Social norm

Social norms are shared standards of acceptable behavior by groups.[1][2] Social norms can both be informal understandings that govern the behavior of members of a society, as well as be codified into rules and laws.[3] Social normative influences or social norms, are deemed to be powerful drivers of human behavioural changes and well organized and incorporated by major theories which explaining human behaviour.[4] Institutions are composed of multiple norms.[5] Norms are shared and social beliefs about behavior; thus, they are distinct from "ideas", "attitudes", and "values", which can be held privately, and which do not necessarily concern behavior.[2] Norms are contingent on context, social group, and historical circumstances.[6]

Shaking hands after a sports match is an example of a social norm.

Scholars distinguish between regulative norms (which constrain behavior), constitutive norms (which shape interests), and prescriptive norms (which prescribe what actors ought to do).[7][5][4] The effects of norms can be determined by a logic of appropriateness and logic of consequences; the former entails that actors follow norms because it is socially appropriate, and the latter entails that actors follow norms because of cost-benefit calculations.[8]

Three stages have been identified in the life cycle of a norm: (1) Norm emergence – norm entrepreneurs seek to persuade others of the desirability and appropriateness of certain behaviors; (2) Norm cascade – when a norm obtains broad acceptance; and (3) Norm internalization – when a norm acquires a "taken-for-granted" quality.[5] Norms are robust to various degrees: some norms are often violated whereas other norms are so deeply internalized that norm violations are infrequent.[2][4] Evidence for the existence of norms can be detected in the patterns of behavior within groups, as well as the articulation of norms in group discourse.[2]