unhealthy social norms being afraid of the society. Others conform because it has been interjected in their personality through the process of socialization. In certain societies slimness is the social norm, while in some other societies overweight is the social norm. Both are bad for health. A normal weight prescribed by the doctors should be maintained.
Wide spread acceptance of bad social norms in our society raises many eye brows. Health specialists, clinical psychologists and experts in these areas condemn bad social norms and they should be changed for good ones. Since health problems of a society are related to its life styles, life styles creating health problems should be changed.
But the change should not be too sudden and too fast. Unhealthy social norms should be brought to the notice of those who follow it and moreover, it should be condemned by every section of the society.
Young and old, everyone should be advised through various mass medias such as electronic and print media to conform to the good norms and reject the bad norms of the society. Health is wealth and as such social norms encouraging good mental and physical health should be followed widely. Mass awareness should be developed in this regard.
Social influence changes one’s behaviour, attitude and some personality qualities through persuasion, conformity, compliance and obedience. Experience and studies show that some people yield to suggestion and persuasion.