In sociology, deviance describes an action or behavior that violates social norms, including a formally enacted rule (e.g., crime), as well as informal violations of social norms (e.g., rejecting folkways and mores). Although deviance may have a negative connotation, the violation of social norms is not always a negative action; positive deviation exists in some situations. Although a norm is violated, a behavior can still be classified as positive or acceptable.
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Social norms differ throughout society and between cultures. A certain act or behaviour may be viewed as deviant and receive sanctions or punishments within one society and be seen as a normal behaviour in another society. Additionally, as a society's understanding of social norms changes over time, so too does the collective perception of deviance.
Deviance is relative to the place where it was committed or to the time the act took place. Killing another human is generally considered wrong for example, except when governments permit it during warfare or for self defense. There are two types of major deviant actions: mala in se and mala prohibita.